In his famous speech, Steve Jobs mentioned that before starting Apple, he took calligraphy classes without any specific purpose in his mind. And ten years later he used that knowledge in making his first Macintosh computer beautiful. He famously said, “I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”
In life, nothing is ever completely wasted because we learn something from everything. If we look back to our school/college education, many things are not applicable in real life. We studied history, mathematics, and literature but most of that knowledge we never used.
Most of the randomly learned knowledge gets internalized subconsciously and we use that indirectly in understanding complex puzzles of life without knowing it. But if any part of knowledge is not directly linked to our goal, then we consider it as waste. In essence, no learning or knowledge goes waste.
When I was reading about the Law of wasted effort examples, I found proof that animals and trees are more receptive to the law of wasted efforts for example half of the fish eggs get destroyed, and most of the seeds of a plant are eaten by the bird but some of them remain saved for survival.
However, we humans judge things more in terms of success and failure. If we do not get the desired results, we tend to quit. But the truth is that: we fail when we stop trying. In response to a question about his failures, Edison once replied “I have not failed 10,000 times instead I have successfully found 10000 ways that will not work”. Hence the failure or learning is a matter of perspective.
The interesting thing is that the law of wasted effort and the power of compounding effect both work in tandem. We can re-interpret this phenomenon in the light of the compounding effect too. Whenever we try to reach our goal that step may not bring the desired result, but one gets one step closer to the desired result i.e. the efforts get accumulated. It can be said that 99% of the effort gets wasted but without that 99%, we cannot get the remaining 1%.
James Clear in his book Atomic Habits mentions that a 1 % improvement in any aspect of life has been life-changing for many. The idea is to get 1% better every day at something you’re working on and eventually it accumulates to make you way better at it in the long run. Slow but steady progress over some time brings monumental changes.