Where is the balance between underlearning and overlearning?
Following my article on the 3 most important skills to learn to thrive in 2019, I had a very interesting question by Joshua Galinato:
“When do I know when to stop learning one skill and move on to another?”
I thought the answer deserved a post on its own.
First off, “skill” is such a broad term, it really only means: “The ability to do something well.” — Dictionary.com
Given that, it really depends on one’s intention. If it’s for a profession, then I’d argue you should never stop learning and aim to go from good to great.
The problem with the word “skill” is that “playing the piano” is a skill. So is learning to read music, learning the keys, learning to sight read, learning memorization, learning by ear, learning to play “x” classical song, etc. All of these are included in “playing the piano”.
*Please note that I don’t know much at all about piano. I used it as an example because it’s a skill Joshua is practicing currently.
When setting out to learn a new skill, be specific. Learn subsets of skills. Or subsets of subsets. Let’s say mini-skills or bite-sized skills. The only way to know when to stop is to know what it means to have mastered or close-to-mastered the mini-skill.
I personally aim for mini-skills that will last me about a month to be good in it, practicing 30 minutes a day. 15 hours in the month basically. But there’s really no wrong answer here. If a mini-skill takes 5 hours, then so be it!
You can learn to be pretty good at juggling balls in 5 hours. You might need another 10 to juggle chainsaws. Just kidding guys, don’t do that, leave it to the professionals.
I have a friend who learned lock-picking after locking his car in a parking lot. It took him about 5 hours of practice over the course of a month.
In an answer to a comment on the story mentioned above, I listed the following skills I learned as an example:
Line Art and Coloring using Photoshop (I had this mental block that as a software engineer, there is no way I could ever draw. I wanted this first experiment to prove me wrong. It did.)
Non-fiction writing (I wrote one story per day in January, accidentally got published by The Startup and became top writer in 7 categories in 23 days. I couldn’t stop practicing that skill. I make most of my money writing now)
Fiction writing (I practiced on my game, Soul Reaper, and my late online store: Viking Boutique.com)
Video production for Personal Branding
Video post-production using DaVinci Resolve (current month)
Video game trailer creation (learn the theories + make a short trailer every other day)
Photo editing using Lightroom
Spanish vocabulary for the work place
Basics of Danish & Norwegian language
Basics of Tagalog
Best storytelling practices
Public Speaking best practices
Classification using Machine Learning
Learning to Learn
Making Kickstarter projects that work
Gaining mass as an ectomorph (I had never been able to put on weight. I wanted to change that. In January, when I practiced this, I gained 12 pounds of muscles and lost 3% body fat)
Executing effective serves at Tennis
Understanding bouldering (rock climbing) movements and rock types
Health nutrition for maximum muscle regeneration
Mental Health: Daily Journaling
Mental Health: Basics of meditation (this was probably one of the most difficult one for me to learn)
Dropshipping and the art of selling physical goods for a niche (see VikingBoutique above)
Social Media Marketing on Facebook for Video Games
All these skills were achievable over the course of a month, practicing 30 minutes per day.
You may see in the list above that some skills end up being closely related. They are part of other bigger skills. You’ll notice also that some of the mini-skills can apply to other bigger skills.
Using the piano example from above, learning to read — or sight read — is a skill that’s directly transferable to learning to play any other instruments. It’s no surprise then that the more instruments you can play, the easier it is to learn a new one. It’s the same for languages, and surprisingly more things that we could expect at first glance.
While I rarely do direct follow-ups of the skills I learn during the month, I always end up using what I’ve learned one way or the other. Then a few months later I want to learn a new skill that uses a previously learned mini-skill and my learning is drastically accelerated.
Knowing when to stop really starts with how you broke your skill down. You stop when you’ve mastered or close-to-mastered the mini-skill.
Plan out the techniques you want to master and the measurable goals you can track. Be specific.
Track your progress daily.
Qualify your performance.
Once you have achieved your measurable goals with the quality of performance you intended, you are ready to move on!
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)