Back in university, I took a keen interest in learning the names of the birds in my locality. I learnt to identify stork billed kingfishers, white bellied sea eagles, oriental white eyes and white-cheeked barbets among many others.
When I visited home later that summer, I noticed how my hometown was filled with white-cheeked barbets! Now that I knew this bird’s call and appearance, I was spotting it everywhere. In the two decades I had spent prior to this experience, I had never spotted this bird that now seemed ubiquitous.
And it wasn’t just about one bird species. I started spotting bee-eaters, kingfishers, drongos and bulbuls by the dozen once I knew their names. And when I didn’t know the name of a bird I spotted, I was motivated to find out and learn its name. Knowing the name of a handful of birds helped me expand my knowledge to several more.
The principle applies just as easily to anything you learn to identify – new words, startup ideas, historical facts, musical rhythms. Much like bacteria in a Petri dish, the concepts inside our heads multiply. Adding new knowledge only compounds their fecundity.