Learn to Learn

💡 principles

Simply put, this is knowing when to learn something and how to do it most effectively.

Learning things is hard, so learning useless things is time that could be spent learning useful things. Learn to learn as a principle is about understanding what you need to learn to solve a problem or address a situation, and then knowing how to go and learn that thing.

Olin’s classes weren’t structured around learning a thing - a programming language, say. Instead, we’d start with a problem and identify what was needed - programming skills, physics knowledge, calculus, physical fabrication skills, etc - in order to solve that problem. Teachers would help you identify what you needed to learn, and how to find the resources to do so. And it’s up to students to link those learnings together into a cohesive project.

In my software engineering career, this comes up constantly in being able to face any technical problem a client has and be confident in my ability to pick up the skills I need to address it. They’re working in a language I’m unfamiliar with? A build system I don’t know? A design pattern I haven’t heard of. I know how to learn such that I can quickly pick these things up by drawing connections with things I do know. I’ve onboarded onto projects and been productive the same day because I can draw connections in the unfamiliar to things that I know.z

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