Taking What is Relevant: A Different Filter

Early access originally posted on September 10 for $5+ patrons.


When I was in college, I had many brilliant professors and mentors. One of these professors was Dr. Vivian Chin; she was the thesis instructor for the Ethnic Studies senior thesis class. In the first week or so of class, we walked over to the Ethnic Studies Department office, and we each chose a thesis from a previous student. The assignment was to read through the thesis and take notes on what was done well, what could be better, etc.

It’s only a little nerve-wracking: as you read, you know that you are in the very class this person was taking and that if your title draws the attention of a future senior, they will be doing this same assignment of critiquing your paper. But it’s also really useful. There are a lot of things people can notice about a paper to which they have no personal connection.

Fast forward to later in the class, sometime after we’d come up with what we thought we would research and write about. One of my favorite pieces of advice from Dr. Chin was to be in the mindset that everything relates to your thesis.

It’s a great exercise, good practice in flexibility of thinking. My thesis ended up being about race and the criminal justice system in Star Trek (one episode of TNG in particular), so following this advice sometimes involved a lot of flexibility.

The relevance of money is a bit easier to see in so many things in the world: shopping, loans, books, politics, construction, city planning, city development, … the list goes on and on.

Ok, Anne, so what? Excellent question. (This is another habit from ethnic studies senior seminar. We were also frequently instructed to 1) think of what our thesis was about, 2) ask ourselves “So what?” 3) answer question 4) repeat steps 2 and 3 over and over.)

Why is it useful to try to see how things are related to money, or whatever else? What is the point?

It’s useful because you can find inspiration anywhere. True, not every connection you notice will be useful, but you’ll probably notice at least one useful thing that you wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t consciously tried to make a connection.

So how is this relevant? How can you connect this to what you are working on, in money management or whatever else?

I can’t really determine that for you, and it would probably be doing you a disservice if I tried.

It is important to take and apply relevant experience and knowledge. But if you limit yourself to experience and knowledge you already have, or experience and knowledge you had already categorized as relevant to “money” (or whatever else), you’re likely to miss a good deal of important, relevant, and/or essential information and skills, things that might help you directly or otherwise inspire you to reach your financial goals.

This week, pick a problem you’re working to solve, and try to see how everything relates to it. You’ll probably come up with some totally ridiculous answers, but you never know what you might find…


(The fact that this mentions Star Trek so close to the 50th anniversary is a happy coincidence.)


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