What We Don’t Understand About Learning

Backstory

Recently, as I was browsing through my twitter feed, I stumbled upon a post by @aleksandrasays titled ‘Most Tech Content is Bullshit’. Naturally intrigued, I clicked and read the blog entry and found myself agreeing with it.

From my understanding, the overarching theme of the post was that we weren’t learning how to think for ourselves. Instead, we were just copying the habits of others, who have also done the same from someone. This inevitably becomes destructive when a trend of bad habits are passed over to others in the case of a misunderstanding of why something was done the way it was.

The Spark

This then lead me to think about all of the different ways there were to learn new things and how to soak information up. Effectively the best way to learn and the techniques we can incorporate to “study smart”.

So in my pursuit of finding the many techniques and ways people improve their learning, I began to think about the stages preceding that. What comes before learning? Is it the act of doing? Or is there some kind of an intrinsic element at play here? I began wondering, this myself. Until it hit me. People need to first learn to learn, before how to learn. I’ll explain it a bit more.

Newborn Swimmers

Have you ever heard about babies being able to swim and then losing that ability as children? Well, it’s somewhat true. Not to go into too much specifics, but newborn babies, from the familiarity of being inside their mother’s womb, develop the skills needed to help themselves in water. These instincts are essentially what come into play, but after a certain period of time, after being born and no longer in a water filled environment, these abilities are unlearned.

Think about it for a second. Skills that are deemed unworthy are almost like litter to the brain in that we get rid of them when we no longer find a use for it. Granted, the swimming and babies example is much more extreme in that our brains aren’t nowhere near fully developed by that point.

However, this is paralleled throughout our experiences in childhood and our adolescent years in school. We begin to learn a plethora of different subjects and by the time we hit the working world, we’ve forgotten a large percentage of everything. How many times have you heard someone say they’re simply not good at math? Well, considering not many people use it much in their lives and, in the instance they do, use a calculator; it really defeats the purpose of needing to calculate in your head. That skill diminishes slowly to the point you just feel you’re not blessed with the ‘talent’ to make simple calculations. It’s not true, however. Math, like any over skill, is something you can get better with the more you practice. Granted, there will be some people who are more affluent than you are, but that’s with everything in life.

What Am I Getting At?

Like with every skill in life, learning has to be learned, too. Not just how to learn, but learning to learn and all the pitfalls it entails.

So, what are the things we forget when we forget to learn? For starters, the struggle to understand and grasp something new. I believe through age we develop an ego that comes with maturity. That, coupled with the fact that we live in an age where the exploit of our happy chemicals has been perfected, causes us to lose patience easily when we are not instantly rewarded. At the slightest displeasure, we allow ourselves to quit.

Is there something you’re good at? If so, think back to a time where we you were learning it from the beginning. Now remember all the pitfalls that came with it. All the stumbling blocks, loss of interest and lack of motivation to continue. No matter what came across, you ended up not quitting because you’re good at it today. Oh, and this thing can be anything from ironing your shirts to kicking a ball.

The Best Thing You Can Do

What I would recommend is that you don’t worry to much about mastering what you want to learn. Don’t even think too much about getting good. Just do it. Simple as. I would always suggest to keep in mind that you treat it as though you’re laying one brick at a time. In the words of Will Smith, and I’m paraphrasing here, lay the brick in the best way possible, everyday.

If you’re able to do this daily, you’ll reach a point in which it becomes a habit. Do it a little bit more and you’ll get better. The better you’re at something, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of it. Once you reach that level, the progression will come naturally. I believe in consistency more than effort, because effort is as good as motivation and that’s not something that’s always around.

If you apply this learning, you’ll get used to learning. The better you understand all the challenges that come with learning, the more patient you’ll become. The more patient you become the more understanding you’ll be and the more likelier you’ll be at dropping your ego.

Get used to learning. Get used to failing. Get used to exploring. If you’re persistent enough, you’ll achieve anything in life.

TLDR:

  • Idea manifested from a blog entry titled “Most Tech Content is Bullshit”
  • Started thinking about learning itself and how we unlearn things
  • Learn to learn and recognise every thing else that comes with it
  • Stay consistent and don’t worry about the end goal
  • Persistence is the key to achieving

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