A Few Harsh Truths About Learning New Things

1 Jan 2023

Let me be upfront: Learning something new is hard. Yes, there are things you can do to make learning easier, but if you want to learn something new and you want your new skills or knowledge to stick around with you for a very long time, you're going to be in for a lot of hard (and smart) work.

And by the way, this is perfectly normal.

What isn't normal is how we think of learning in schools; how the media portrays learning new things and how fake gurus suggest they have learnt new things. In these contexts, learning is portrayed as this:

  • Learning is a smooth process where we logically move from point A to B

  • We mostly know what to do next and how to progress so we can improve our skills and knowledge

  • Learning is instantaneous or happens within a short space of time

Theoretically, the learning curve looks like this:

Source: Eyesakov2123 (2023)

But what if I told you this was dead wrong?

What Learning Actually Looks Like

In reality, learning is like this:

  • Learning is a process with many ups and downs. Sometimes we move forward, but sometimes we move backwards

  • Often we don't know how to 'improve' with complete certainty. Sure, we might hypothesise what the 'next right move' should be, but there's no guarantee that our actions will help us get better

  • Learning is slow, gradual and sometimes painful, particularly if we don't know we're improving

In reality, the learning curve looks something like this:

Source: Eyesakov2123 (2023)

To be frank, I could have drawn millions of other variations of this blue curve, but they would all illustrate the same point: That learning is a messy process with many highs and lows, many successes and losses, and lots of grunt work.

Do this long enough, however, and the overall trajectory will be 'up'. Meaning: You'll learn over time.

What Does This Mean For You?

If you're looking to learn something new, whether it be a new language, how to code or how to play basketball, accept the following truths:

  • Sometimes you'll have good days where you learn a lot; sometimes you'll have bad days where you learn nothing or go backwards

  • You'll often feel like you're going "nowhere" and plateauing. This is normal and isn't synonymous with you "failing"

  • Don't expect "results" within short spaces of time

  • The most important thing to do is to keep going. Keep working, keep failing, keep taking mental notes


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Lifelong learning will enable growth and create opportunities for innovation. It does help that you have an interest in the concept you are trying to develop. It makes it a little easier.
Interesting article! Learning is definitely one of the most interesting concepts to study about as it varies so much from person to person. A lot of psychological concepts, just really a wide world