Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Or How I Learn New Things

I’ve noticed a pattern with the way I learn new things which seems to repeat and yet is something I never able to sidestep or short cut even when I see it happening.

  1. Hear about some new thing, that I don't know about. It sounds cool.
  2. Go and read about it. Can't really make much sense of it. Don't really have time to try it right now.
  3. Wait.
  4. Go back and download it; try it out. Don't get very far. This isn't cool after all. Oh the mendacity!
  5. Wait.
  6. Go back and try it again. Remember I’ve tried it once before and remember not getting very far. Look at it again for just long enough to remember all the things I saw previously and found confusing. At this point I give up (gracefully).
  7. Wait.
  8. Wait some more. This one can go on a while.
  9. Hear about it again. Somehow decide that this time I'm going to crack it. This is like a switch clicking off in my head, completely uncontrollable by my conscious mind and yet I can tell when the it’s changed.
  10. Go back download it again. This time I also tend to Google something helpful like "[the thing] tutorial" or even "[the thing] for beginners" and somehow find just enough to give me an way in. Something which I understand and which leads me further into other territory, makes me understand the previous things I’ve read better.

Then I get a wonderful feeling of elation and pride. Now I love how hard it was to learn because now it’s worth it. I’ve added another super power to my arsenal and this is now my favourite thing to mess with and use for at least a week or two. Occasionally I end up using things a lot, which is great.

I was going to list a few recent examples of this but as I was writing I realised that this really does apply to almost everything I’ve ever learned. For anyone interested the one which prompted this blog post was grunt.js which I'm currently thinking is awesome!

This pattern is also kind of addictive. I have a few of these thing on the back burner almost constantly and given the chance there's always a fews candidates which could trigger "the click" at any one time. I'm always on the lookout for new ones and often it feels like the supply of these ebbs and flows like a tide. If nothing has washed up for a while I start to get the feeling I'm due.

I like to imagine this stems from a some kind of unquenchable thirst for knowledge I think probably it’s more likely that it comes from a childish need for novelty.

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? — I wish I knew... Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can...”