Principles of learning


Here are my favorite principles of learning, ideas that will help you to acquire skill in the fastest and the most efficient way.

Massive action.

First of all — take massive action. Learning without doing — it’s like reading books about body building without ever going to the gym.

Your knowledge about the subject is like a map that shows you how to get to the goal. Action — is actually moving forward and walking a way towards it. Find a minimum of necessary knowledge to be able to start acting — and then act. Don’t procrastinate by reading tons of books before you start. You will learn all the information that you need along the way. Come up with a practical challenge, figure out the first little step that you need to take — and then take it. If you’re reading information for a good practical reason you will learn it so much faster.

This is the main force behind progress, this is the source of real experience.

Deliberate practice.

Second, and equally important principle. Deliberate practice means consciously setting challenges for yourself and solving them. Constantly pushing forward instead of just going through the repetitive motions. Always figure out how to do new things that are a little above your current level.

Set new challenges that are hard to accomplish, understand how to accomplish them, and then repeat it until they feel automatic.

Cultivate your passion

Enjoying what you do is crucial. You need to love what you do to get really good, it is not optional. If you don’t love what you do — you’re doing it wrong. Getting mastery at anything is a long process, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you won’t get too far relying only on your will power. They say that you need 10000 hours of practice to become a pro, nobody can put so much effort into something if it’s not fun.

And also life is to short to do things that you don’t like.

But if you don’t feel a strong passion now — don’t worry. Passion is not a preexisting quality that you either have or don’t have. It is something that you can learn and develop. Look for ways to do that.

Thinking. Understanding first, speed and efficiency — later.

Don’t rely on your subconsciousness. Don’t expect to get good by mindlessly doing something over and over again, without understanding how, hoping that you’re “training your subconsciousness”, hoping that mere repetition will make you better.

Start with doing things slowly, understand each step. And then your brain gets used to it and automates the process, which enables you to do it faster or focus on more precise details. But don’t try to skip to this part, don’t hope that you can get good without detailed understanding of how you’re doing it, understanding always comes first.

Learn to get in the flow.

Flow is a state of being completely immersed in what you’re doing. When you’re in flow you’re completely focused, present, and very efficient. This state feels incredibly good, and makes you extremely productive. Read this post for tips on how to achieve it.

Consistency(is more important than speed)

Getting good at something is a long term task. Getting better consistently is a lot more important than getting better fast. Approach everything you do with that idea in mind. Do not rush, keep in mind the big picture. Make sure that you’re not stressing yourself out so you won’t quit.

Take care of your health. Make sure that your lifestyle is sustainable. You need to keep steady pace, you need to be able to keep doing what you’re doing years down the line.

Develop habits that you can do every day that will naturally lead you to where you want to be in a long term.

Learn Inner game

Every activity has “outer game” — things that you do physically, your technical skills; and “inner game” — your attitudes to what you do, your mindset, everything that happens in your head while you’re doing it. Inner game is equally important, so learn it, pay attention to it. It includes your ability to focus and deal with stress, your state of mind, your emotional intelligence, your ability to focus, proactively set and accomplish goals, etc. If you’re stuck or unable to move forward — it is possible that your problem is not in knowledge or in technical execution, but in your inner game.

Using goals

Set SMART goals. Have a plan.

This is most useful way to move forward and not get lost. Reflect on your major life long-term goals, break them down into smaller ones, that you can accomplish in relatively short period of time. Breakdown smaller ones even further — you can set your weekly, your daily goals. This is amazing way to make any task manageable, to track your progress, to be effective.

This will help you to be sure that you know what you do and that you can do it.

Know that you can

If you’ll do anything for 10 years straight — there’s no way you won’t become a master(of course, some level of brain usage required). Understand that if you won’t quit — success is inevitable. Don’t let anybody mess with your confidence, to tell you what you can’t do.

There’s a difference between intelligent course-correcting and irrational fears/doubts. It’s a cliche — but “believe in yourself”. Once you have made a decision — don’t doubt it. If failing is not an option for you — you won’t fail.

Don’t compare yourself to the masters and think “I’ll never be able to do this”, it will just stand in your way and waste your time. Just focus on practice.