Robin Trimingham

Are you using your phone to hammer in nails?

  • According to Albert Einstein, The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library

Einstein once said: “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

On a superficial level it seems an obvious statement. If you need a book, then you can have one as long as you know where books are kept. Sounds simple enough.

But think again about this statement in the context of the world that Einstein inhabited — a world before internet and digital catalogues of data.

A world in which you didn’t just need to know where “a” library was, you needed to know where “the” library was that contained a copy of “the” book that contained the information that you needed, making the search for a copy of the book itself as challenging as the search for the information it contained.

A research scientist in Einstein’s day needed to be part sleuth and part pitbull, tenaciously combing through the cryptic references in the footnotes of obscure doctoral theses for mentions of a published volume in a country on the other side of the world that might contain useful information, and then politely hounding the desk librarian to make a request for an interlibrary loan.

I wonder what Einstein would have made of the internet.

All the world’s data at your fingertips without ever leaving the house, stored in a box smaller than the size of a telephone directory of his day.

Imagine his delight if you then told him that he could carry the collective knowledge and wisdom of the history of mankind with him wherever he went, and access it whenever he wanted in a device smaller than a cigar case.

How would he have made use of this information to further his knowledge, research, and contributions to mankind?

Where would he have travelled? What would he have investigated?

In the pre Covid-19 world, so many people used the internet as a mindless gossip mill to spread rumours and tear each other down. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, so many of these same people are counting themselves lucky to be safe at home with their health intact. Are they using this time to expand their minds, visit new places, learn new skills (yes, the latest TikTok dance moves count)? Or are they mindlessly scrolling social media until their thumbs drop off?

We may not all want to learn a new job skill or upgrade our college certificates certainly, but hopefully these people have at least used the internet to reconnect with a long-lost relative or developed a new interest.

The question is, as the shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted and life becomes more robust, will these people attempt to return to their old ways, or has their time at home tempted them to adopt new uses for the miraculous all-knowing tool riding around in their back pocket?

They say that an opportunity is only what you make of it. And despite all of the hardship and challenges that the pandemic has brought, this is also a time of great opportunity for introspection, personal development and growth.

The question is, are you preparing yourself to take full advantage of what is to come, or are you essentially using that light sabre in your pocket for hammering nails?

Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or robin@olderhood.com