My educational journey to this point included plenty of expectations regarding reading, taking notes, and writing essays. Reading always came easy to me, but I enjoyed reading what I liked while complying with what was assigned in school. From elementary school through high school, good memory recall allowed me to read posted material quickly and restate the information as needed. Rarely did notes occupy my time as that task seemed unnecessary and time-consuming. Writing also presented little challenge, and papers were written from a stream of consciousness. What appeared to represent competence established bad habits instead. Even in undergraduate work, the ability to read for comprehension and demonstrate adequate mastery of the material allowed me to meet expectations. At the graduate level, however, the accustomed pattern proved ineffective. The amount of reading consumed significant quantities of time, the absence of any strategy for notes made recall spotty, and the writing contained more summaries than original thinking. If education exists as a journey, I packed light, taking as little as possible in order to take one next step.
In my current role as a pastor, I read a good amount weekly. Reading for study seeks to produce a Sunday message containing a specific agenda to build a focused result. Through the years of message preparation, a system of note-taking also aims to help produce an informed, cohesive sermon. Earlier in ministry, messages were written as transcripts, but now they exist in expanded note form, allowing for more freedom in communication during a message. Preparation helps accomplish a needed result weekly.
Soenke Ahrens writes, “Learning, thinking and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking.” Assessing my reading, notes, and writing over the decades leaves me short of the above description. Whether the communication to students led me to believe those tasks tested knowledge and proficiency over the content or that conclusion came from me, I did not view educational assignments as learning opportunities beyond the information gained through the exercises. In a spiritual sense, I pursued knowledge, but wisdom offered more. Knowledge gains information while wisdom applies knowledge in ways that benefit one’s life as well as those around them.
I believe I grasp the value of shifting the learning paradigm to capture and to organize original thoughts. I also sense apprehension because of the deeply ingrained patterns over many years. The Zettelkasten method makes sense but also demands time and intentionality. Software platforms, like Obsidian, offer a time-saving approach to organizing notes and original thinking, yet it comes with a learning curve. I expect to encounter internal resistance to the need to grow beyond a functional approach to learning that merely seeks to accomplish the next assignment. Will I learn to pack more supplies for the journey ahead? I intend to, but only time will tell.
 Soenke Ahrens, “How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers,” (Soenke Ahrens: 2017), 150.