It's ok if you're not the fastest learner.

It's NOT ok if you lack passion.


Category: Lifelong Learning

I dug out and polished a few gems from Quora. To me, there are two main takeaways here (that the writers didn’t necessarily conclude, themselves):

  1. Reflective learners learn comprehensively. Between questioning everything, thinking through implications, creating mental frameworks, sporadically drawing mental connections, identifying gaps in understanding… Processing takes time, but reflective learners can retain solid comprehension.
  2. Thorough reflection requires passion. Reflection occurs consciously and sub-consciously. It happens in your sleep. People only reflect on things they care about. Intrinsic motivation prevails.

Reflective learners learn comprehensively.

Question: Why are some intelligent people not the fastest learners?
Answer: “Some people need to question, test, and really understand everything about how something works before they assimilated it into their knowledge. Other people feel more comfortable making lots of assumptions and then just running with the idea and hoping their assumptions work out. In the latter case, this can result in mistakes and holes in one’s knowledge later to realize they are completely ignorant of what they think they know. On the flip side, taking forever to learn things is also a disadvantage so you have to reach a middle ground.”

Question: I’m a slow learner and a slow reader. How can I comprehend quicker?
Answer: “Once I worked in a laboratory where we had a postdoc who did everything 50% slower than everyone else in the lab. Watching him do an experiment was like watching someone else do it in slow motion but it didn’t matter when you looked at his productivity. Everything he did always worked the first time whereas the rest of us would sometimes have to re-do things that didn’t work… If your learning / reading speed is really affecting your ability to perform then it is an issue that needs to be addressed. However, if your retention of material that you have learned (however slowly) is higher than others then, once up to speed, you require less maintenance of your knowledge base. The increase in speed with which you access acquired knowledge… may mean that you are just as productive as those who read and learn faster…”

Thorough reflection requires passion.

Question: Is it a major problem to be a slow learner if you are very passionate in programming?
First answer: “I have worked in startups. Slow developers can be a problem but their issue is tiny in comparison to people who do not have passion. People without passion are the slowest learners. They’re a burden. I have seen recruits who just wouldn’t work. They show interest in all sorts of activities that allow them to avoid coding/debugging/deploying/testing. They give startups very difficult times. So, to answer your question, being a slow learner is not a big deal if you are passionate about programming.”

Second answer: “If you’re passionate about programming, you’re likely better at learning than you give yourself credit for. Just make sure you’re very proactive with learning about what’s out there… Don’t learn about the “tried and true” stuff all the time. Be biased toward the state of the art technologies… There are many “fast learners” that only learn a technology enough to use it, but they’re missing out on a lot, and you’ll have an advantage over them in a subject area that deserves more attention than they deemed necessary. You’ll find what you did manage to cover, through hands-on experience, you’ll be very productive with.”

Follow me on Quora.