The Art of Learning

August 10, 2020

Learning something new is often intimidating, here's a little something to help you navigate through your learning process.

As a 21st century civilisation, today we are stuck with a major dilemma of taking it easy, the pandemic has left us with the never before challenge of slowing our fast paced lives down. Being forced to stay indoors to fight a virus is not the war strategy any of us had in mind. Everyone sort of got into the groove of being productive with all the time we had in our hands, some of us delved into cooking, some of us dusted that old guitar of ours and fixed the broken strings from that night of NYE 2015. Picking up a new skill is always intimidating, it usually ends up taking a lot of our time giving attention to things we never would otherwise and wanting to get to that position of someone who is really at the top of their game with that skill. A certain driving force behind a new skill is the wide eyed child-like curiosity that most of us have, we see other people do it and tell ourselves "oh hey! This looks interesting, why don't I try doing that?" and then we get onto doing it and realise that what we set out to do is actually super complicated and far from reach so we just give up and go back to doing whatever we did. This is a common fight and something we all deal with.

But if you look at it, it's actually pretty straightforward and simple, one way or another, the skills are acquired if you devote time everyday and work on it, that's all it takes for you to do what that amazing person you idolise does, they put their time in. To take a simple example, a chef's job is not just cooking, it's sourcing the freshest ingredients, understanding how those ingredients work in tandem with each other and create a dish out of them. If you look at it, the time and experience helps them understand what ingredient goes with the other, the ingredients are tools that help to elevate the dish to a level where we as people who pay for that experience get blown away by. It is simply because they spend their time in the kitchen understanding how flavours work, how acid reacts with fat to give you a fresh and refreshing palette.

Here's a simple diagram to help explain how the human mind comprehends something new and fresh, the first step is where 90% of us give up, and that is intimidation. Humans are intimidated by things they cannot wrap their head around. We want everything fast and instant, be it likes, criticism and even that flatwhite coffee at starbucks. I call this, the abyss of learning. This is how we perceive a new challenge presented to us, the ball rolls into a deep pit when we spend our time getting to know the ins and outs of that particular skill, you feel bogged down by how much there is to learn when all you want to know is how that person did made that amazing thing that piqued your interest and got you here in the first place. Slowly, the intimidation turns into frustration, completely understood, you become this existential being who can't even decide how or why they got here in the first place. This is the process to learning anything that is difficult, from calculus, to new software, coding or animation. 

This is you hitting rock bottom, and now the only way is up. Learning something when you put yourself in a position to be held accountable is an amazing speed boost for your skills to develop. You are now answerable to the deadlines and are forced to improve, no other way out. This in my opinion is the best way to learn anything, as you are constantly pushing yourself in no other way than you would have if it was at your own pace, you are slowly climbing out of the abyss. You now see the end goal in the distance and the intimidation isn't there anymore.

The first roadmap to this would be tracking your progress, on a daily basis to have a visual representation of how you did throughout the course of your progress. This is super helpful as you now have a chance to gamify the whole process of learning and trust me, finishing the task and putting a tick on that empty box is a worthy reward at the end of the day.

The simple task of following a daily routine for an hour or two is a good starting point for anyone learning to achieve relative mastery over a particular skill. Like Malcolm Gladwell says in his 10,000 hour rule, sometimes, it’s all about putting your head down and doing the work!

In the two months of starting my new job at a production house and media company, I have learnt how videos are shot, produced and delivered to clients. I have learnt how to manage clients, these small yet big wins or challenges as I would previously call them only serve as a reminder that the only thing that stands between you and the person you want to become is you. It is only by throwing yourself into the deep end can you come out much stronger and float your way through. Sure, it's not easy but what I like to tell myself is "If it was easy, everyone would do it" and that serves as like an instant morale boost. It is also really important to have the right set of people around you to push you, to pick you up when you get bogged down. The right set of mentors sets you on the right track and clears up the fog for you when things get super foggy. Here's to hoping this little piece helped you come out a better individual and had some positive takeaways.

Authored by Nikhil Suresh

Go back to the LastBench blog.