So many of my embedded memories flow from family moments around a creaky kitchen table where my grandfather would light up a cigarette and share his wisdom. I remember one of those smoke-filled moments as he sucked on a Marlboro and asked, "What's the purpose of collecting all those index cards, Bernard?" He couldn't understand why I would have hundreds of 4x6 record cards in a leather catalogue case.
"It's for the debate team, Grandpa," I said. The old guy cleared his throat and coughed aggressively. He watched me build my Zettelkasten collections through high school and then continue the process for the first year of my university before he passed away. But my grandfather's question of purpose still remains at the front of my mind.
Although I didn't know it at the time, I had carved out a purposeful process that combined my unfortunate hoarding instinct with a research method. Those two forces remain instilled in my lifestyle today. I can feel the gaze of my two children on me as I decide what goes into my hand-written journals and electronically scanned notes. And I can sense my grandfather from above, shaking his head.
I have life-defining memories of unloading the family business trucks as a young teen. I'd unpack canvas and stack poles in one of our warehouses before walking back into the smoke-filled family kitchen. I'd restart a familiar process of spreading out colour-coded index cards on the table, stacking them up on opposite sides of the annual debate society resolution. I remember having an over-sized collection of cards for the purpose of debating for and against environmental protection. My grandfather (on the left below) was a die-hard anti-government small businessman so he didn't want to hear about federal regulations even though I had dozens of cards that might sway his opinion.
I have iterated my note-keeping process in the half century since my grandfather passed. Now I've digital tools to serve as my Second Brain. I have purposefully initiated a personal strategy of digital transformation. The smartest tools of my digital transformation automagically upload and annotate content. More than 70,000 of my images sit inside Flickr where they're systematically tagged with content suggestions and placed on maps based on where they've been snapped, scraped, or scanned. Every document I draft, edit, or share drops into OneDrive where its metadata ensures it can be easily relocated. An AI has sifted through hundreds of hours of audio recordings to produce short text summaries of the most engaging parts of conversations. When viewed in aggregate, these purposeful processes have made me smarter.
In early 2023, I will teach strategies and tactics of digital transformation. I will lead hands-on sessions with students as we collaborate in the production of a shared vault of information about twelve emerging trends in our world. Some of the collaborative moments involve thumbing through a small collection of record cards.
And to keep me honest, I plan to key up the raspy voice of my grandfather as he challenges me about the purpose of all these digital records and index cards.