Best way to learn something

If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? — Rumi

Töpferei, Sanskriti

I found the story below being shared on a couple of websites. It applies to not only to blogging – but to everything else in life.

In his book Art & Fear, David Bayles describes a simple experiment by a ceramics teacher:

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

All the students learned an invaluable lesson that day. If you want to be skilled at something, practice it effortlessly.

When it comes to software, the same rule applies. If you aren’t building, you aren’t learning. Rather than agonizing over whether you’re building the right thing, just build it. And if that one doesn’t work, keep building until you get one that does. The crucial lesson here is to test, experiment, push the boundaries and most importantly, learn from mistakes.

The people who tried more did better, even though they failed more too. Of course you shouldn’t try to fail, but you shouldn’t let the fear of it stop you from trying.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that quantity always trumps quality, but where the cost of failure is low lots of failures that you pay attention to is a pretty good way of learning. Learning how to do things requires doing them, over and over again, making some ugly pots along the way. Through trial and error, and repetitions, you will eventually figure out. It just takes persistence, a real desire to learn, and a willingness to be wrong sometimes.

Work hard on developing the skill – Deliberate Practice

“Deliberate Practice does not involve a mere execution or repetition of already attained skills, but repeated attempts to reach beyond one’s current level which is associated with frequent failures.’ K. Anders Ericsson

In a few words, deliberate practice is what leads you to continual improvement.

Is there something in your life that you’re trying to perfect? Have you tried a quantity approach instead? (Just make sure to learn from your mistakes.)


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