How to Master New Skills and Continue Learning

Classroom_post size_Vikto Bjorkund

I certainly believe in the tag “Student of Life” because it clearly tells me that a person who does identify himself as such accepts that he is learning new things every day and that he will never be 100% expert of everything in this world. This kind of mindset takes some humility as well as wisdom to understand the need for constant learning.

Being a self-help junkie, I have loaded myself with a lot of self-improvement books and have benefited from them. Thanks to my faith in the reading habit.

A new book in my Kindle app is just apt for this subject that spurred this post: “Novice to Expert: 6 Steps to Learn Anything, Increase Your Knowledge, and Master New Skills” by S.J. Scott (a.k.a. Steve Scott). The book explores how anyone can be and prove to be expert enough in any subject.  Reading this book refreshes me of the need to learn and to determine at which level you want to take the learning of a specific subject. I have been interested in learning a number of things for a number of reasons – learn Mandarin to keep up with my kid who is learning this language in school; improving playing keyboard which is an area of interest for my two kids (and me, back in the days …); and improving my writing speed in order to be more productive and reach my goal of earning income from them. These are just a few of the many. And finding a book in the subject of learning to become expert is a welcome delight to me.

For once, I should take learning seriously and perhaps plan for it!

My takeaways from this book are old and new to me. I have to say that the book gave me a reboot inspiration of learning and that, again, as years go by, it is never too late to learn anything. Even if I wasn’t one of the best students in school during my student days, I can still catch up and make up for what I can do now. Nevertheless, the few nuggets I take as I complete reading this book are priceless refreshers and new perspectives.

#1. Identify your preferred learning style

While most of us have probably been exposed to the formal learning in the classroom – which is usually a sit down and listen to the lecture practice – there are different methods of learning that many schools nowadays approach, in order to enhance and stimulate further interest and engagement among students.

Steve shared the learning styles which tell you the specific environment and mode that may work for you such as social (interpersonal), solitary (intrapersonal), visual (spatial), verbal (linguistic) and physical (kinesthetic). As the names imply, learning can be in different styles related to group/solitary dynamics; senses that work best for the learner; or the way the lessons should come in order or in random, creative spur.

#2. Take action-oriented notes

I believe in the importance of notes no matter what. Many years ago, while attending a professional skills training as a university student, we were told on the importance of keeping the basics even when you reach the peak of your career. One of the examples in the basics mentioned was about how you will see successful people doing unlikely things- such as taking notes while listening to a talk. A well-accomplished doctor or a speaker in the same event- would write notes because they know how to keep doing the basic things that makes them successful.

Steve emphasizes on the taking of notes because it helps retain what you have learned and if you review your notes, it can help you look into it and see how it applies and how you understand it. Hence, the process of reviewing by itself starts when you start taking notes and in the process, as you review these notes, the more you enhance its use. By the time you need to review those notes out of necessity, you have already prepared yourself to take it in and therefore the better you can use it in its real application.

One of the recommendations in the book is the use of Cornell Method for learners in self-education. This method encourages a certain system in writing notes during the learning itself as well as during review of these notes. It divides its note page into three parts- Notes- for the actual class or learning; Cues, list of notes on main ideas and other points derived as a result of reviewing after class; and Summary, putting together the gyst on cues and notes. By having a system of note-taking, in whatever method it is, it allows you to organize and use your notes more efficiently and in the process absorb more.

#3. Create a project around this skill

Just like writing a baby thesis or doing a dress rehearsal, making a project around a skill you are learning is like practicing or pretending it’s for real- or better yet, doing it for real in little steps.

In a dress rehearsal, you perform like it’s for real and therefore the show runs as it is and any mistakes committed has to be dealt with just like you would if it was already for real.

If you are trying to learn a new language, there is no better way to practice but by talking to native speakers. By building a project around it, you plan out how to practice by applying statements and topics one day at a time. In that way, you are really applying it but in an arranged way such that you are only talking to those who know you are learning and therefore would support you and correct you if needed. Hence, you learn more as you practice.

But don’t just do it for its sake. Make it like a project- with a goal to accomplish. This way, it becomes a serious personal endeavor that you are compelled to work on. Success or failure will mean something to you.

In the process, not only do you push yourself for creating such a project but build a habit around it you progress along the way.

Application to soft skills and other self-improvement work

Interestingly, I think that the takeaways from this book can apply to learning soft skills. In the arena of self-improvement in social skills, one can learning gaining more confidence, improving conversations, facing conflicts, public speaking and so on.

Initiating a specific area to work on in a wide arena can definitely help in the process of focusing one’s efforts to a particular skill. Use of an interpersonal learning style seems the most appropriate method to use if one wants to effectively benefit from improving social skills. Lastly, I imagine that taking note of new things learned and picking up pointers from others is part of the task that will also require some reflection and absorbing process.

Overall, Steve’s “Novice to Expert: 6 Steps to Learn Anything, Increase Your Knowledge, and Master New Skills” is a good resource for anyone who wants to keep his status Student of Life forever. It should be the bible for adult learning which can open new doors to many especially those who think it’s too late to start something new.

What new skill are you looking at learning? Did you ever think it was too late? Have you succeeded in learning something new?


PHOTO CREDIT: Viktor Bjorkund

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2 Responses to How to Master New Skills and Continue Learning

  1. Laura J Tong April 3, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    Great advice here Rob. I love that you’re learning Mandarin to keep up with your kid – think of the fun dinner conversations you’ll be having soon 🙂

    I’m a huge fan of Steve Scott too.

    Particularly like the point about taking action oriented notes – such a key element of learning for me. Great article, thank you.