Why keep a commonplace?
How about to create an archive over the work you do–for the rest of your life.
Let’s look at three people who have done this successfully.
Charlie Rose’s Arcane Archives
Charlie Rose is a journalist and media person. He is probably the world’s most successful interviewer. He has talked to just about every world leader, top scientist, author and businessperson. He knows everyone.
In an interview, Charlie was asked if he thought the long-form interview was here to stay, or if it was a figment of a past generation (due to the rapid lowering of attention spans). He responded:
“There is a kind of specialization and therefore they do longer interviews and they drill down. Then you can take the clips. You can spin them out. If you do a long-form interview you can do both. A short little interview, you can only do one thing. Secondly, it enables me to have an archive, which I think is invaluable. For 25 years, the most interesting and fascinating people from a variety of worlds have come to this very table [taps the table] to talk about who they are, and what they believe in, what their fears are, who has influenced their life.”
You can see what this has done for Charlie on his website—Here—where he’s hired someone to put up all his interviews. How hard is that?
—Not hard at all!
Doing the work was hard.
Now he’s just compiling what he’s already done. Showcasing his legacy…
You’re not Charlie Rose, but what’s stopping you from doing something similar? You too can collect an archive of your work and ideas, spanning your entire career, and leave behind a legacy. All it takes is some creativity.
If you’re young, this can be done almost effortlessly (over time) by making commonplacing a habit, like I did—starting around the time I was 22.
It was something of a hassle at first, but ever since, I’ve been able to put my thoughts and ideas into neat categories, like filing papers into a drawer.
Now, let’s take a look at how to get started:
How to Gather Material For Projects Like Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin only had one big idea in his life—but he made it count:
“From my early youth I have had the strongest desire to understand or explain whatever I observed; to group all facts under some general laws. These causes combined have given me the patience to reflect or ponder for any number of years over any unexplained problem. As far as I can judge, I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men. I have steadily endeavoured to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.”
Darwin was 29 years old when he read Thomas Malthus’ essay “On the Principle of Population”. It sparked him with the idea that later turned into the Theory of Natural Selection. Now we all know of him.
Darwin was not a fast thinker. He labored patiently on the theory, reading contradicting ideas from other scientists, thinking about how these ideas meshed with his theory. Not until he was 50 did he choose to publish it.
In his Autobiography, Darwin attributes his success to commonplacing, patience, objectivity, and rigorous study habits:
In several of my books facts observed by others have been very extensively used, and as I have always had several quite distinct subjects in hand at the same time, I may mention that I keep from 30 to 40 large portfolios, in cabinets with labelled shelves, into which I can at once put a detached reference or memorandum. I have bought many books, and at their ends I make an index of all the facts that concern my work; or, if the book is not my own, write out a separate abstract, and of such abstracts I have a large drawer full. Before beginning on any subject I look to all the short indexes and make a general and classified index, and by taking one or more portfolios I have all the information collected during my life ready for use.
Therefore my success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined, as far as I can judge, by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these, the most important have been—the love of science—unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject—industry in observing and collecting facts—and a fair share of invention as well as of common sense.
If you want to increase your chances of becoming an innovator, you should create a commonplace system as soon as you can. Then you can more easily work on your ideas later in life, like Darwin.
Another Case of Commonplacing Is Finance Billionaire Martin Sandquist…
…Whom I had a discussion with for my show Future Skills. During the conversation Martin explained how he developed his skill set:
I have a library of patterns that I’ve accumulated over the last 30 years of doing this finance stuff. You guys call it commonplacing; to have a place where you record these things, and then you follow those patterns in real-time. I’ve been using my special patterns since before–and during–my Lynx-time to build systematic [trading] models from.
Now I have a sort of systematic cloud that I can use to build comprehensive models from. I use this to build portfolios based on what I believe in, and each portfolio has very special attributes.
Right now, I have 6 portfolios: 3 stock-based and 3 futures-based. These all have very low correlation. That’s how you create a good risk-adjusted yield.
…and then, you have 1000 different indicators, 1000 ideas…. Usually, you start out in the “fundamental side” [of finance], as I did, and you read company reports and stuff like that. Then I got into the technical side of it, I’m more visually oriented, so it was more natural for me. I struggled to understand company reports.
Then you start filtering it down to the things that seem to work and provide some type of predictive value.
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Check out The Ultimate Commonplace System for more info.
–Learn how to build an archive over your work.