This is a subject that intrigues me. I dropped out of school quite early. It was a combination of not wanting to be forced into something I then saw no point in learning, but instead wanted to choose my own direction, my own path. Back then, and from what I get to hear from many even today, the school system was a rigid machine. Shaping students into identical pieces of output, no matter the input. It is a set-up that generates miserable students, students that in many cases also end up outside the system later in life. However I do have the belief that these conditions might also inspire those strong or lucky enough to find their own way to happiness. I have met many inspiring and successful people later in life that share my story as school drop-outs.
Anyway, that is a different article I think. The other day on Quora the question “What is the best way to learn something?” popped up and I shared some of my experiences, for good or bad, hoping the former. Here goes:
I would say it depends on where your desire to learn the subject comes from? If it is not a desire but forced upon you through work or school it becomes a bit harder.
Will write this from a personal angle, it is where I learned how to learn myself, so guess it’s a good place to start.
I dropped out of school quite early, I wasn’t ready to be put in a pre-defined space in this world, I wasn’t interested in what they had to teach me, I wanted to choose what to learn earlier in the school system rather than later. Sure, certain subjects stood out such as language etc, but it wasn’t enough.
After that I had no real plan, I was quite shy, no social skills to speak of but I had plenty of interests in tech, music, video games and different kinds of media. I continued doing what I had been doing in my spare time, soon my hobby started becoming my business. I worked part time in a store and learned to communicate from a business perspective with customer.
At 16 I got into importing video game accessories for my friends, interest grew and I started an e-commerce site with the help from a friend, took care of the finances, stock, taught myself soldering through printed out documents from the web etc etc. I took the store from the web in to the real world with a shop.
It struck me back then that the single most important factor for me to learn was a genuine interest in the subject and to enjoy it. Of course there were setbacks, financial crisis, learning to quit when on top, crisis management – all of those were some of my subjects. 😉
If you want to skip the back story, start here:
So, to make a long story short. Recently I’ve found my way back to learning subjects that are outside my area of expertise, both subjects I have an interest in but also subjects that might be a bit more out of necessity rather than interest. Here’s what works for me.
A subject or profession you are interested in:
- Surround yourself with things, cues / triggers related to the subject.
- Surround yourself with people that have more experience than you, go to meetings and events, lectures, online forums, MOOCs (something I recently started with).
- Find a method of learning that works for you. Personally I’ve been reading up on how the brain works, what makes us tick, what makes us remember. I also embrace technology, tablet and cell phone to learn when I am traveling with work for example. Make it easy to learn.
- Even though you’re interested, don’t forget to take breaks; walk, swim, read, sleep, listen to podcasts etc. Variation is important, helps you tackle things from new angles, remembering and ignite new ideas.
A subject or profession you’re less interested in, or you’re lacking in motivation, perhaps forced through work or school:
- First. Is this what you want to do? If no, check point 2.
- Is this what you need to do? If no, try something else, try to disrupt your life, personal well-being is important.
- Create a new habit, complete with a cue, routine and reward. It is not easy, but it can absolutely be done, The Power of Habit is a good book on the subject. I did this when I dropped 30kg, swimming and walking for me did the trick and now it is very hard for my brain to be without that daily. Re-program yourself!
- Again, find people that are studying the same subject, meet, discuss, make it a lifestyle.
Hope some of the points that helped me can help you. It is a very individual process and many factors weigh in of course. Have fun!