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Making Discoveries, Avoiding Traps, & Organizing Actions

Resource: Pioneering Psychologist Jerome Bruner on the Act of Discovery and the Key to True Learning
Description: Insights from Jerome Bruner on the value of discoveries and how to make more of them.


Discoveries are just as important as inventions. Inventions are about bringing new realities into existence. Discoveries are about unearthing, recovering, and exposing existing realities that had been previously hidden or overlooked. Inventions are necessary for progress, but discoveries are necessary for recognizing and preserving our inventions.

New information isn’t always needed for making discoveries.

The main deterrent to discovery is the assumption that searching is vain.

Discoveries are more likely when learning is done for the sake of curiosity or competence.


“I’ve always held the art of discovery in higher regard than the art of invention. Rather than creating something that didn’t previously exist, to discover is to uncover what has always been there but had remained hidden from view — to shine a light on a corner of the world until now shrouded in the darkness of not-knowing. Given our severe sensorial and cognitive blinders, which ensure that the vast majority of reality remains hidden from our view, any act of discovery is therefore a remarkable feat.” -Maria Popova

“Discovery, like surprise, favors the well-prepared mind.” -Jerome Bruner

“Discovery … is in its essence a matter of rearranging or transforming evidence in such a way that one is enabled to go beyond the evidence so reassembled to new insights. It may well be that an additional fact or shred of evidence makes this larger transformation possible. But it is often not even dependent on new information.” -Jerome Bruner

“For the person to search out and find regularities and relationships in his environment, he must either come armed with an expectancy that there will be something to find or be aroused to such an expectancy so that he may devise ways of searching and finding. One of the chief enemies of search is the assumption that there is nothing one can find in the environment by way of regularity or relationship.” -Jerome Bruner

” the art of discovery is the art of traversing the abyss between the irrelevant and the potentially relevant on a tightrope of information-discernment.” -Maria Popova

“To the degree that one is able to approach learning as a task of discovering something rather than “learning about” it, to that degree there will be a tendency for the child to work with the autonomy of self-reward, or, more properly, be rewarded by discovery itself.” -Jerome Bruner

“When learning leads only to pellets of this or that in the short run rather than to mastery in the long run, then behavior can be readily “shaped” by extrinsic rewards. But when behavior becomes more extended and competence-oriented, it comes under the control of more complex cognitive structures and operates more from the inside out.” -Jerome Bruner

Resource: Common traps, worth avoiding by Seth Godin
Description: Seth’s thoughts on not being preoccupied with fitting in


Don’t give your power away to mobs by begging them for your approval.

Group-identity categories along with the mobs that enforce them are not permanent. If you try to please them, you’ll have to constantly shift your identity to stay in good standing with them. If you prioritize your mission, they may very well evolve or devolve right out of your experience.

You don’t have to internalize other people’s fears.


“Don’t be trapped into accepting shame from someone who is trying to keep you from doing something you have every right to do. “

“Ignore the mob that would like you to feel badly for not fitting in. Categories are rarely permanent, and most important work is done by people who don’t easily fit in. “

“Realize that no one is more aware of your minor flaws than you are. No one else is noticing the little nick in your tooth or the fact that your shoelaces don’t match. “

“Someone else’s fear doesn’t have to be your fear unless you want it to be. “

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Organizing action reminders


Most of the action items from your in-traywill be things that need to done by you and that can’t be done in under two minutes. These action items belong to the defered category.

For deferred items, you need a calendar and a next actions list.

A calendar is where you place things that need to be done on a certain day and/or time. Essentially, appointments. If you have a doctors appointment on Tuesday at 3pm or you need to follow up with a customer on Friday, you put these items on your calendar.

Your calendar is sacred and for simplicity’s sake, should only contain date specific appointments.

Most people use their calendar as a to do list. In othet words, they use their calendar to keep track if intentions as well as appointments. This is less than optimal for two reasons: 1) it compromises the simple and succinct function that a calendar serves — to allow you to take a quick and clean sweep of your day/week and see what your non-negotiables are. 2) It’s demoralizing. Since your intentions will be changed, challenged, and compromised far more than your appointments, it causes stress and a lack of trust in your system each time you have to change things on your calendar because you couldn’t get them done.

Instead of using your calendar, rely on your next actions list for non-appointment action items.


“For the purposes of organization, as I’ve said, there are two basic kinds of actions: those that must be done on a certain day and/or at a particular time, and those that just need to be done as soon as you can get to them, around your other calendar items (some perhaps with a final due date). Calendared action items can be either time specific (e.g., “10:00–11:00 meet with Jim”) or day specific (“Call Rachel Tuesday to see if she got the proposal”). “

“The calendar should show only the “hard landscape” around which you do the rest of your actions. “

“What many want to do, however, based on perhaps old habits of writing daily to-do lists, is put actions on the calendar that they think they’d really like to get done next Monday, say, but that actually might not, and that might then have to be moved to following days. Resist this impulse. You need to trust your calendar as sacred territory, reflecting the exact hard edges of your day’s commitments, which should be noticeable at a glance while you’re on the run. That’ll be much easier if the only things in there are those that you absolutely have to get done, or know about, on that day. When the calendar is relegated to its proper role in organizing, the majority of the actions that you need to do are left in the category of “as soon as possible, against all the other things I have to do.”

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