4 POWERFUL INSIGHTS ABOUT LEARNING NEW SKILLS
During the course of our lives, we inevitably have to learn new subjects and skills. You may want to make a living out of it or it could be just a personal inclination towards a specific subject or field. But few of us really know that learning in itself is an art, which is governed by its own principles. If we follow them, we can make the most out of our learning experience and truly create something profound. You might call this process “learning to learn”. So without further ado, let’s look at the four powerful insights about learning new things.
- The Way of the Child
Have you ever wondered why children are so good at learning? Why their pace of learning is so fast. Just notice how children learn their mother language without any formal teaching, just by listening to it and that too with their comparatively small and developing minds. The reason is simple. If you notice, a child is totally dependent on adults for his survival and thus naturally feels “inferior”. This sense of inferiority sparks in him a fire to learn new things. Overwhelmed by the greatness of adults around him, he is always ready to absorb whatever he can learn from them, desperately trying to “bridge the inferiority gap”. Secondly, a child’s mind is completely open to new possibilities. Why? It’s because he doesn’t have any preconceived notions about anything to which he is emotionally attached, which ultimately frees him of any fear of the unknown.
On the other hand, we adults, as we get older become rigid in our ways. Our minds become less flexible, unable to adapt. Most importantly, we develop “a sense of superiority”. This sense of superiority is multiplied whenever we come across anything that is new and different for us. Basically the sense of superiority is a defense mechanism to hide our fear of the unknown, as human beings essentially fear the unknown. This superiority complex tends to close our minds off to any new possibilities, as we think it might end up altering our existing ideas with whom we have developed a kind of emotional attachment.
You might think that it would be almost impossible then, for us adults, to go back to this childlike openness. But it’s completely untrue. If you notice, we all have experienced such moments in our adult lives when we are suddenly overwhelmed and awestruck by the greatness of someone else. It can be a great writer, a poet, musician, or anybody. In these moments we let go of our insecurities and the superiority complex, we feel a willingness to throw ourselves at the feet of this great master and learn from him/her. But most of the time these moments are short-lived and soon we are overtaken by our petty desires.
You must understand that in order to learn anything new and important you need to revert back to the feeling of inferiority of a child. You have to completely get rid of your insecurities and fears and embrace the unknown with open arms. You have to accept the fact that your teachers know more than you and you are dependent on them to successfully navigate your way through this new environment. You should get rid of all your preconceptions about this specific field and observe it as objectively as you can. Drop all your fears and welcome the unknown with the curiosity of a child. Remember no growth is possible unless you try new things.
Human beings would have stayed in the east African savannas till to date if they had not dared to venture into the unknown. We would still be believing that earth is static and flat if great scientists like Galileo and Copernicus had not been brave enough to challenge these long-held ideas. Can you even imagine, how hard it must have been to think for these people against what millions of people had been believing to be true for so many centuries? Just think Galileo was the only person in the world in his time who believed that the earth was moving. Stories of great people like these have great wisdom in them. They tell us of the unlimited potential of the human mind to think against almost anything and the sheer will of the human spirit to go against their times. Read about these great people and you will feel charged to venture into almost anything new without a hint of fear. This feeling is temporary because in the matter of a few months you will be able to declare your independence.
2. How to Deal with Resistance and Pain
We humans normally run away from any prospects of pain and difficulty. This fear of pain also affects our learning abilities. When we start to learn something new, we must practice to get better at it, and practice inevitably involves tedium and pain. Sitting for long hours doing something over and over can be really hard. So what we do is either we go for cheap distractions or we leave the process completely or sometimes, we stick to the easiest parts of the skill that are not that painful. But you must know that you cannot master a skill until you put yourself through rigorous pain and resistance. That’s how you expand your limits. So the next question is how to deal with pain. For that, you have to bring an important shift in your perspective.
Just compare yourself with a WWE wrestler. If both of you are hit by a punch, would you feel the same amount of pain as him? Of course not. A normal person might start screaming after a blow but UNDERTAKER or BROCK LESNAR might not even feel anything. So what is the reason for this? The reason is simple. After years and years of wrestling, they have simply increased their threshold of pain. Understand, the only way to get rid of pain is by getting used to it by increasing your threshold. There is no other way out of this. So building on this wisdom, you should also actively pursue pain and resistance so that every day your pain threshold is increased by a level. Just imagine if you keep on going like this, a time will come when you’ll become invincible.
Now the only way that someone can be motivated to go through pain is if they have an incentive. The incentive for you is the mastery of that skill that you will achieve or the rewards that are associated with that. The ecstatic feeling of independence and freedom that you will achieve. Therefore you must visualize all the rewards you will be getting to motivate you. Additionally, you can do some exercises while in the practice stage. For example, you can declare that you’ll complete a specific task within a specific timeframe. Make sure others know it because then you’ll be under pressure to complete it or suffer humiliation.
Remember, deadlines can be magical in giving results so make sure to give yourself deadlines. Secondly, you can make your work surroundings distraction-free, to focus intensely, so that the quality of time is multiplied. For example, you can lock yourself in a room without any gadgets around. You must have heard about some actors going into solitude for weeks to get inside the character they are playing. Remember solitude is essential to focus on something for long hours. Thirdly, as you progress you’ll see your own mind will develop exercises to cope with your weaknesses, make sure you do these exercises.
3. Educate yourself through failure
What happens when a machine malfunctions? Such malfunctions show you the flaws in the machine and most importantly “the means of improvement”. When you fix that malfunction, you inevitably learn valuable lessons about the workings of the machine, possible flaws, and the parts that you should be careful about. In fact, in the process of invention, repeated experimentation is the only way new things are created. On each step, flaws are being fixed so that ultimately you get a perfect product. This is a natural and simple method of education.
So understand that while you are trying to learn new things, you should not be discouraged by your failures. Your approach should be one of an inventor who is experimenting with various possibilities until he creates a masterpiece. Every mistake is teaching you an important lesson, the important thing is to learn it and never repeat again. In fact, learning by committing mistakes is one of the most effective means of learning because it is extremely personal and you never forget it. We all learned to stay away from hot objects by first touching one. So you should change your mindset towards failure and in fact rename it as education. Whenever something goes wrong, you should not say you have failed, instead, you should say “I am educating myself”.
Lastly, not trying new things might give you a sense of control over your life because you are not taking any risks thereby eliminating any chance of failure, but it will ultimately cause the stagnation of your spirit and skills. On the other hand, if you try new things you’ll inevitably make mistakes, but these mistakes will only teach you new things, toughen your spirit and give you absolute clarity about the right way of doing things.
4. Try to see what’s hidden
If you observe any field you’ll notice there are two worlds operating there. One is an outer world of appearances that we can see, which captivates our eyes. The second one is hidden from the eye which tells you how things actually work there. For example, you only see a car from outside, this is appearance. But inside there is an entire system operating in harmony that makes the very existence and functioning of the car possible. Now if someone wants to know how a car works but just keeps himself to a superficial study of the outer exterior, would he be able to gain an in-depth knowledge of the car. Of course not, because the real car is inside not outside. Similarly, we only see people from outside and don’t bother about the inner workings of their minds.
But you must understand that in order to get a true feel for a subject and gain a deep understanding, you have to focus on “the internal”. Otherwise, your knowledge will be superficial. If you study great thinkers and inventors you’ll come to know that their prime focus always was the inner, deeper mechanism that governs things. For example, for Einstein physics was not just a subject to use laws of nature and make machines. He was interested in the hidden forces of nature that actually were behind the laws of nature. You must apply the same wisdom to your own subject that you are trying to learn. This kind of approach gives you a more holistic and rounded knowledge of things, a deeper feel for reality, and an increased ability to alter it.