There are too many things to learn out there, and our attention span is limited. So, we can not master every skill, but what we can do is to learn how to learn anything quickly. Let’s explore the skill of “learning to learn” in this post.
Provided we all want to grow in our lives and achieve some great things, the ability to handle multiple diverse tasks and deliver good results in all of them becomes crucial. And in today’s fast moving world, many skills and abilities become irrelevant in a few years of time. So, skills that were giving us good results might not work now or in the near future.
Businessmen and entrepreneurs have to handle multiple diverse things to make sure their business thrive and achieve their yearly and quarterly targets. They have to handle things like finance, legal, product, design and the most important one - ability to attract great minds and retain them in the organization. When they started their businesses, they did not have little to no idea about some of those fields. So, if you want to start a business, you need the ability to learn these diverse skills fast enough to make sure your competitor does not get ahead of you.
We just saw an example of businessmen and entrepreneurs but even if you don’t want to start your own business or venture, if you want to do something great, you need to learn many diverse things.
But what if we can learn one thing, which will help us in learning almost all the skills out there? That’s the skill of “learning to learn”.
Learning to learn or meta learning, is the skill that helps us in learning almost all the skills out there.
Once we learn how to learn anything quickly, no matter if we know a skill or not, we will be able to quickly learn it when the time comes.
So this “learning to learn” skill also gives us this sense of confidence in ourselves, that while starting a new venture, even if I do not know certain skills, I will be able to learn those skills when the time comes. Ultimately, this’ll also help us in solving the problems we have never faced before.
Now, the question comes, how to learn that skill of “learning to learn”? Answer depends on person to person, but ultimately I think, we can learn to break down things into fundamental principles, we can learn almost any new skill. I know these statements are very abstract, but they hold true in almost all the cases.
When we are able to simplify seemingly complex things to small fundamental-known to be true blocks, we can see things from multiple angles, and learn in our preferred ways.
We all have our own ways of learning. Some of us learn by practically doing something, some of us can learn quickly by reading about it, some find watching videos is better. So, when we have broken down things to small & simple known to be true blocks, we can learn in our own favourite ways.
I personally find “learning from multiple sources” better to learn something new. For e.g. if I want to learn “X”, I’ll watch 3-5 videos of “X” on YouTube, I’ll read Wikipedia articles of “X” and compare it with blogs/papers written by different people. Basically, when I see the same thing “X” from slightly different angles(i.e. from multiple sources) I can see a common pattern in all of them and then I can break it down to simple things.
For e.g. see the below image. It shows multiple ways to write the letter “A”.
So, when we see all types of letter “A”, we can figure out a common pattern among them and learn how letter “A” can be written in a simple way like,
Point was to convey that, when I see YouTube videos of “X” from multiple channels and read papers/posts of “X” from multiple people, I can figure out a common pattern among them and break it down to small and simple things.
Your way to reach the stage of “break it down to small and simple things” can be different. But once you reach there, once you simplify it in small things, it becomes easier to learn that thing.
I think we also need aspiration and a little bit of curiosity to constantly push ourselves to learn new things.
Aspiration and Curiosity
It sounds kind of obvious but, without aspiration and genuine curiosity to explore and learn new things it’s hard to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.
And I believe, once we have seen what results genuine curiosity and an aspiration can bring, we never have to artificially generate aspiration and curiosity. It’ll automatically come and push us to go out there and learn new things.
This “genuine curiosity” also acts as a catalyst in learning new things. So, having genuine curiosity and aspiration to explore new things is part of our “learning to learn” skill.
In the previous point I mentioned that, I watch multiple videos and read multiple posts/papers to figure out a common pattern among them and eventually learn that thing, “aspiration and genuine curiosity” acts as fuel while watching those multiple videos and reading multiple papers/posts.
While learning new things, sometimes we need to challenge assumptions and unlearn old things. Aspiration to stay relevant is important for that.
So to summarize, curiosity and aspiration are catalysts for learning and exploring new things.