Weekly I/O #54

Direct Learning, Skill and Knowledge, Declutter with Photo, Volatility as Fee not Fine, Language and Creativity

Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維
4 min readFeb 25


Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on Feb 19, 2023

1. First step of learning: Learn directly by doing it and ensure the learning is tied to the context in which it will be used. Learn to speak a language by speaking it.

Book: Ultralearning

When learning something new, we should focus on directly practicing the skills required to achieve our specific goal. For instance, if we want to learn French to converse with locals in France, practicing spelling or memorizing vocabulary is less effective than directly practicing speaking French and having simple conversations.

Once finishing direct learning, we identify the challenging parts and break them into smaller components. For example, if pronunciation is the biggest hurdle, focus on that first and ignore grammar until later. After conquering smaller parts, we jump back to direct learning and repeat this “direct learning” and then “divide and conquer” loop.

I’m rereading Ultralearning because I recently started learning French. This “directness” in learning strikes me again. It can be applied not only in language but also in other skills. For example, we should learn to make a podcast by making a podcast and learn to do a startup by doing a startup. Any other indirect way to learn those (taking online courses or watching YouTube videos) is suboptimal.

2. Learning new things is different from practicing new things. Passive learning brings knowledge while active practicing brings skills.

Book: Ultralearning

Transfer of learning (the ability to apply and use what we learn) has been seen as the “Holy Grail” of education. However, tons of studies paradoxically have confirmed that what we aim to learn doesn’t transfer to the situation we need it. It especially rarely happens in instructional settings.

Learning new things and practicing new things sound similar but can produce drastically different outcomes. Passive learning brings knowledge, while active practicing brings skills. The things we learn from listening to lectures in the classroom are hard to transfer because what we acquire is mostly knowledge. However, what we usually need in our daily life are skills. It takes extra effort to translate knowledge into skills. For example, when learning a new language, the skill to use our phone to look up translation quickly is not easily transferrable from memorizing more vocabulary.

3. How to throw away sentimental things? Take a photo.

Video: 8 Habits that Changed My Life

Letting go of sentimental items that are cluttering up our life can be a struggle. It’s natural to feel attached to objects that hold precious memories, but holding onto them can cause unnecessary clutter and make moving a hassle.

However, it’s important to remember that memories don’t reside in physical objects but in our minds. Sentimental items serve as visual aids to help us reminisce and recall memories. By taking a photo of the item, we can still preserve the memory and its value without the need to keep the physical object.

By using this approach, you can keep the memories that matter most while decluttering your life.

4. Volatility is the emotional price you need to pay to get high average annual returns. View volatility as a fee, not a fine.

Book: The Psychology of Money

Volatility in the market refers to daily or short-term fluctuations. Stocks have higher volatility than bonds because a stock portfolio can be up or down a few percent any day. People who cannot emotionally handle the high volatility invest in low-volatility assets, which offer lower average annual returns than the stock market over the long term.

Author Morgan Housel viewed volatility as the emotional price you need to pay to get higher average annual returns in the long term. He offers a brilliant analogy for understanding volatility.

“View volatility as a fee, not a fine. If you got a fine for a parking in an illegal spot, you change your behavior and avoid that spot in the future. But if you pay a fee to park in that spot you happily pay the fee if the parking spot was the best parking spot for miles.”

5. “Language can become a screen which stands between the thinker and reality. This is the reason why true creativity often starts where language ends.” — Arthur Koestler


Language as the medium for expression is not omnipotent. That’s why art can and should exist in so many different forms because so much creativity sparks outside the boundaries of language.

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