Concept: Universally useful concept
Remember in school when your teacher taught you the dates of when famous things happened? The Civil War, WWII and when they invented the first holeless donut? Well, these days you can just Google all that. There is very little reason for you to have it memorized. Informational tidbits are a click away. If you are lucky enough to have a phone with internet access, then you have this power everywhere you go. There is virtually no reason to memorize tedious facts. Instead, it is the person who knows how to get the right facts at the right time who is truly valuable.
You want to know how things work, and not just mechanical devices, but people, too. Why do people do the things they do? Why is a duck the way it is? Why do governments pass certain laws? When the economy is down, why do more men get vasectomies? What is the fundamental difference between Shakespeare and The Simpsons? Why is the band always older than the audience? There will come a day when the very health and prosperity of the ones you love will be threatened by an unheard-of problem, and you will be able to use your vast repertoire of concepts to solve a problem that has never been solved before. That is how people become rich and successful, and ultimately find happiness.
“find a need and fill it”
Learn something new each day, and don’t just get the facts about it. Get the underlying concept. The concept is what is important. A concept is the difference between data and knowledge. What’s more, there is a certain kind of concept that is amazing, called a “Universally Useful Concept.” It is what it says it is. It’s based on the idea that everything is using the same laws of physics and behavior, even humans. One idea can be used in two totally different environments; and the basic idea itself is more important than the facts used to support it, or even the conclusions drawn from it.
It’s a fact that “women like flowers.” There is a deeper concept at work here. The concept behind this is that women like to feel loved, respected, cherished, and/or appreciated. Flowers are just one way of attaining this goal. In fact, this concept is applicable to more then just the girl you love. Your boss wants to feel appreciated. After all, he has let you keep your job thus far. So you buy him a box of his favorite cigars, and suddenly your work environment is a whole lot more comfortable.
Too many people are one-trick-ponies. “Women like flowers.” This is a fact, a bit of data. They know it’s time tested, proven, and it works; but they think it works only in this one instance. They think of it only with the one person, and only with the one object. The trick of life is to find Universally Useful Concepts, learn them well, and try them out in as many strange ways as possible.
We spend our lives trying to find Universally Useful Concepts. That’s just the way our brains work. We distill information down to reasonable predictors of the future, because at the end of the day it’s handy to know the future. And not just complicated things like what the stock market will do, but important little things like what will happen when you stick your hand in the toaster, or mix Mentos and Diet Coke. Because smart people should be valued…because they can solve problems, not just because they can speak pleasantly about them. They should be able to take a concept from one area of life and apply it to the area in need.