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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


February 6th, 2021

The effort to learn some new skill often stutters at the start when we try to bite off more than we can chew. Learning any new skill is a problem to be solved, a dynamic one where the solution morphs depending on our approach. Sometimes the main problem is the approach, and a solution is simply trying a different solution. Here already the task of learning a skill is being broken down just as we do with problems, and perhaps not enough thought is given to the different ways a skill can be pieced apart and tackled in smaller bits.

Take learning a language for example. The approach is often full on: alphabet, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading, grammar, writing. We get the whole enchilada. But despite how interrelated these categories are, how fast do we progress in any one of them? Generally we progress on all of them, but slowly. What if, instead, we focused on just one at a time? What if pronunciation was simply the first step? Just figure out how to read the language immaculately? And then once that skill is fairly robust, start learning what those perfectly pronounced words mean. At the very least, even with just that first layer of skill, a person will walk away with an ability to impress their date while reading their order off the menu at that French restaurant.

Another easy example is meditation. It’s not a single skill, nor a single habit. The mental training of meditation really takes some time to come on line. In the beginning, people are mostly just figuring out how to make a habit of sitting in one spot with decent posture for a few minutes a day. But again, the way it’s generally taught, the whole enchilada is thrown at the student.

Or take coding for example. How much harder would it be to learn how to code if you didn’t know how to type? Here the situation is a bit backwards. Most everyone already knows how to type so we don’t see it as part of the skill of coding. But of course it is. It’s just a layer of the skill we already come equipped with, and because of this skill, it’s a lot easier to get started.

Every skill can be broken down into these component parts, and the ability to parse the problem of learning thoughtfully can make the learning process faster and far less painful, by virtue of the fact that we can simply pick the chunk of skill that grabs our interest most.

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Podcast Ep. 1028: Layers of the Skill

Tinkered Thinking

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