5 Personal Learning Principles

Advice from a college kid learning how to adult

1. Practice does not make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect
It seems a bit pedantic, but it is an addition I constantly find myself reiterating time and time again. Practicing something over and over again will not result in perfection if the method you use is wrong; how you practice learning is just as (if not more so) important as actually practicing. As Bruce Lee once said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” It goes without saying that the man in question practiced his kicks with firm consistency and proper attention to technique.

2. The 10,000 Hour Rule
This is more of a clarification to the first rule. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he suggests that individuals require roughly 10,000 hours worth of deliberate practice to become world-class in their respective fields. While the credibility of such a statement has been debunked by science (see Practice Does Not Make Perfect), the sentiment holds some truth where practice is a predictor of success in fields that are stable and the rules never change. Chess, classical music, and basic mathematics fall under this category. The percentage of success upon reaching the 10,000 hour rule slides higher or lower depending on one’s domain of study, but it is a percentage nonetheless. Why not give yourself such an advantage — however slight— and put time into what you wish to be ‘good’ at?

3. Knowledge from various sources
As a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I quote the great Uncle Iroh: “ It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.” When learning, it is important to take knowledge from more than one source. This can be applied to politics, science, the arts, and just about anything in life. If you limit yourself to only one source of knowledge, you miss out on the potential to learn from a different point of view. The ability to keep opposing ideas and find a way to combine them or understand how each operate or are connected opens up avenues of knowledge previously unexplored.

4. Find a passion and stick with it
It’s much easier to practice something if you enjoy it. Passion and motivation are mindsets that can help drive learning to a whole new level. There are days when a break is necessary so we don’t get burnt out, and that’s okay! Just remember why you started in the first place: find a passion and pursue it.

5. Find a supportive environment
I cannot stress the importance of a supportive environment. This does not mean surround yourself with ‘yes’ men or women; it means that learning is done best when there are individuals constantly challenging you to perform your best, helping you and staying optimistic. While negative reinforcement from others can feed into a compelling drive to ‘prove them wrong’, a positive surrounding is more beneficial on the whole. There’s competition, but it’s not targeted at outdoing others — its about improving against one’s self.