Accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. – Lao Tzu

I define a DUDE as a Daily Undertaking of Deliberate Effort. Every day I set a timer for 25 minutes, then go to work on a small action to the exclusion of all else until the countdown hits zero. 1 Action upon action, day after day, towards some greater goal.

New Year’s Day I signed up with Khan Academy to learn mathematics. Today marks 31 consecutive DUDEs working through problems online, with extra DUDEs offline using a study guide. I am starting with a knowledge of arithmetic and not much else. Khan Academy is proving useful! My objective is to work through their entire math curriculum this year (algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, topology, statistics) and reach a high-school level of competency. 2

When I was actually in high-school I was a poor math student with no interest in the subject. I remember a time in my Grade 10 math class when I asked my teacher in a moment of frustration what was the use of what we were being force-fed? Basic arithmetic was “good enough” for what I needed to know. I will never forget his reply: You know why you need to learn Grade 10 math? So you can pass and move on to Grade 11 math. Check the box and move along. And I became that kind of student that dials in the bare minimum to pass with a reasonable grade and ascend the ladder to the next level.

Decades later and I burn with the desire to know nature’s secrets. Specifically, the mystery of the human mind and brain, the very thing we use to investigate everything else. But then I run into concepts like the brain and algebraic topology and realize my arithmetic needs a boost! Measure and interpret EEG data? Math. Read and grok scientific papers? Math and more math!

I am excited and grateful to live in an age where access to knowledge and the opportunities to bootstrap self-learning have never been greater. Time to go to work.

Notes

1. Implementing the Pomodoro Technique. Create a daily time block of focused attention, followed by a break, and repeat. I first heard about it in Dr. Oakley’s Learning How To Learn MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), a course I highly recommend!

2. I think this detailed reply to the question “If you had to teach yourself math from basic algebra to high level mathematics, what would be your strategy?” is great advice for learning anything.