Focus on surface level knowledge before in-depth knowledge

21일 전

Yes, I know, the title's obvious, but hear me out.

I think that a lot of people, me included, while they know that to be, well, obvious (I mean the title), they still get annoyed when they stumble upon something complicated that they don't understand immediately.

I recently started watching a short Computer Science series on YouTube, in order to get a better understanding of computers and their history. Each episode is around 10 - 13 minutes long, there are 41 episodes in total, and I'm at episode number 15 right now.

Each video is really well made, and they explain a lot of concepts in really simple ways. Luckily for me, I already read a book about the history of computers called "The Innovators" written by Walter Isaacson so I already knew some things before starting the series.

However, even with that previous knowledge, there were things throughout the episodes I already watched that I didn't understand properly at first. That can be extremely frustrating, especially if you really like computers and you're known as the "computer guy" that everyone calls when there's a problem with their PC.

What I came to realize for quite a while now is that you're not supposed to understand everything at first. No one is supposed to understand everything at first. Not everyone is born a genius such as those you see on TV who understand everything as soon as they read it.

We're all unique individuals who have different learning paces. Some people are quicker at understanding complex questions, but they struggle with simple ones. Others understand simple concepts quickly, but struggle with complex ones. There are people who get a quick understanding of everything, but then forget a lot of what they learn if they don't use it, and then there are others, like me, who are slower at learning but once they do learn, they really understand and remember what they've learned.

And I can keep going, because there are so many methods that people use to learn new things that it would probably take me an entire article to mention them all. The idea is that learning works differently for everyone, and sometimes it's hard for us to even know what's the best way for us to learn.

We can struggle to remember everything while reading, and we might fail. Then we can try taking notes, to see if that works. Then we can try to use images, maybe those will help us remember the information. If not, maybe we can try finding practical uses for what we're learning because maybe we remember better by doing.

You get the idea. The process of learning can be difficult to understand, and it might take a while for you to figure out what's the best way for you to learn something. But one thing I started doing recently, that helped a lot, was to stop worrying so much about understanding everything I'm learning.

I focus mainly on getting a good understanding of surface knowledge, simple concepts that are available for literally everyone without them making any effort to find it, and only then I start going more in-depth. It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do this.

The way I've seen others learn is this: they pick up a book, a series, or a course, and they start learning. They understand some simple concepts, but not all of them. Then they go into more complicated things and nothing makes sense. They get frustrated and they eventually quit. Those who don't quit spend a lot of time trying to understand those complicated concepts, forgetting about the simple things they didn't understand at first.

I've seen this being done with books especially. Someone starts reading a book about, let's say, psychology, and once they go over the basic concepts, and they understand some of them, they start stumbling upon harder ones that take a lot more work to figure out. They can't understand everything, so they get frustrated. They keep on reading part of the book, or even the entire book, without understanding much of the rest, and then they don't touch another one because it's obvious for them that they can't learn much about psychology.

What I try to do in those cases is go over the book again. Or find another book or course or YouTube video that explains the same concepts, more or less, in different ways. It's really surprising what a difference another type of explanation of the same concept can make. A different explanation, or definition can be what you need to finally understand that particular thing.

I remember when I started learning how to use Blender that I had a hard time understanding some simple things such as texturing or modifiers. The videos I watched to learn those things didn't help me much, and I could've accepted the fact that I was not capable of understanding those particular parts of Blender.

What I did instead was to go on YouTube and find another 4-5 videos about the basics of Blender, searching for a different explanation. I didn't need to know how those modifiers worked at the deepest level. I didn't want to learn how the freaking code worked. I literally needed the most basic explanation that would make me understand how to use modifiers to make the most simplistic things. And once I understood the most basic part about how to use them, I slowly started learning more, without even actively trying.

People forget that they don't need to learn about and understand all the in-depth parts of a skill as soon as they start learning in order to master that particular skill. In a lot of cases, you need to focus on the surface level knowledge for quite a while, and understand that, before moving to other concepts. Then you'll progressively learn more complicated things along the way.

Sometimes all you have to do is to simply skip the complicated parts that you don't understand, and focus on the simplest concepts as much as needed for you to really understand them.

Read 5 books about the basics of psychology in order to really know the basics, and only then consider reading books that focus on more in-depth knowledge.

Watch 5 courses about the basics of Computer Science before even beginning to learn about complex algorithms or... anything else that I don't even know about.

Watch 5 courses on the basics of Blender before jumping into a really complicated scene. Trust me, don't be an idiot like me, don't start working on a big project right after finishing the basics tutorial, just to spend 6 months on it before quitting. The experience taught me a lot, but still, it might not be worth it for other people.

Using this method might just help you stick to things a bit more, before getting to the conclusion that you simply cannot understand the different in-depth subjects of a skill and quitting.

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