The Terminology We Choose To Know

Classroom education begins with the definition of a discipline. What is Biology? Sculpture? Economics? French? From that point forward you enter into a continual rhythm of acquiring new techniques and terms for specific areas of study and, eventually, work. 

In the sciences, you begin this process in undergrad and without it, you may misidentify a new species or lose a life during a surgery because of miscommunication. In other fields, the process of acquiring relevant terminology may begin during a summer internship or the first two years out of school:

Market Cap, P/E Ratio, DCF? Banking. 

Air Sparging, Photovoltaic Electricity, Turbines? Energy Conservation. 

EIRs, APIs, Ruby on Rails, Mongo? Engineering. 

Less certain terminologies you face an uphill battle to break into a new industry or have a meaningful conversation about relevant issues or ideas. Everyone’s had one of those job interviews with some dickhead who drops a question about a term he knows you don’t know. There goes your candidacy and up come the barriers to entry that an unknown terminology can create. 

What’s interesting is how so much of an expertise or career can be boiled down to which sets of terminology we’ve chosen to memorize and understand. Furthermore, those terms create a definitive framework for where we may exist professionally. Can we break out of what becomes an increasingly narrow scope of intelligent professional understanding - particularly with new terms entering our own sets all the time?

Maybe it’s why Einstein studied Dostoevsky and Issac Newton considered Occult Studies as important as the Sciences. Our great thinkers had a genuine interest in and eventually acquired a deep knowledge of terms and concepts outside of their core disciplines. To explore beyond their fields may have meant a deeper, wider understanding of the human condition and surprise expansions or reflections on their own thinking.

So what the hell do we do? 

Read everything, reject hubris, accept knowledge, and always, always be open. That’s all I can think of to do in the face of so many equations and definitions that I don’t even know exist yet.


Tim DevaneComment