Knowledge as an asset (Adding value and realizing value)

October 02, 2020

(this article is work in progress…)

Knowledge is power by its applicability, not volume - Piotr Wozniak

Important takeaway from this article if you don’t plan to read it fully:

Whenever you are reading something, ask yourself: “how can I use this knowledge in my life?“. As an answer “I will know how to solve math problems” does not count; it has to be something actual for your life. Will it solve actual problems or just theoretical ones? How does it change your life for better? What possibilities does it offer?

Each topic is an opportunity to make your life a bit more valuable. If you lose the context between an article and your life, the whole learning process loses its efficiency. In contrast, when you understand how an article contributes to your life, you will be excited to study it.

How big of an impact has your studies made on your life?

Think about it.

The impact could have been greater if you were more active in realizing value your topics has to offer. It is easy to fall into passive mode of incremental reading and sifting through tons of interesting articles without them making any contribution on your life whatsoever.

It is tempting to think that we can just read and memorize components of some particular subject and the knowledge becomes usable in our lives just like that. Experience shows that the transformation process of knowledge to an asset is more complex and requires active personalization and integration of the knowledge to be compatible with our lives. In practice this usually means applying the knowledge, actively seeking for resonating examples, personalizing the knowledge, rephrasing and more.

Knowledge we have is only useful when we can access it easily in real life situations. For it to be available in our “toolbox”, we need to make an active effort to convert it into an asset.

Big portion of material we are studying is value yet to be collected. They are only being utilized inside of SuperMemo instead of making contribution on your life.


Fishing for value = Recognizing a connection between an article and your life.

Realizing value (active) = Taking knowledge an article has to offer and converting it into valuable asset for your life (ready to be used in real life situations).

Adding value (passive) = Modifying an article by means of removing sentences, making extracts or adding valuable components (images, personal notes) in order to realize value more easily in the future.

SM = SuperMemo

IR = Incremental reading

When you see a topic and can’t answer the question “how can I use this knowledge?”, there’s going to be troubles with concentration/effort at some point…


Fishing for value

There is a gap between your SM knowledge and your life. Fishing for value is finding out what an article offers to you and whether the knowledge is worthy to bridge to your life.

Case: Topic about uncertainty reduction theory pops up in learning queue

Goal: To realize what is important about this article in order to ensure proper approach. We wan’t to have articles which contribute to our lives (directly or indirectly).


  1. Ask myself, “how can I use this”? What kind of contribution this could make to my life? Am i happy to know only the definition? Why would it be useful to know the definition? Do I want to utilize the tools in my life this theory has to offer? Is it worth it?
  2. Find section of the article which offers the value you are looking for.


You need to make business with yourself: if a 10min video pops up in your learning queue and the value lies in the completion of the video, ask yourself “am i ready to invest 10minutes for this value the video offers me?” Your collection is your investment portfolio of knowledge.

- Fishing for value is analogous to the concept of return on investment (ROI). The topics in your learning queue need to “earn” their place. You can think of your learning queue as your investing portfolio — you want this portfolio to consist only of the best investments. If a topic does not seem to hold sufficient amount of “return” with respect to your investment of time, then their place in your learning queue must be re-evaluated. \ (credits to Matt Neilsen for this explanation)

- Your own attitude and concentration on a topic determines whether you are collecting the value a topic has or whether it’s leaking off your hands. Passive reading of the topic is not enough. You must actively engage with the material. Fishing for value is an active process that requires you to constantly ask, “What else can you give to me? What value are you hiding?”

- Usually the value is to contribute to your model of reality (e.g. understanding basic principles of economy)

- Sometimes the value lies only within the title: topic works only as letting you know that ‘this thing exists’ and you proceed to find more sources.

- Sometimes the value is to work as an intermediate: value i’m realizing from article A is not big, but it unlocks possibility to realize value from article B, which has great payoff. (great impact for your life)

- Sometimes the value is an action: take out garbage

- Sometimes the value is an emotional reaction: value realized from a topic which reminds you to be grateful, could be only realized when you actually are grateful. To inspire this emotion, you could for example watch a short video about people less fortunate than you.

Ultimately the value must have some kind of contribution to your life (thought processes, direct application, understanding, shaping model of reality, learning new skill…)

Often times when you actively fish for the value, your attitude towards the article changes completely and you are driven to realize the value, just because you understand the potential impact the article could have on your life.

Adding value (passive)

Adding value is good when a topic is complex or does not offer enough value to justify the effort of realizing value

Case: Topic about central limit theorem pops up in learning queue

Natural response: It’s 9pm, I’m tired, I really don’t want to make a lot of effort.

Goal: To make the article more valuable by removing valueless noise or adding valuable components in order to make realization process easier in the future.

Action: Remove a sentence, scan a paragraph and remove if it’s useless, add a note, illustrate with an image, make an extract, split into portions, find explanatory video/article, delete the article, deprioritize, send far to the future (you don’t want to be postponing frequently the same article; delete it or assign realistic interval when it’s value could transform)…


- Goal of adding value is to make realizing value easier or make the payoff bigger in the future.

- Adding value is very effortless and great when you are tired or topic seems too daunting.

- Deleting an (valueless) article is value added, as your collection has still the same value, but one less article to go through.

- Removing a sentence can be thought as a simple equation: \ value of the article/sentences in the article = value per sentence\ With basic math we know that value per sentence of the article increases as you remove (valueless) sentences.

- When adding value, it’s reasonable to also increase the topic’s priority relative to the value that was added to the topic

- It’s easier to search intrinsically more valuable article/video, than to increase value of article you have.

- Adding value is useless if you never realize it.

- Even creating items can be considered value added if you are not making the effort to integrate it in your life (i.e. it’s not very coherent, it’s lacking examples, too abstract etc.)

- Typically most of our collection is value yet to be realized (collected)

Realizing value (active)

There is a gap between your SM knowledge and your life. Realizing value is the process of building a bridge to connect these two.

Case: Topic about Appearances vs Experiences: What Really Makes Us Happy pops up.

Goal: To integrate knowledge from this topic to my life. To find application or deeper understanding of some social phenomena.

Some takes from the article:

The results would surprise many Harvard freshmen. Students sent to what they were sure would be miserable houses ended up much happier than they had anticipated. And students who landed in the most desirable houses were less happy than they expected to be

This is the standard mis-weighing of extrinsic and intrinsic values: we may tell each other that experiences are more important than things, but we constantly make choices as though we didn’t believe it.

Action: I read the article and focus on implications of it. I try to find connection between my life and the article (“how could this help me in real life?”). I read and understand that it is more beneficial to make choices based on intrinsic values (experience) than extrinsic (appearance). I find commonalities from my life to make this idea stronger: I notice that SM has had huge benefits in my life (intrinsic value - experience) even though it lacks in appearance (extrinsic value), whereas some other learning software have strong extrinsic value (pretty UI) but lacks in intrinsic value (functionality).

I make couple items regarding extrinsic/intrinsic value and incorporate SM vs Pretty UI example in them to ensure i won’t forget existence of this idea in long-term.

I’m happy with coherency of this knowledge but the biggest impact this topic has to offer lies in how it shapes my decision making, so I want to make this usable in my life somehow. Simple piece of declarative knowledge won’t be too helpful when i need it handy in decision making situations. For this, i make a reminder topic: next time you are grocery shopping, think of the choices in terms of intrinsic value (appearance) vs extrinsic value (experience) they give. And i know that by reinforcing this thinking in real life, it turns applicable in more situations. Only thing left to do is to realize the value next time im grocery shopping and making this thinking process a habit (repetition by real life).


- Realizing value requires effort, it’s not realistic to be doing it on each review of a topic (add value instead).

- You should only realize value, when you have fished for the value or you are in danger of wasting time on something trivial.

- It’s not bad to be realizing only value of 3 topic/day (again, it requires some effort)

- Often realizing value requires real life examples (e.g. via youtube/images/more articles) and modifying the knowledge to fit your world

- For example value from math articles is usually realized only when you are capable of using the knowledge in various scenarios (i.e. to solve various problems esp. related to your field/life)

- Even items (flashcards) can be unrealized until they are connected to your life (e.g. by finding use case/understanding implications of the item more deeply/finding more examples etc.)

- Value from this article will be realized only when you incorporate this way of thinking about topics to your IR process.

It’s one thing to repeatedly review knowledge and hope that it transforms to your life and another to actively trying to bridge the knowledge from the software to your life

Do not coerce yourself to realize value when you don’t intrinsically feel like doing it! This is counterproductive. You must WANT to realize the value because of the impact it makes on your life. If the effort seems too high, add value instead!

contact me: naess.SM@hotmail.com

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