What is Your Process for Learning New Things?

almost 5 years ago from , Designer, Made by Porter

How do you learn new things?

How I learn:

For me, it all starts out with failure. I could try something and don't succeed or I want to try something and there's a roadblock. This leads me to figure out what I need to learn.


Lets say for example, I want to learn Vue.JS. I want to build an application that a static site generator can't handle. So I'll look at the Vue.JS docs. I start seeing stuff Im not familiar with and noticing certain keywords. "Looks like I need to brush up on Javascript".

So now I take a step back, and start reading up on Javascript. I've already have 4-5 years playing with jQuery, but I need to take it to the next level. I'll Google everything from "Javascript" to "Javascript for designers"to "Javascript Vue frameworks". I'll find certain words I'll highlight in my head and Google that. Then I'll have 483024823 tabs open.

Visual Learning

I personally prefer self-teaching, meaning reading a lot of books or written tutorials with code examples that I can reverse engineer. Basically, I learn visually over someone telling me.

I'll rarely do video classes unless the teacher is to the point and very knowledgable. For example, a 5-10 minute video tutorial over a 30-40 minute one. Also I would have to fail at learning from writings and playing around to finally succumb to video tutorials and master classes. I was like that in college. I would ignore the teacher and read Smashing Magazine all day in 2006. When its something Im a super beginner at, then I'll try to pay attention.

Back to First Principles

So my type of learning is like following a semantic tree. If Im stuck on a topic, I'll go to the parent topic and try to learn or relearn that. In this case, when Im stuck on Vue.JS, then I have to learn about Frameworks in general. If Im stuck on that, I'll backtrack to Javascript. If you heard about how Elon Musk solves problem using First Principles, then its basically that. Breaking the problem down into its basic particles and learning about each one.

So...how do you learn new things?


  • James LaneJames Lane, almost 5 years ago

    I break something. If you break and don't know how to fix it then you need to learn - normally quite quickly too ;)

    4 points
  • Matt C, almost 5 years ago

    I'd like to add that if you can find yourself a mentor, you definitely should. Sometimes figuring out the right words to search for is the majority of the challenge, and it's way easier for a human friend to hear your problem and put you on the right path than it is for you to stumble around google for an hour or two.

    It takes no time for a friend to say "use filter for that", but it can save you hours.

    2 points
    • Chris Porter, almost 5 years ago

      Really really really good point. I helped a lot of people search for stuff just because they didn't know what keywords to use.

      0 points
  • Yadav D, almost 5 years ago

    That is a very nice approach Chris, thanks for sharing.

    I tried learning JS a few times and I went to sites like codeacademy and youtube videos but I realised that till I don't have something to make using that tool. I won't be able to learn that.

    So for me, it goes like,

    1 Have a project in mind that you would like to work on using that tool or technology are learning 2. Build it while learning 3. Make mistakes 4. Learn more, fix them 5. Make more mistakes, learn more and fix them....

    2 points
  • Maitrik Kataria, almost 5 years ago

    Hey Chris, I prefer reading books that are well illustrated with real-world problems and solutions - this works best when I am new to a subject. Another method I use is by asking questions to influencers on specific things I want to learn.

    1 point
  • Josiah TullisJosiah Tullis, almost 5 years ago

    It sounds like you're describing a sort of implementation of subsumption theory, a theory of understanding pioneered by David Ausubel. It attempts to construct a theory of understanding based on establishing relationships with prior knowledge. If you're interested here's a couple relevant links.

    Principles for Learning Meaningful Knowledge

    Subsumption Theory

    0 points
    • Chris Porter, almost 5 years ago

      Interesting. I'll take a look. One of my main ways of learning is based on how Elon Musk learns... "it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to."

      0 points
  • Richard SonterRichard Sonter, almost 5 years ago

    Reading ?

    0 points
  • Scott ThomasScott Thomas, almost 5 years ago

    I have lots of hobbies in various stages. I would say I am never done learning.

    1. Find something interesting and say "hmmm I think I can do that"
    2. Learn about it briefly by videos, articles, tutorials, or books.
    3. Fail trying to replicate it.
    4. Get depressed
    5. Learn about more about why things didn't work.
    6. Fail again (at least in my eyes), but uncover new problems.
    7. Returned to step 4 - or - get distracted go back to step 1.
    0 points