Learn by doing, supplement with theory later

With the widespread of internet, learning things is never easier in the history of humanity. With tons of amazing resources such as MOOCs (Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, General Assembly, edX, Treehouse, Khan Academy), Youtube, gazillion articles, and chat apps, one could not find a reasonable argument to not learn anything.

The next logical thought would be, ‘How to learn something new in the shortest amount of time with maximum capacity?’.

During my pursuit of finding out the answer to that question, I chanced upon the following which I encourage you to explore as well. They are:

  1. Barbara Oakley’s massive popular MOOC — Learning how to learn
  2. The Art of Learning by Josh Watzkin
  3. Approach learning with Beginner’s Mind
  4. Getting into Flow State
  5. A compilation of what I’ve learnt on How to learn

But that’s just theoretical knowledge about learning.

One of the best way to learn a new skill is to do it. Dive in head first and learn on the go. That’s all there is. No need to spend a fortune purchasing courses, books, mentorship, and whatnots. Just pure practice.

Keep churning out the work. You will get better via practice.

Then, by the time you get good, you will want to get better than before. That’s where the theory comes in. That’s where it gets hard. That’s where you need to spend time thinking, conceptualising, and planning the next few steps.

But before that happens, just keep practicing.

Don’t ever stop practicing.

  1. Make stuff
  2. Make stuff often
  3. Eventually you will learn how to make it awesome

Photo by Darius Soodmand on Unsplash

If you communicate largely through the written word, then please practice your writing skills

To be a functional adult in any society, you need to communicate. To function like a normal person, you need to communicate your thoughts effectively.

The premise of communication is to transform your thoughts onto a medium which the other person can understand. This typically involve visual, audio, or both. Effective communication is usually done via audio-visual methods. Which is why face to face meetings, presentations, videos are the preferred format for important things.

Audio. Usually music, audiobooks, radio, podcasts, voice mails, and phone calls. It’s one level down from audio-visual but you are still able to let a hint of emotions via your voice. Also, you are able to receive feedback during a phone call which allows some level of control.

What about just visual? You have art, pictorials, written word, and the likes. There’s little to no feedback unless you setup observation counters. That leaves your material to stand on it’s own. How well your message is received depends on your skills.

Experts in visual communication fields are often called visual artists. They are trained like a craftsman. They undergo years of training and apprenticeship before they truly make good art.

“What about people like us who aren’t on any apprenticeship on any craft?”

Then we have to be mindful on how we communicate via the written word. Either via email, text messages, or social media messages. I feel that much of the intention gets lost if it’s poorly written. It’s such a waste when we have good and genuine intentions only to get affected by poor writing skills.

How do I get better then?

I have a couple of questions that I ask myself each time I write (note: not exhaustive and not all are applicable):

  • What is my point?
  • Am I asking the question or am I replying to a question?
  • Did I get my point across?
  • What is my tone? (or should be)
  • Are there any action items I, or the recipient need to do? Are they made clearly?
  • Is my email getting too long winded? (Short and simple is always the goal, it’s not an essay.)
  • If it’s more than a few paragraphs, have I proof read it?
  • If there needs to be a description of a problem/event/idea/etc, is it clear in my writing? (What if I insert a picture with markups? How about having a phone call to further elaborate?)
  • Can a neutral party understand what’s going on without contextual background knowledge?

Like any skill, it’s all about practice. The more you practice, the better you get. Good writing is a skill anyone who aims to earn his place should acquire.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Visual communication photo via HubSpot

Why I read physical books

Because sometimes when you need advice and don’t have a steady stream of intelligent network to tap on, books are the next best thing. They are well research, well structured (some good books), well thought out, and have gone through an intensive process where multiple people (editors and publishers) have read the material. Best of all, it comes at a price of a few coffees.

Because many articles published online are written by inexperienced authors whose content may not be well researched and backed up by empirical evidence, too short to trigger deep thought, may be fake, or simply a waste of time. Again, going through a publisher prevents this.

Because I’m able to learn vicariously through the author’s success and struggle in about 5-15hrs. As compared to working hard in figuring out maxims all by myself, I’m able to curate through generous authors’s experiences.

Because a library of books serves as my advisor during difficult times. Or those long sleepless nights where there’s no one to call.

Because I’m a slow learner and I learn better when left to read the material at my own pace on a physical book. I’ve tried using a Kindle, despite it’s pros of storing hundreds of books (imagine carrying 10 hardcover books!) and ability to highlight and export notes away, my ability to learn from a physical book vs digital far outweighs the convenience.

Because I can dog ear the pages and write my own notes longhand on the paper. It’s tactile and flexible. Doodling requires no additional software or skill.

Because it’s offline. No notifications to distract me. No social media updates. No text messages. No prompts or whatsoever. No moving objects. No narration. Just words and pictures on the book and my mind. Particularly useful when doing reading at night or when feeling overwhelmed. Also, I love the smell of paper.

Because it looks good on my bookshelf. A quick glance over to my bookshelf offers instant recollection of things I’ve learnt from the books (even if I only absorbed 1%, it’s a lot).

Because books triggers my imagination, either through inspiring pictures, quotes, or well written paragraphs.

Simply because it’s not electronic. I spend around 6-10 hours in front of a digital device almost every single day and it feels good to get away from it.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash