"The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time" - Peter Drucker
One fateful morning, I woke up with the readiness to learn what I had always dreamt of. I had always wanted to learn how to code in computer language. One of the reasons why I loved programming was because I saw how relevant it can be in solving many problems both online and offline. As I began learning, it was looking interestingly easy but in practice, it was a little more difficult. I used some online sources to understand how the codes work and how I can fully know how to use them to do whatever task I want to do. Well, it wasn't easy!
It's no news that learning new skills and crafts can be really difficult, tasking and demanding. In plain words, it can make your head feel hot as though your brain is doing advanced level computing. Actually, the brain is doing even more at those times.
No matter how difficult learning a new skill or craft is, you need to find a way out anyway. Peter Drucker (1909-2005), who is revered as the father of management, emphasized that the only skill that will be relevant in this 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. This implies that the only way you can be relevant in this 21st century is if you know enough to learn new skills.
However, as good as that learning new skills may be, some challenges may hinder you from fully developing to your full capacity in any skill you are interested in acquiring. Let's quickly look at these.
Factors That May Slow Down/Disrupt Your Skill-Learning Pace
A few years ago, I interacted with a friend, asking him to learn to play the piano because I saw how interested he was while I play my keyboard. I told him it's easy to learn and I volunteered to help him out. But after that first tutorial, that was the end of the learning sessions we anticipated. Here are some factors that may affect if someone will fully develop the skill of choice to mastery, and at what rate they do so.
- Lack of available teachers/tutors.
- Lack of the right tools for the skill.
- It may be expensive. Busy schedule from school or work.
- Lack of understanding of how to approach learning the new skill.
- Lack of dedication.
I could exhaustively talk about these factors above, but for sake of precision and time, I will not do so. However, I will strategically talk about the last two above; Lack of understanding on how to approach learning a new skill and lack of dedication.
Just like the beginning of anything great, learning to do a new skill is never as easy as you may have anticipated. Many people have had to give up midway because they could not keep up anymore. Keeping up in the sense that their time and other resources could not sustain the skill-acquisition process anymore. Others were frustrated and discouraged that no matter how hard they tried, they just won't produce results or gain mastery.
To be able to pull through, you need one essential ingredient. Interestingly, this ingredient is not money, trust me. To be able to learn a new skill to mastery, you need the first ingredient I call "perseverance". In the next section, I will talk about strategic ways to approach learning a new skill to gain mastery, but for now, what about perseverance?
How Is Perseverance Important in Learning A Skill?
Perseverance is your ability to endure and bear the times of frustration and discouragement you may encounter while learning a new skill. Like I mentioned already, it is not a rosy experience learning a new skill, but if you listen to the success story of everyone who succeeds at learning a new skill to gain mastery at it, you will see one thing they have in common. They persevered through the times of discouragement, through the failures, through the inefficiencies, until they gained mastery and voila! everyone now knows about them.
Perseverance is closely associated with passion. The more passion you have for learning a new skill, the more likely you are going to stay put come what may. For people that meet me so I can teach them any of the skills I already have, I ask them one simple question, "are you really serious about this thing?", in a way that means I want to find out how passionate they are in learning this new skill. The interesting thing about passion is that passion can be developed even when it was not already there. So, if you are interested in learning that new skill, it is time to turn your interests into a passion.
10 Approaches To Learning a New Skill To Gain Mastery
- Ask questions
- Relate them to what you already know
- Look out for the basic
- Read the manuals if available
- Share ideas with a friend who is also learning the same skill
- Ask for critiquing
- Review your past works and critically critique them
- Look at people who have done it before you
- Pay some sacrifices
When learning a new skill, you must ask as many questions as possible. Questions help you to understand things better and also to better retain what you have learnt. There are two sides to asking questions that I will show you here. The first is what I have already mentioned, that is, asking your instructor or other people who are also in the same skill. The second and more important, is asking yourself questions within your head.
Before you practice or begin learning, you should try to synthesize some questions for yourself. For example, say you want to learn how to type on the computer keyboard. Ask yourself questions like, how do I type? What do I type with? Why is the keyboard button arranged like this? Is there a particular protocol in typing, any position or pattern I need to learn? The questions go on and on as you move from one stage to another. And trust me, if you keep asking questions like these, even though no one may get to hear of them, you will make faster progress and eventually gain mastery in the shortest possible time.
Relate them to what you already know
Knowledge is not in isolation. What you know about drawing with the pencil might still be applicable for painting with a brush, though there may be a little variation. To be a master in what you do, you must find the missing link between different aspects of knowledge and incorporate these similarities across-board.
For example, I noticed that there are some similarities between the different computer programming languages, and also, there are some relationships between these languages and mathematics and statistics. When you come across any new information, try to ask yourself what else you already know that it may resemble. By so doing, you are cross-linking your information and this will enhance your understanding and memory.
Look out for the basics
The more I advanced in learning, the more I realize clearly that the big things are actually the basic things. The most sophisticated professionals in any field in the world is only specially modifying basic knowledge. That special way is what we may call creativity. Creativity, however, only stands on a foundation of the basics. As you learn your new skill, seek to understand the basics instead of running after the big products you may see or hear about.
Read the manuals if available
I spent months trying to understand a programming framework I was using. It was a tough journey, I had to find some ways to create custom codes because I couldn't understand the framework completely. Then one day, I stumbled across the documentation of the framework, opened it, and eureka! everything I needed to know before getting started was there.
Not every skill come with a manual. For most of the time, your only source of learning will be from other people around you, the internet or just yourself trying out random things. If there is any step-by-step guide that introduces you to the course, I think that should be the first thing you should go through. The common mistake we all make is that we are too hasty to go through the instructions before we jump into our new craft. Many people are guilty of this, including me.
Practice makes perfect. As far as learning a skill is concerned, there is no substitute for practice. Whatever knowledge you must have acquired concerning that skill, you will have to try your hands on it. That's what practice entails.
One major challenge about practice is that you may be involved in other important activities like work and school that might make it almost impossible for you to practise. But there is a way out of this challenge. In practice, consistency is key, taking a few minutes out every day might just be sufficient. In order words, you must have to be content with the little time you have and strategically harness it for your practice.
Another method I find extremely effective and time-saving is practising with your mind/thought. I could go days, weeks or months without physically practising my new skill, but in my head, I try out a few things, ask a few questions, imagine a few scenarios, and when I have the opportunity to practice, I then physically try out the solutions I arrived at in my mind. It works for me.
Share ideas with a friend who is also learning the same skill
Sometimes, the best way you can improve is to having someone who is doing the same thing with you. As you share your ideas, you discover that you learn a lot from them. This is very helpful but the major challenge here is that it may sometimes be difficult to find someone interested in the same skill as you. Even when you find one, sometimes they may not be willing or available to discuss their ideas, or even if they are, they may not be at the same learning level as you.
Ask for critiquing
Many people hate to be critiqued or criticized in blunt terms because they easily get discouraged by negative remarks. At the initial stages of the learning process, critiquing may not be so necessary because you want to encourage the learner as much as possible to continue learning. However, there is a point in asking for critiquing and experts become the only way you can break through the stage of learning you currently are.
Review your past works and critically critique them
Sometimes, you may not readily see people critique your work. Maybe they are too busy to even have a look at what you have done so far. In this case, you should try to critique yourself. The way to go about it is by trying to look at your work from the perspective of other people. How would they objectively assess this work when they see it?
Also, if you have some past works, you should take a look at them. Most of the time, looking at your past works helps you understand certain details about the new skill you are learning. If the form of skill you are into does not leave a physical product behind for you to look at later, try making a video of the moment so you can rewatch it sometime later. This will tell you directly what to improve, what to change and what to maintain.
Look at people who have done it before you
When learning a new skill, it is important to remember that there are other people who have gone through that path before. One great way to progress faster is by look at some works of those people who have gained mastery at the skill. By so doing, you acquire some ideas from their works that will help you get better. If you have access to them in person, that is even better. But in any case, remember to look at the works of those who have learnt the skill before you.
Pay some sacrifices
The summary of everything passion does for you while learning a new skill is "sacrifice". For you to fully develop to your full potentials at that skill, you must be willing to make some sacrifices. For example, you must be ready to sacrifice some of your time to learn that skill. Also, while still developing a skill, you may have to accept tutorship from an employer even when they insist that they will never give you any financial remunerations. At these stages of your development, you may need to sacrifice money so that you can gain mastery.
Learning a new skill requires a lot of dedication, passion perseverance and a host of other things. I have listed ten ways you can gain mastery quickly while learning a new skill.
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