Principles & Analogies (#84)

Following an established recipe does not make us a chef, it makes us the cook. First principle thinking is the path to expertise — to becoming a chef.

A kitchen strewn with cooking implements, in the center is a large wooden table filled with ingredents to make a meal.
Principles & Analogies, JLP

Expertise is more than knowing how to do something, it requires a deeper understanding of how and why our knowing works the way it does. Experts have embodied the first principle laws that govern their domain. These axioms are based on truths rather than beliefs. They are factual, provable, and foundational. Building upon these principles experts may create recipes to achieve a desired result — they have converted their knowledge into know-how for the rest of us.

Following an established recipe does not make us a chef however, it makes us the cook. Recipes are extremely helpful, they provide us a shortcut to the results we want without investing time on the formal training and knowledge necessary to create them. When we follow someone else's playbook and things go wrong, we have little knowledge about how to correct our course. Because experts incorporate first principle knowledge they are best prepared for unexpected outcomes, to address bugs, to adapt as the landscape evolves.

When encountering something novel, we search our memory for look-a-like construct, something more commonplace that we can compare and contrast. Others may teach us by sharing analogies, easing us into a new concept through a recognized path. Analogies are a form of mimicry, they attempt to explain something novel and unfamiliar to us in terms we already comprehend — yet we need to remind ourselves that analogies, like recipes, cannot replace understanding.

Following recipes and leveraging the narrative of analogies are starting-blocks for our own path to expertise. Through exposure we will find topics that sparks our curiosity and pique our interests, creating an energy of action that leads us to uncover the first party principles for our selves — so that we may create recipes that inspire others.

The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us.  A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.