If I could go back 30 years, I would tell myself to focus on the content and intention of each message, rather than its form.

I'm struggling through a technical report describing application of Bayesian techniques to a particular problem. Like papers in any new (to me) field, nomenclature and conventions for equations are quite confusing.

In the past I focused on - obsessed over, really - these nomenclature differences between fields. Why couldn't they be consistent in mathematical formulations, terminology, and symbols? In college inconsistencies between my pure math, physics, and chemistry texts drove me nuts. They frustrated me to the point where I had problems memorizing formulas, but more importantly, understanding the reason for those formulas and their derivation. My grades reflected my frustration and ignorance.

Today I find myself accepting that I don't necessarily understand nomenclature in the paper I'm reading, and assuming it will differ from what I already know, even if it looks the same. Instead of getting frustrated over three different interpretations for superscripts, I think "what is the author trying to tell me here?" It's a much more rewarding experience, and I'm already reaping dividends.

If you find yourself faced with inconsistencies in presentation of technical material, or in the formulas that back it up, remember the price I paid for focussing on form rather than content. Hopefully you can have a more productive 30 years to come as a result. :)