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How to Learn A New Skill: A Real-World Guide to Mastering Anything

Not all practice is created equally

To make it count, practice deliberately. Focus on specific elements and work on them until they improve.

Don't go all out, dedicating every waking moment to your new passion. Pace yourself. You will not only avoid burnout by spreading out your training, but you will also increase your performance.

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How to Learn A New Skill: A Real-World Guide to Mastering Anything

How to Learn A New Skill: A Real-World Guide to Mastering Anything

https://doist.com/blog/learning-new-skill/

doist.com

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Key Ideas

Improvement with learning

From the moment we are born, we are always learning new skills. We see it in formal capacities in school or on the job, and informally, like learning from you buddy how to grill a steak.

However, learning is a skill that we can improve upon. The growing number of self-taught professionals is a testament to that.

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

“One skill you want to master in this day and age we live in, if you want to have an extraordinary life, is the ability to learn rapidly.”

Select your skill carefully

Be very selective in the skill you're trying to masker to avoid sabotaging your success:

  • Make sure it's applicable: The perfect skill either solves a problem you have or scratches an itch you have.
  • Be very specific: Specific goals are easier to pursue than vague counterparts. To set yourself up, narrow your skill down as much as possible. Ask what specific problem are you trying to solve, and find out what aspects you find most fascinating.
  • Make sure you love the process, not just the outcome: Pick a skill where the road is as exciting as the outcome. Then plan out celebration points along the way.

Choosing your own direction

In school, your teachers worked out a lesson plan and made sure you were aiming in the right direction. When you're teaching yourself, you have to do it yourself.

  • Deconstruct and select: Every skill can be broken down into pieces. Find out what are the minimal learnable segments you should start with for success and focus on that first.
  • Find a mentor: If you're unfamiliar with a skill, you may not know what is worth learning from the start. Find a mentor to help you.
  • Stop learning and start doing: Once you know the basics, put them into practice wherever you can.

Questions to ask a mentor

To save the time of both of you, consider asking your mentor these questions:

  • Thinking back to when you were just getting started, what parts of your skill were the most frustrating to learn?
  • Which of those do you use on a daily/weekly basis, and which have you forgotten?
  • What parts of your skill did you worry about the most when you were getting started that you now feel are unnecessary?
  • When looking at other experts in your field, what specific capabilities help you distinguish experts from non-experts?

Not all practice is created equally

To make it count, practice deliberately. Focus on specific elements and work on them until they improve.

Don't go all out, dedicating every waking moment to your new passion. Pace yourself. You will not only avoid burnout by spreading out your training, but you will also increase your performance.

Tighten feedback loops

Feedback is vitally important to evaluate how well you're doing and to identify areas for improvement. Faster feedback is always better.

  • Share work publicly: Even if it feels scary, sharing your work is essential for improvement.
  • Be very specific: Pick a particular element and ask for direct feedback.
  • Ask for negative feedback: "What is one aspect that could be improved?"
  • Don't make it about you: It's helpful to remove yourself from the question when asking for feedback. "What is the one thing I could've done" makes the feedback more personal and may make the person hesitant to give critical feedback.

Stick to your practice

You could follow all the advice, but if you give up after two days, you won't make progress.

  • Make a plan: When exactly are you going to practice?
  • Tell others about it…maybe: State your goal as a commitment rather than moving towards the finished product. The former commits you to an attitude while the second may indicate that you've already taken steps, which may cause you to slow down.
  • Join a group: Groups are very motivating and make you more likely to persevere.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Albert Einstein

"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much an..."

Albert Einstein
Daniel Coyle
Daniel Coyle

"Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it."

Telling Others About Your Pursuit

It can keep you accountable, but it can also lead to a false sense of completeness. One way to avoid sabotaging yourself is to state your goal as a commitment rather than progress towards the finished product.

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Have a reason to study

Have an end goal in mind when you're learning.

  • What do you want to do with this information?
  • How is it going to improve your life?

Even if ...

Find the right instructor

Set some time aside to see what courses are available.
Take advantage of any free lessons, watch the introductions to their classes and see if the instructor will be a good fit for your skill level and speed.

Don’t binge

Watching online tutorial videos can become addictive. Keep in mind that you are trying to learn something, not get distracted.

How long you would be able to study depends on the density of the subject and the level of your knowledge about the subject.

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"In a fast-moving, competitive world, being able to learn new skills is one of the keys to success. It’s not enoug..."

Heidi Grant Halvorson
Check your readiness

Learning a new skill takes commitment. And there are certain limits to what you can learn. So, before starting working on a new skill, ask yourself:

  • If your goal really is attainable
  • How much time and energy you can give to this process.
Make sure it’s needed

Make sure the skills you've chosen are relevant to your career, your organization, or both. 

Gaining a new skill is an investment and you need to know upfront what the return will be.

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Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn is a meta-skill. It is a critical skill for everyone who needs to pick up and master new concepts frequently.

Understanding what is learning and how our memory works wil...

Learning skills

Learning how to learn is critical for everyone. Most of us have to deal with a changing world and to learn how to manage tons of new information.

However, most of our learning methods are outdated and far from optimal. It may even be giving us an illusion of learning, like re-reading and highlighting that don't provide proper feedback to show what you haven't learned.

Focused and Diffuse Mode

Focused and diffuse modes provide two models for how we develop, elaborate, deepen and broaden connections. Both methods are important.

  • The focused mode of learning is about bringing related concepts together into a unit, called a chunk. 
  • The diffuse mode operates through a wider net of connecting general ideas across different fields. We use this diffuse mode while we sleep, exercise or daydream.

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"One skill you want to master in this day and age we live in, if you want to have an extraordinary life, is the ab..."

Tony Robbins
Don't reinvent the wheel

Mimic and get help from someone who’s already learned it to get tips and save time.

In order to achieve mastery faster, our first step should be to consult the top players in the field and model the path they have already carved out for us.

Deconstruct the skill

...into its basic, fundamental components, to find the most important things to practice first. This shows that very few things actually make a difference in any aspect of our lives, including learning.

Use the Pareto Principle: which describes a goal of generating 80 percent of results by putting in 20 percent of the effort.

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Tony Robbins

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” 

Tony Robbins
Know your outcome

Figure out your “why.” Consider these questions.

  • What opportunities will become available by learning that new thing?
  • What would you do if you could use your desired skill right now?
  • Will you have a deeper relationship with your family/friends? Grow your business? 
Model the best

No matter what you want to learn or accomplish, there’s someone in the world that has already achieved what you want.

You have access nowadays to endless resources in the form of biographies, books, videos, online classes and so on. You just have to search.

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Scientific Backed Ways To Learn Better
Scientific Backed Ways To Learn Better
  1. Learn faster and retain more by imagining that you have to teach someone else what you are learning
  2. Sleeping between two learning sessions greatly improves retenti...
The social foundation: emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (or E.I.) is your ability to be aware of your own emotions, to recognize emotions in others and use that information to guide your behavior.

When you develop you...

The general categories of E.I.
  • Self-awareness: Do you get anxious in loud environments? Self-awareness is knowing these things about yourself.
  • Self-regulation deals with your ability to manage your own emotions. 
  • Motivation: You know how to motivate yourself and create or continue projects because you choose to.
  • Empathy: It means recognizing the emotions of others.
  • Socialization: It is your ability to navigate social situations, including conveying your ideas to co-workers or dealing with a conflict in a relationship.
Constructively confront someone

Our own fears keep us from confronting others. We fear that we'll lose something, hurt someone we care about, or that it will accomplish nothing.

  • Recognize that fear in yourself and identify the real issues that led to the conflict.
  • When you are able to discuss the issue, instead of firing accusations, describe your behavior using "I" statements: "I feel hurt that .............................."

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Becoming Reasonably Good
There is a difference between becoming an expert vs becoming reasonably good at something:  An expert means reaching the lop level in one's field. Being reasonably ...
Deconstruct the Skill
  • Break the skill into various small parts, remembering that every big skill is a collection of many sub-skills.
  • Identify the essential sub-skills needed to give you the maximum advantage.
  • Practice the most important part that you have discovered, using the 80:20 principle in your learning.
80/20: Pareto's principle

The Pareto principle states that 20% of your activities (even lesser) deliver 80% results (even more) in almost every area of your life.

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Learning and practice

Acquiring information is not learning.

Although textooks can help, they only work when combined with practice.

The Research Phase
  1. Get the big picture. Scan articles etc. to get an idea of what the field is about.
  2. Determine scope. Limit the size of what you want to learn. “Physics” or “philosophy” is too wide and will take decades. “Classical mechanics”, while still wide, might be a bit easier.
  3. Define success. Make a clear goal for your learning.
  4. Find resources 
  5. Create a learning plan from what you have learned in you previous steps.
  6. Filter resources. Narrow down your resource list (Step 4) to the most important essentials.
The Learning Phase
  1. Learn enough to get started.
  2. Playing around with the information will give context and tacit knowledge to go back and do more verbal, analytic learning.
  3. Learn enough to do something useful with it.
  4. Teach. It is the only way to know for sure that you’ve learned something and a great way to fill in the gaps in your learning.

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