One of the hardest things to learn after graduation is something that you never take a class for. At school, it’s easy to take a class on anything, but in the real world, how to do you pick up something new and find the materials in order to learn it?
Get Your Head in the Game
The first and main key to learning something new is getting your head in the game. You have to mentally prepare yourself, especially when you are learning on your own. Do you really want to learn something new? If you don’t, then it’s worthless to even start. Learning on your own can be extremely difficult and without the passion to try, you will never get off your feet.
Just Go For It
Over time I’ve learned there’s something better than taking a class to learn a new program or new skill – just go for it (corny, I know). I’m not saying good things don’t come from reading books or looking through tutorials. I try to read a new book every few weeks as well as look through some new tutorials, but most of the time this is in addition to knowledge I have already learned.
I’ve found that the problem with trying to find a good book that teaches you how to code from scratch or learn a new skill is that most of them are written in some form of Greek or Latin, and are impossible to understand. After buying a few books that you think will help you out or subscribing to programs that promise to teach you everything you need to know in a month, you realize that you are practically at the same place you started.
What do you do know? Do what you should have done in the first place – just go for it. It’s going to be hard and you’re not going to know where to start, but that’s exactly where you need to be. Just start, go in a direction and if that doesn’t get you anywhere, turn around and try something new.
This is the hardest step of learning something completely new. It seems like nothing you do will ever work and as all the mistakes pile up you feel dumber and dumber, wondering how other people are so much smarter and get it so much easier. Negativity will pour on to you because you won’t be able to do anything. The devil on your shoulder will try it’s hardest to get you down, but you have to keep fighting. The moment you finally do something right will be one of the best moments in learning.
The moment you finally do something right will be one of the best moments in learning.
Asking the Right Questions
While you fight through the jungle of knowledge, often you never really know where to start. What do I ask, how do I ask this, where can I find this? You’ll spend hours weaving through all the forums you search from Ask Jeeves or Bing only to realize that you haven’t learned very much. The problem actually lies with the problem. You aren’t asking the right questions (or using Google).
Just like Dr. Lanning said in I, Robot, ‘I’m sorry, my responses are limited. You must ask the right questions.’
The only wrong way to learn is to learn something all at once. It’s impossible to try to learn something from scratch and learn it in one sitting. The key is to find something small and learn everything about it. Understand why it works and how it works. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning in the order that you need to because like a good Mexican food meal, it all goes down the same way.
As you pick apart pieces little by little, you will also see that your questions are getting better. When you attack smaller and smaller pieces of the puzzle, you will see that you will learn much faster.
Embrace the Struggle
The hardest things to do when jumping in and learning something completely new is struggling. It’s an acquired perception you have to learn to overcome, like your muscles burning towards the end of the run. The work you put in to gain this new knowledge will always be worth it.
In the beginning, nothing will work, nothing will make sense, and it seems like you will never even get started. You have to learn to look at all these mistakes and negativity in a positive sense, you are actually learning a lot. You’re learning what not to do, which is just as important as knowing what to do. When you finally do start doing right, not only do you know not how to do it, but you know why it won’t work, and you know how you have to change it in order to make it work. Sounds like you’re not only learning, you’re on your way to becoming an expert, right?
Enjoy the Knowledge
After the long struggle, I realized something that had never happened before. Not only did I understand, but I remembered. I remembered everything that I looked up and learned, and remembered what not to do. Unlike in school where there were multiple references and books, everything I learned I had to go and search on my own, I began to use and apply all of my knowledge immediately. I used what I found and saw how everything worked because it was my job to make it work. Not only do I get the pleasure from learning something on my own, but I also remembered everything I learned better than I ever had.
Check Your Work
Lastly, and always lastly, check your work with/through others. There are always resources that others have completed that are done correctly. Review your work with theirs, and review how they created it. The important thing is to not copy and paste their work into yours because how are you supposed to learn from copying? By taking shortcuts, you are only hurting yourself. When learning, if you give yourself a crutch, you will always use that crutch and never actually learn the technique. Not only will it slow you down, but you will also never have a complete understanding of the program or skill.
Learning blind is one of the hardest things to do, but believe me, the dividends will pay multiple times over. As you train yourself to learn by embracing the struggle, nothing will be unobtainable.