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from painting in square feet to knowledge covered
i started painting a wall this week. i’ve painted walls before for different murals. this one is different because of it’s size. this is a big wall, roughly 20 feet tall.
what surprised me throughout the week was people’s reaction in seeing the coverage happen per unit time.
i’m not a professional painter, heck, it took me 1.5hrs just to find a way to tape all the way up beyond the latter.
but the surface area covered in the amount of time left a good impression:
1 day for the first base coat (7 hours),
1 day for second base coat (5 hours)
1 day for final beige coat (3.5 hours).
that’s 1550 sq feet in 15.5 hour or 100 sq ft an hour.
i think the real surprise came in relative comparison.
for most people 15.5hrs is the amount of time in meetings in a 3 day span, meaning no meaningful progress gets made. or if working on a larger project, then 3 days can be drops in the bucket for the months it takes to publish or ship something.
the physical nature of the result immediately leaves something to react to.
on a different note, i’ve been thinking of knowledge covered in similar terms: surface area. but this space is invisible.
the # of pages read, the # of minutes listened to, as well as what actions or behaviors come from that knowledge.
but to epictetus’ point for inputs of knowledge, that does not really matter. he compared the influencers of his time to sheep:
“for even sheep do not vomit up their grass and show to the shepherds how much they have eaten; but when they have internally digested the pasture, they produce externally wool and milk. do you also show not your theorems to the uninstructed, but show the acts which come from their digestion.”
― epictetus, handbook to a good life
for knowldege covered, it’s not about the input of time or vanity metrics like # of pages or # of minutes consumed. it’s about painting of results that get done because of digestion from the input. creating > consuming.
for square footage of knowledge space covered in unit time, i think about how this relates to designing engaging sessions on new topics. these sessions feel like a base coat and primed canvas for young people to explore their potential.
the base coat:
9hr for designing, researching, and prepping for a new topic like carbon removal technology
3hr session is like a primed canvas for students to paint on
it’s important to make the surface area coverage tangible. in 3hrs it’s not a lecture for more condensed knowledge, it’s an active participation like:
make 2min slides teaching people about a concept
come up with a new idea with a team and do a 5min pitch
write reflection of new personal insights from the ideas covered
in that sense, the ability to prime and provide a base allows students to paint what they want on top of that.
it’s a timed training to test what’s possible and train new skills.
for the wall, the base coat enabled a san francisco based artist prototype their first mural. the result: a 20ft cypress tree.
resulting trees of knowledge are not always as immediately beautiful nor tangible.