On learning (For Karthick)

Karthick left some kind feedback and a question but no contact information (I’ve now added a section for that to the form) – this is a reply.

Karthick asks:

I’d love to know your methods of learning. How do you learn more? What mediums do you learn on (and any more tips on reading too!) Thank you for your time.

How to I learn?

I think my best tool for learning is “enthusiastically doing.” Diving in and trying things enables you to learn much more than sitting on the sidelines.

Examples:

  • Being in an actual fight (not that I’ve been in many) or full-contact sport is worth years of thinking about martial arts / physical conflict;
  • Performing in front of an audience is the fastest way to learn what works – and how different doing something is with an audience;
  • Writing a blog and playing with podcasts etc has been the best way to learn about them;
  • Running a charity has been one long lesson in hundreds of things things I never knew about, much less that they were important.

Making a quick decisions to have a go and try something is a really quick way to learn whether you like it, or if it’s useful, and to see the main things that you need to learn next. See my series on taking action (“Do it Now”).

A second powerful tool is spending time with someone who knows the thing you’re trying to learn. I’ve tried to learn to solder several times and found it incredibly frustrating because it didn’t work. It took about a minute with a local electronics repairman for him to hear my problem, check out my tools and say: “You have bad quality solder and a bad soldering iron. Try these.” I immediately learned what it should feel like, and that my reluctance to blame my tools for my failure was – in this case – wrong. This type of learning is scarce but incredibly powerful, especially for “knack” based skills.

In the absence of opportunities for the above…

  • I try to look for what’s interesting or important or entertaining about everything (mainly because I find this approach to life rewarding and fun);
  • I read widely and omnivorously – if learning is about making connections, the more widely you read, the more connections you can make, so that the next step comes more easily;
  • Listening to podcasts is great – I can’t meet Marc Andreessen in person and learn how he thinks by talking to him, but podcasts and videos on YouTube give a window into how people approach questions, the things they notice, that’s really useful.

More on reading tomorrow.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...