I recently read a story where a pottery teacher put his class in two groups, and asks one group to go through the formal phases of learning: planning, analysis, and so on, while the other group is asked to learn the hard way: learning while applying. In the end, the products from latter are deemed better of the lot. The idea (how I see it) was simple, the more you spend time on doing something practically, the more you learn. When you’re left to do things on your own, you feel competitive, you feel creative, and a sense of achievement runs through you when you accomplish a task on your own. Then again, the formal training gives you that cutting edge, broadens your horizon (knowledge), and increases the scope of your perception.
So… Which is the best way to learn?
Imagine you are taught how to swim at a remote location or somewhere away from the pool, but you wouldn’t be able to swim unless you try it out for yourself. You should be able to feel the water, its pressure, the amount of work you need to put in, and you watch others to learn if you are doing it right or if there is a better way to do it. Then there are people (let’s say bunch of trainees), and they are taught the same things. But, not all of them or even one of them gets it right the first time. Not completely, at least. They only get a hang of it once they start applying it, over and over again. It’s our initial fear which hold us from making that initial step. Information can prepare us for what’s out there, however, it’s limited to factors which the informant has faced or is aware of. There are external factors which are beyond one’s control, are often not well thought of, but have great impact on one’s (practical) learnings; something like knowing when to apply break, how much force to apply, or how to manoeuvre in heavy traffic.
Either you start learning about it or you jump straight in to doing it, the focus should be on continuous improvement. There are different ways of doing things, likewise there are different ways of learning. You do something and have a look at it (analyse or self-assess), if you are convinced then others may be. Then you can discuss with other people and get their opinion (feedback). Self-assessment and feedback can serve the basis of any learning. Most important thing is to take one bit at a time. You lose track of it when you try to over load yourself with information, perhaps while multi-tasking or overzealous learning. Have patience, learn in smaller bits, and let your mind absorb the information; then practice your learnings in routine.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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