A Gentle Guide to Make Learning Easier For You
Recently, a book that captured my attention was, The Art of Learning, which goes about the story of Josh Waitzkin’s life.
For those not familiar with him, he was somewhat of a chess prodigy since the age of 12 and caused a pop culture in the United States. He made the idea of chess as popular football among the country.
But what really shined was the way Josh learned not only how to play chess, but how he handled any learning situation throughout his entire life.
The way most people learn today is horribly wrong because they go about it the incorrect way that steps an expectation upon people potential. They give themselves a limit to what their possible potentials are based on their own beliefs.
For example, if Johnny was good at math, but considered himself a bad writer, this would prevent him from chasing his dream to write a book due to his intolerance belief. He’ll lose the motivation or willpower to continue improving his craft because he’ll assume it’ll be pointless.
2 Questions to Consider
There are two important questions you should ask yourself when learning anything are:
- What are the factors that differentiate the few who made it to the top?
- Since most people never achieve that lofty goal, what is the point of trying?
Now how would you go about that question? Allow me to give you an example:
Suppose I wanted to be dab into computer programming, but had a bad history of just creating a Facebook account. By asking myself these two questions, I give myself the time to think:
- What are the factors that differentiate the few who made it to the top in the programming industry?
It’s hard for anyone to come into the programming industry with outrageous expectations. Although there may be great industries that broke down the barriers that once made coding difficult such as Codeacademy and Code School, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to immediately understand it all. It’s going to require a mastery approach of leaning towards the program industry in baby steps. Once I become comfortable, I then look into the top programmers of my field through their blogs or books to determine what they did differently.
2. Since most people never achieve that lofty goal, what is the point of trying?
With an understanding of programming and what others did to create great platforms, I’ll have to create an endpoint I see as my motivation. Such as how our goal is the beat the last level of a video game, our goal should be something we have in mind towards a particular project. For coding, it would be creating an APP that millions of people would want. It would be creating a platform that not only satisfy my needs, but the needs of anyone else who might be interested in it.
Despite what people may assume their learning limits are, there have always been individuals who contradicted that theory by putting in the time and effort to make a dream possible.
They understood that any concept can be grasped or mastered when dealt with long enough. Michael Jordan may not have been great when he first started playing basketball. In fact he sucked at it.
But rather than giving in to his singular losses, he invested his time into mastering his craft. So if there’s a skill you’re interested in, don’t give in to the assumption there is no point in learning about it because it’s silly.
Create an Award System
There’s a correlation between success and effort, work and reward. Think of it like a job. When you put in the time and get a paycheck for it, this gives you the motivation to deal with your job day after day. Even if you hate your job with a passion, you still commit yourself to it because there is an award system in place.
But putting your job aside, let’s use the concept of learning instead.
Most highly intelligent people believe their intelligence is their greatest strength and identity. They constantly brag about their high IQ score and what they scored on the SAT.
They tell others about their GPA and what academic accomplishments they achieved. But what usually haunts them the most is something they never reveal to anyone. Which is the habit of holding onto an illusion of perfection.
They live in a world where they believe everyone expect only great things from them and any less would deem them useless upon society.
And this isn’t my attempt to bash on anyone who’s a genius or have a perfect SAT score because trust me, I consider myself average in the intelligence community. My SAT scores even sucked. I can’t remember what they were, but I guarantee I wouldn’t brag about it.
But these are facts that have been supported through various case studies. Two studies below show some of the dangers of living a perfection illusion.
Despite the many academic achievements a smart person may have, when it relates to unknown challenges they could do on their own, they have a natural tendency to avoid anything that might challenge them.
Although they might have a natural curiosity to know another language, the idea of them failing at it scares them even more. They’d rather live with the idea they have the potential to learn another language but don’t bother because it’s not worth the time or effort.
Overall, they rarely challenge themselves and simply stop learning because of the fear of failing and disproving the beliefs they carry about their own intelligence.
Looking Back at The Parents Fault
A mistake that parents make is pumping their children with false hopes and dreams by telling them, “You’re good at drawing,” or “It’s ALRIGHT you failed science. Maybe it just ins’t your thing.”
These statements may be supporting and loving to raise the child’s self-esteem, but it sets them up for failure because they begin linking success and failure with their own ingrained ability.
They assume if they suck at something, then it’s not their fault, it’s just not meant for them to do. They take on the concept that if they suck at something the first or second time, then they should give up and try something new.
I’m not claiming to be a child’s expert nor am I claiming the best way to raise a child. But when it comes towards a general rule for learning to where an individual can accept failure with a smile and continue trying, it’s best to tell them statements like, “You’re getting really good at math! Keep it up!” Or, “It’s ALRIGHT, we just need to study a little harder before you get good at science.”
Embrace the Art of Discomfort
Considering we live in a pleasure seeking society, you can see why people simply don’t try as hard as they used to anymore. Too many people seek the easy road to success and money because they want the most pleasures out of life.
The crucial point of learning comes at the price of escaping your own comfort zone. This gives you the chance to grow and spread your wings. When you’re learning about anything new for the first time, you should expect to be at a level of discomfort.
But this level of discomfort should excite you as it does when you first play a new video game. You have no idea what to expect, but the adventure excites you because you’re willing to face it. You already know you can beat whatever boss you’re up against when you face it so many times.
Some activities you decide to try out will give you goosebumps as others will give you a slight discomfort. But despite what you feel, it’s your willingness to face it all the way through. When a gamer buys a video game, they intend to beat the game.
When you settle on a goal, you want to see it all the way through. A central part of learning is staying in the middle ground between comfort and discomfort.
A useful strategy my friend would use to prepare for interviews was to constantly practice in front of a mirror and conduct role plays. This helped him prepare for commonly asked questions and taught him how to stay calm and collected when asked strange questions.
So put yourself through tests whether it be via multiple choice, free form, role plays, or flashcards. Find ways to test yourself rather than looking over the material repeatedly, hoping you remember it. Because when you test your own knowledge, you force your brain to use whatever resource it has to get you through it.
It was using this concept of intelligence that allowed Josh to increase his skills quicker beyond his competitors. Most young chess players had started learning the basics of chess and then learned complex openings and closings.
As for Josh, he began learning how to handle a game with only a king against a king and one pawn, moving over individuals pieces before working their way up.
While Josh learned the concepts surrounding each individual piece, his rivals were learning how to win quickly and easily with complicated strategies. Their focus was only on the glory of winning games and winning as fast as they could.
Although that principle was possible to work against new players, it would seldom work against experiences ones.
And this relates to real life situations. People are quick to learn the fastest ways to get rich or make it to the top, but rarely do they ever make it to the top or keep their position if they do.
They either have 10 minutes of fame before they crumble back to the bottom, or they give up because they realize it’s too difficult to cheat their way to the top.
It’s the ones who took the time to understand the deep rooted concepts of their craft who build strong foundations for it.
When you only care about winning, you set yourself up for failure. Of course you don’t have to pretend you don’t care about the results and avoid challenging yourself. Nor is there anything wrong with enjoying your victories.
But your focus should always be on your process rather than the singular moment. Think of it like a video game. When you beat a level, you don’t celebrate that single victory and call it quits. Rather, you marvel at your accomplishment and proceed on to the next challenge almost immediately.
Embrace the Unknown and Make Experience Your Friend
Josh attributes his success to a constant state of leaping into the unknown and accepting what came his way. And like Josh, it’s hard to determine what kind of challenges will come our way if we try something.
I started off as a terrible writer despite how much I loved it. But I kept writing. Now I’ve written over 150 articles, started several blogging platforms, and have over a hundred thousand readers on my website.
There are few things that can beat learning by experience and it’s giving yourself that chance to succeed or fail that makes all the difference. I had no idea how to start a blog when I first decided to establish one. But I started anyway and learned the ropes about making the best one possible.
If you want to start a business, you have no idea how it’ll turn out even if you make a plan for everything that can go wrong. I failed horribly the first time I cooked Thai Fried Rice even after looking over the recipe repeatedly because I still overlooked a few key notes. (Such as cooking the rice properly.)
But I didn’t stop. I just kept those small attention to details next time I cooked it. And I still failed the second and third time. But after the fourth time, I finally mastered it.
You might fail a few times when you try something, but you use those failures as a learning ground to start from.
Josh had to face multiple failures when he decided to play chess against adults, which built skills that other children didn’t have. This gave him experience that no other child his age possessed and allowed him to easily win championships at his school.
Overall, you can set your goals to learn anything you’re genuinely interested in. But without asking yourself the two simple questions mentioned above, and following the rules that Josh did, you’ll find the art of learning your craft more difficult than it should be.
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