One of the most popular questions I get as a mentor is “Why do you know so much stuff and how can you learn stuff so quickly?“.
I also often see people who struggle with learning, e.g. on the FreeCodeCamp forum and on Twitter.
This is why I want to write down my thoughts and experiences about this topic. Especially because I think about this a lot lately and I want to practice what I preach.
First things first: This is a lot about self-awareness and trial & error. These are just my ideas. I invite you to show me yours.
Everything seems to be video (courses) nowadays.
I also used to like video courses. I could do this while travelling by train, lying in bed etc.
But this is also the biggest problem. It’s just consuming. I just consume information. Sometimes even if I’m distracted.
And that’s the deceptive and very problematic issue with video for me. I do stuff, but it seems to be mostly useless. There is no active thinking involved. It’s literally: watch, memorize (short term), vomit.
And afterwards there is some sense of accomplishment: I did do something. It feels great. Until I have to repeat the video, because I didn’t understand that much.
That’s why I’ve quit video (courses).
Sometimes, I think I am the only person who reads hard paper books. So even if I just have the digital book, I print it.
Then I sit down at my desk and use pencil & paper.
Now here is the important part: I do not mark the text excessively. Why? Because I don’t want to read, memorize, vomit.
I want to understand. That’s why I read a paragraph, try to rephrase it and write it down. I also write down questions about the paragraph.
One of the biggest pros: I actively practice critical thinking. When I have problems to rephrase it, I probably didn’t understand it. So this is a great feedback loop.
There is one additional big advantage: I can skim over the book to get a first overview of the content and read very selectively. No, I don’t have to read the whole book. I can’t bill by hours.
Getting in overview is only possible in video or audio if there are timestamps (most sources don’t have them).
There is also the idea, that writing with pencil & paper uses the body memory.
Audio is somewhere in between for me. Probably because I know that it is pretty useless, because I mostly do this while doing other stuff. So there isn’t this deceptive trap of thinking that I was so productive.
It’s simple: The hardest part for me is to find good quality. This is actually a lot of work.
Especially in tech, where the world is turning fast, search engines show a lot of old blog posts and articles. So this creates uncertainty and more work.
Questions to ask:
This leads to the next source.
This is a big one and I think beginners do this far too rarely.
Let’s say I want to understand React, what could probably be the most reliably and correct source? Yes, the creator of React - Facebook and their React Docs.
The creator of something is probably the most reliable source for the history of stuff. And if I know the history and why something was created, I can think more critically about it.
I go to Wikipedia when I’m really new to a topic. I skim over the page, especially the Table of Content to get a good grasp of what this is.
I try to connect it to my existing knowledge and guess how this could fit in.
But I’m always very critical, because some editors get paid, especially in the business world.
As you can see, for me it’s a lot about probabilities. Are there awesome blog posts? Sure. Are there shitty docs? Yes!
Formats: I read text in the form of hard paper books. If there are no books, I at least print it, even some programming docs. I rarely use audio or video.
Sources: I first check the Wikipedia page to get an overview, then I hit the creator’s page to understand the concepts and whys. If I have some questions, I search them on the Github Issues or Stack Overflow.
Hi! I'm Michael 👋 I'm a Mentor & Senior Web Developer - I help you to reach your (career) goals.