One year ago I started a challenge: to learn a new topic every month and to apply the knowledge to a project 🧠.
That’s how I ended up building a cryptocurrency, two electronic songs, a few color palette tools, a crypto investment portfolio, a Progressive Web App, a Jekyll Webpack Boilerplate and an E-commerce and all of that with love ♥️.
This last year was a very busy year but very instructive and fun for me. Let’s have a quick analysis of how it went and how to improve it in a way you can also reproduce it to learn new things!
The process 📝
The process is made of 4 steps of preparation and a last one of learning and building. Let’s deconstruct them and find what worked good and what didn’t. Indeed before starting these steps, you should decide on what topic you want to learn now and later.
1. Find a mentor
This is the hardest step, I didn’t always found a mentor and the reason is very simple. Looking for a mentor needs your time to contact people but also mentor’s time to help you. Most of the time the mentor was in my network. Sometimes the mentor was not a direct professional in the field I was learning and couldn’t help me. Not having a mentor made me realize that it’s not something critical since there is always a forum to post your questions and communities to help you. That’s what happened to me while learning about Cryptocurrencies.
2. Define well the scope of the topic
This is quite easy but should be done very carefully. For example, learning about Trading and about Cryptocurrencies was too broad and took me almost 2 months each because I wanted to build a lot of projects and write a lot of articles. Luckily my previous topics had a good scope fitting in one month, so I managed to reach my goal: learning more than 8 topics in one year 🙌.
3. Find the best learning resource
When you have a mentor it’s very simple, ask him or her! When your mentor doesn’t know because he is not a specialist of the topic, or when you don’t have any mentor, I always check first Learn-anything.xyz, then Coursera and Edx and then google.
I used very different type of learning resources and here are the ranking of the ones I liked the most:
- One to one mentoring — To be honest the best was when I learnt about music producing when my flatmate was explaining the basics of music producing and how to use the tool, why a song is good or is not.
- Coursera courses — I liked it a lot because it’s very easy to learn while commuting in the train or in the bus, also they contain assignments that forces to apply the knowledge just acquired.
- Book reading — Can be long but also easy to use while commuting. Requires more effort for concentration because I am not a very big reader nor a fast reader.
- Tutorials — Step by step tutorials are also good, but only when they explain well, the one I found for music producing was very good, the one about building a cryptocurrency also very nice to understand well the theoretical concepts. Also, tutorials are very good when I read them at the end of the learning month, like a way to hammer into my brain what I previously learnt and apply!
- Documentation — This is more for technical learning, it’s very good because you see everything that you need to know and that is made by the founder of the language/framework, but to be honest it’s the most boring way to learn! You also have to try what you read otherwise you will never remember!
- Articles — I also used a lot of articles, and mostly for very new topics or when I want to understand something specific. It’s good because they are usually very fast to read, but when it’s a Scientific article / Cryptocurrency whitepaper it’s sometimes hard to visualize and when it’s a medium article it’s sometimes too superficial.
4. Select an achievable project
This is the most complicated task because you need to find a project that:
- Fits in the one month time scope
- Is interesting
- Where you can apply the knowledge as soon as you get it (for a better learning)
From my experience, I think it’s better to define the idea before starting and stick to it without adding anything. Also in order to avoid useless stress be flexible and adapt the time scope. Do not try to hurt yourself rushing, and extend the 30 days to 60 days or even more if it’s needed. I got very stressed 😥 with the blockchain and cryptocurrency learnings because I was very late posting in medium and I was losing a lot of time while facing some issues.
5. Learning and building
As I just said ideally we should apply directly what we learn to remember it, but this is not always feasible. So I kept trying my best, it’s what I did for the learning of color theories, building color palettes while learning.
The topics 📚
I ended up learning 9 topics out of 12, and I considered this learning as a success if I would be able to reach 8 topics in 12 months, so mission accomplished 🙌👏🎉!
In order to improve my future topics, I decided to order them by how must I enjoyed them in a very qualitative way. Then to analyze why to understand what makes a topic enjoyable!
- Blockchain & cryptocurrencies
- Music Production
- Cryptocurrency trading
- Webpack 3
- Progressive Web Apps
- Colors theory
- Ideation, Creativity, and Design
What makes a topic enjoyable is:
- The use of the project
- Revenue brought by the project or the fame of the projects (likes, or stars in github)
- Trend of the topic
- Impact in my daily life
- Quality of learning resource
- Depth of the scope
What next 🤔
As you can imagine I enjoyed a lot this year of learning and I want to keep doing it. Nevertheless I want to do it better, as basically I realized the last topic I learnt brought me a lot of stress. Since I do this challenge aside from my work, during my free time, it’s something undesirable! That’s why the process needs to be changed. Also I want it to make it accessible to anyone who wants to learn with me.
A few improvements are needed, to make it more fun and stress less:
- I will remove the goal of topics per year. It will make me free to have breaks between each topic for other side projects, to write articles or to go deeper in some topics. But I will still try to go for 1 to 2 months per topic.
- Take into account the remarks given in the previous analysis of the process: define the scope before, try to do my best to find a mentor but keep doing if I don’t find one, favor 1-to-1 mentoring, MOOC or books than the rest, and try to apply the learning at the same time
- Also, I was sometimes late releasing the articles because I wrote them at the end after building my project, it would be better to do it at the same time instead of just writing notes. For some topics I had so much to tell because it was interesting that I had to write many articles which took me time. I’ll try to reduce that also and focus on the most important only, and give links of other resources to go deeper.
Here are a few topics I want to learn in the next 12 months, they may change during the year depending on my needs and aspirations:
- Wine tasting
- Decentralized Apps (Blockchain)
- Design guidelines
- Music mixing (DJing)
- React Native or Vue Native Script
- NodeJS in depth
A lot of interesting stuff right 😬😬 ?
Collective learning & rewards
For the next year, I decided to do a collective learning for everyone who wants to learn new things along with a website containing a curated list of resources to learn topics in one month.
Here is how it will work:
- Register to the Learning lab newsletter, join the telegram group or the discord community.
- Each month or two a topic idea along with learning materials, and projects ideas will be sent. If you don’t like them just go to the website and chose another topic.
- The Telegram group and the discord community will be here for you to ask questions and learn together with the community.
- Each time you finish learning a topic, write a post on medium (or somewhere else), and send it to me along with the projects you build trough the website, telegram or discord. They will be added to the Learning Lab website and you will be rewarded with 50 MOTIV cryptocurrency.
Get started now
Join the community and become part of the Learning Lab community: https://learn.uno
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