How to Learn a New Skill

Drivers Ed, Brooklyn High (1955)

When learning new skills, it’s tempting to want to learn a piece of software or maybe an entire discipline (such as woodworking) from the bottom up. I think in many cases this is a big mistake. And I’m reminded of this every time I try to take one of Adobe’s tutorials, or a video series from Lynda.

The reason is that learning a piece of software from the ground up is incredibly boring. That’s why for the Spaghetti Lab YouTube channel, I try to do just a few introductory videos for different programs, and then I jump into talking about specific projects.

When we focus on learning how to do our project inside a given program, we hunt down exactly the skills and features we need to learn to get the job done, which can sometimes be just the only features you need to learn how to use in that program or discipline. Then when a new project comes along that demands a different skillset, you can go off and learn those.

Time is of the essence, and there’s no use spending it falling asleep with very long tutorials that are taking you to a place you aren’t headed.

Some people might say that this is a downside to our traditional education system – every student must go through the entire curriculum, and they must learn just about every bit of information regardless of where they’re actually headed.

Only until much later on do students actually get the choice about certain classes they want to take, but even then the outcomes of these classes is for the most part projects that are assigned by the teacher, and they usually fit into a certain box.

The most productive path forward to create projects and learn skills around those creative goals.