I belong to the last generation that remembers life before internet. My brother, born in 1999, already grew up with the internet in our house since his early childhood. Kids born these days will grow up fully online 24/7.

A lot of things have changed since I was a kid, but one that endlessly fascinates me is access to knowledge. Back in the 90’s, the only sources of information I had access to were my parents, teachers, TV, and the books available immediately at hand. Doing homework, we consulted the 6-tome Encyclopedia, leather-bound and fine-printed.

All the books in our house came either from my school library or the local bookstore. Only dictionaries and foreign language textbooks weren’t entirely in Polish. Even though my parents understood German and Russian, there weren’t books in other languages available anywhere. International bestsellers might have been eventually translated to Polish with a slight delay. Everything else, we didn’t even know what we didn’t know.

Now that I think about it, the whole concept of learning in a different language was entirely foreign to us. Even though I spoke decent English and had a modem at home as an early teen, I haven’t really read books or articles in English for another ten years. Languages was something we learned to be able to ask all these fascinating foreigners what they’re doing in our small town on the East of Poland. There might have been people who read in the original languages for pleasure, especially poetry, but I knew only one girl who used her English proficiency to gain knowledge not publicly available in our country. She watched the morning news on CNN, and prided herself on understanding the big world politics while everyone else was busy with our small political playground.

Fast forward a few years, and I have the entirety of human knowledge right at my fingertips. In 5 minutes I can find out what books were most insightful according to Bill Gates, Steven Hawking, Elon Musk or the Pope. I can buy them with a single click and have them delivered instantly without getting out of bed. If I find a book valuable, I can immediately find other works by the same author, find their articles and interviews, or follow their thought processes on Twitter.

No matter what is the goal I’m hoping to achieve, there’s already someone out there who succeeded in this. I can learn from their failures, adopt their best practices, and step up my growth with the tools they used.

When it comes to understanding how the world works, I have access to the same resources that every billionaire has. Of course, they can also access a network of incredibly successful friends and best coaches on the planet that can help them turn this knowledge into reality. But most of the raw stuff to get you started is already available out there, and even poor college kids have more or less legal ways to access great content for free.

Actually, ‘great content’ is such an understatement. These are the best things ever written on business, psychology, programming, philosophy, relationships, marketing, and many more topics. If Bill Gates says he learned a lot from this book, as successful as he is, you too probably have some gaps in your knowledge that could be filled in reading it. All you need is an internet connection, and understanding of written English.

20 years ago this would have been science fiction. I’d have no way to find out what the mayor of my town thinks, let alone the greatest minds in the world. America was a mythical faraway land where money grew on trees, or at least that’s what we saw on TV. Us, kids from the former Eastern block, would never dream we’d have an equal chance in life as our American peers.

Yet here we are. Even though some people have had a much easier start than others, these days every English speaker has equal access to knowledge. No matter if you’re a single mother in Bosnia or a farmer in India, you can learn from the best of the best in the world. All the tools you need to succeed, no matter what your personal definition of success is, are out there.

3 thoughts on “Picking the greatest brains alive

  1. I still get get over the instantaneousness of conversation. That I van write to you, and this will reach you in Poland instantly while I’m sitting around in the US. I dont even have to call 1-800-COLLECT. Or have people put us together. Hell we can video chat.. for free.. on Zoom.. instantaneously. It still blows my mind.

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