I have been in the habit of printing articles I find during the day so I can read them on the way home. One day last week, one of my colleague asked what I was taking with me that night. He was a little surprised by my answer: man find.
A few years ago, I had been told that when it came to learning a language, especially if it was your own, you should never ignore a new word. I won’t try to convince you that you should learn a language well because of pride, although I find it to be a very good reason. From a strictly practical point of view, there isn’t a better opportunity to learn than while in the context. It also seems obvious that incremental increases to your vocabulary should have a tremendous impact on language skills over time–a process I would like to compare to compound interest.
For the sake of nomenclature, I shall name this technique “systematic research.”
After you start applying the principle of systematic research to the English (or other) language, you might realize that this idea can be extended to other aspects of your life–in particular, to your professional life.
Back to my original story, the reason I was after man find was because I had been faced with the question “how can I get a list of files sorted by modification date?” That specific question originated from the more general “what files have I modified lately?”
I won’t discuss the command itself, partly because it wasn’t the point of this post and partly because I’m planning to talk about it in a future post.
find . -type f -printf '%T@ %p\n' | sort -n
When it comes to learning and becoming an expert, I try to find the “pain points”–the gray areas I am not comfortable with and focus on them. If, over time, there are less and less blind spots, you start feeling a lot better about the body of knowledge that you have accumulated.
This is all very much related to one of my favorite blog post: How to be an expert. I strongly recommend you read it for yourself, but the main idea is that the difference between an expert and an amateur is the willingness to push one’s boundaries and to try new things. This was also one of the main point of My Job Went to India.
The whole concept of systematic research is that you should not let questions you have go unanswered. I make a point of writing down my questions, keeping track of them, and finding answers. That’s why I read man find on my way home: to be a better person. :)