by Daniel

posted on April 27, 2016.

Get acquainted with the topic

What’s the first step that you follow when you learn a skill? Just a hint: “giving up” is not an option! The first thing that you have to do is to get a bit confortable with the topic, to understand what you’re learning. This is a terribly confusing task, but it’s important to go through it.

But if it’s such a messy task, how do we do it? When I’m learning something new, I tend to start by looking around different sources: websites, books, youtube videos, online courses, etc. I don’t go too deep into any of those sources until I get a general idea of what I’m looking for. Some questions that might help you in this stage are (you don’t have to answer them, but it’s useful to keep them in mind):

  • Are there any introductions or “tips for beginners”?
  • How much information is out there (for free, or paid)
  • How are courses normally structured? What is always in the introduction?
  • Is there a book or tutorial that everybody keeps pointing you to?
  • With what other sort of content does information get “entangled” with? Why may that be?
  • Who are good references for the topic? Are there a few names dominating the field? Do you need to know particular people to be successful in the topic?
  • Are there any confusing terms that people keep using? And what do they seem to mean?

Probably the last question is the one that makes all the others terribly confusing. It seems like people who have a particular skill share as well a way of expressing themselves.


Judging by the size of some dictionaries, we should be making much more sense than we normally do

And that makes sense: language is the way we make sense of the world. If we’ve made sense of a particular talent, we surely have developed as well a language to express that! So if you want to make sense of your journey down the road, you better try to understand at least some of those terms.

Don’t get too worried if you don’t understand most of the stuff at this point. It’s normal. Being confused is even positive: it triggers your brain to be interested in making sense of those patterns! If you make obvious to yourself all the stuff that you don’t know, it primes you to learning it when you have the chance.

When #Learning something new, embrace the #confusion at the beginning, don't try to avoid it! Click To Tweet

Instead of panicking, enjoy this feeling: you won’t be feeling it again once you have the skill! I tend to pair this weird starting confusing point with reading some introduction chapters, to start getting me into the flow of learning. Lately I’ve even started watching YouTube intro videos. I don’t try to understand everything in those, but to get an idea of what words I don’t know, and what people find important.

If you see that this phase is taking for too long, and you don’t manage to make sense of the big picture, it might be because you’re taking too big a chunk. It’s time to break down what you’re learning (next section >>).

This post is part of the “Hack how to learn a skill” series. Click here to go to the table of contents.


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