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On Streamlined Learning
Dec 13, 2023
4 minutes read

I love to learn. It’s like a constant in my life, a thread that weaves through the fabric of my daily routine. At any point in time for the past 6 years, I can point to a topic, skill, or field I am actively learning about or trying to break into. From learning to program and tinkering with programming languages to learning to strum the guitar; from learning to engineer sounds, to learning to coax notes from the saxophone and clarinet; from learning the intricacies of systems programming to learning the complexities of neuroscience; and more recently, from learning to construct electronic devices to learning the mechanics of rockets and UAVs.

I’ve been fortunate to come of age in an era where the internet offers an astonishing abundance of learning resources. Yet, I often find myself wondering how the pursuit of knowledge unfolded in times with limited internet access. Let me share some insights into my learning process and how I navigate the labyrinthine world of internet resources.

  1. The internet is a goldmine of information, and I find the process of mining—sifting through and gathering resources—almost as satisfying as consuming the knowledge itself. Typically my flow when a new topic piques my interest is to embark on a digital odyssey compiling every resource I can unearth in my ultra-complex, top-of-the-shelf second brain [my notetaking system is quite interesting its a fork of this, hopefully, I get to talk about it someday] After gathering I spend sometime glossing through the resource themselves in an attempt to sift or categorize the ones I would consume. Now the thing about the gathering and categorizing is that It feels like a web that I get too deep in. I enjoy it almost as the real thing - actually learning. Now hopefully you can see the problem with this workflow. I Spend too much time categorizing and curating resources instead of learning. Many times I get fatigued after gathering and categorizing and never get to consume a ton of the resources I curated.
  2. If I were to step outside myself and analyze this penchant for gathering resources, I’d say it’s fueled by a craving for depth. I am a sucker for depth and often strive to understand things on a deeply granular level. But diving deeper, it’s clear that this behavior stems from a nagging imposter syndrome. It’s that voice that whispers doubts when I tread into specialized fields, those realms with high barriers and steep learning curves, which typically demand formal education credentials that I might not possess. img for strmLrning
  3. The only thing I enjoy way more [within this context] than gathering and categorizing is building stuff. I think of myself as a builder at heart, a sucker for actually getting my hands dirty and things working. To curb my spiral into the rabbit holes when I am learning a new topic or concept, I’ve adopted a top-down learning strategy. I find that working from the top on the hardest but simultaneously most interesting project on the said topic and working down to the theoretical parts of the said topic is an efficient way to learn. this top-down approach does a couple of things:
    • It gets me building and motivated to learn and do the said topic - keeping me interested in the said topic
    • It is typically more time efficient than gathering a list of my resources, categorizing and walking through those topics
    • It gives me the illusion of forward progress on the said concept I am learning
    • When I eventually get down to the theoretical parts of the topic it no longer feels as abstract as it would If I hadn’t already built something with it.
  4. Finding balance is key, since I enjoy researching and curating I still do it - but more as a leisure activity as opposed to a precursor to a concept I am learning.

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