Saturday, May 17, 2014

How do you learn new things? Two ways, choose the one that suit you the best!

So many learning methods, so many ways to gain knowledge and experience, but we can simply categorize them into two:
1. "Learn first, we may need this later" way
2. "Need it now, learn it now" way

Learn first, we may need this later
This is the method implemented in our education system today. Not saying the pre-school, primary school and secondary school, but I am referring to the college and university, the tertiary level.

In tertiary level, it is when we start to branch out to a specific pathway, which leads us to professionalism. We choose a diploma or degree of certain subject, like Mechanical Engineering, Applied Physics, Business Administration, Accountancy, Material Science, Aviation Engineering, etc. Then, we start to follow the pathway, provided by the education system, with certain syllabus, which might differ from one institution to another.

What happen during the study time? The learning path is almost fixed, we have to learn as much as we can, so that we can pick up as much knowledge and skill as possible. Whatever we learn, we might or might not implement them in future. But, we wouldn't know until the day we graduate and start our careers.

Pros
Following the learning path by education system is good because it provides you a routine, a systematic way to learn, which transforms us from an amateur to a professional. Systematic, in the sense that we can learn from simple to difficult. We know where to start, what to learn first, and how to end it round. We have a clear direction of learning path, rather than facing many obstacles and getting stressful and demoralizing.

Learning first is good, so that when we come to a problem, we can implement the knowledge and skill directly and immediately. That's what professional do. A mechanical engineer might face engine failure in the middle of road, and he knows what to do immediately given that he is trained and equipped with the knowledge he has acquired earlier on. He can act fast and pro enough to fix it. Systematically, he first diagnoses the problem, then fixes the problem. When handling the tools and fixing the engine, he knows what safety precaution to ensure his own safety. He knows which parts to be replace, rather than removes everything and replaces everything. He indirectly reduces the costs of over-purchasing unnecessary spare-parts. This is a talent many company wants!

Cons
Learning too much until you don't even know how to use them. The more we learn, the better we are equipped. This is true to a certain that we know how to put all the knowledge together and form an idea in our mind. In reality, this is not the case especially in our education system.
I believe, many of us who studied in university, learned many different subjects, and hope that we can use them in future. But in fact, we are just listing out the subjects we learn in the resume, rather than implementing them. The efficiency is much lower than we think! We spent years of study, end up listing in a resume for the reason to polish it?
Of course, there might be some who manage to form a great big idea from all the thing they learn.

Time is cost. The amount of time we spent to learn everything rather than producing something is a huge cost. Spending almost 20% of our time in education, trying to pick up as much skill as we can, end up using only 20% of what we have learnt in the career. Isn't that a very low efficiency and waste of time?

Cost includes not only time, but the real money too. Sometimes, there are so many hidden costs we spent without knowing their existence. In fact, there are several of them. The tuition fee, electric bill, transportation to the tuition center, bla bla bla...

Need it now, learn it now
When we can think of something we want to produce, but we don't know how. We start learning now. This is not the same as the education system today, therefore there is no preset systematic way for the specific learning path.
We begin by collecting information, from the internet, library, consultation firm, friends and family, professional, etc. What kind of information do we look for? Everything, and anything. Everything that is relevant, and anything that can be found. This is the raw information, unprocessed information, and the first step is to collect them.
After that, we process those information, arranging them, making a summary for ourselves, based on our understanding, using our own language, using our own way of notes, mapping, presentation slides, and whatever we could do to deliver the final message to ourselves, the knowledge and skill.
What we do with these? Since we already have the idea of what we are going to do, we straightaway implement them! Directly.

Pros
Motivation. The idea, the objective, the dream, or whatever we call it, is the aim we want to achieve. We start by we don't know how to do it, until we learn it and make it. We got the motivation all the way from creating idea, learning, and producing and realizing it.
High productivity. This is just how it works to increase productivity! Isn't it? We first creates the idea, then we creates our own learning path, and directly implement it to product something! The product is just right in the way when we learning it. Instead of learning everything while don't know what to do, we first find out what we want to do, and do it! LIKE A BOSS.

Cons
Time consuming. Collecting information, finding out what we should learn and processing the information is kind of time consuming. The time consumed depends on what kind of idea we want to create, and the scale of it. The bigger scale the idea is, the longer it take. If we are founding a construction company, we start by collecting information of company registration, understanding the legal terms of construction in certain country, finding ways to source for funding, surveying the market to see how are other players going on, material costs, etc. Everything is learning subject, and we need more professionals for consultation.

Need strong self-motivation and discipline. Giving up is not the way to end the learning in this way. Self-discipline and motivation is something that need to be there and keep us going on until the finish line. A strong one in need, indeed. And, information collection is a mentally tiring process, as there will be a lot of obstacles. Many are there to be overcome to move on. Giving up will only destroy everything, and end up wasting energy and time.

Not a comfort zone. Learning in this way is not comfortable. Not like the one we used to do in the school. We have fixed syllabus, we follow what everyone is doing. One might take a strong determination to hope from comfort zone to this learning method. It is not easy task, unless we have a strong idea in our mind.

In short, learning everything first might be good and easy to follow, which transform you into a professional. Meanwhile, having an idea first before learning might be better productivity and efficiency. There is no way to say one is better than the other. You choose the one that suits you.

- Kenny Saw

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