04 February 2019

My Learning - Part 11 - Doing

"You always know enough to get started"
//Christer Olsson


"Doing" in this case refers to actually do whatever I'm trying to learn, e.g. to actually coach someone or test software rather than read about coaching or discuss testing with experts. "Do" (as a learning tool) can include a variety of activities such as:

  • Conduct experiments
    Do something in a specific way and evaluate a particular outcome.
  • Practice
    Do something in a specific way to learn how to do it that particular way better. In this case the process of doing it is important, not the actual outcome normally.
  • Act and reflect
    Do something as well as possible while consciously monitoring what's happening and analyzing why.
  • Repetition
    Repeat something over and over, as well as I can, without "wasting" time monitoring it too much simply to make it stick.

... and what I'm trying to achieve in my learning is to make "doing" one of the first steps in my learning process rather than waiting until the end.

Example: Instead of reading everything there is to read about coaching before I try it for myself I might learn the absolute basics and then start to look for someone willing to let me practice on them (preferably someone who can give relevant feedback as well).

A couple of key reasons why I find "doing" so important to me are:

  • Actually doing something teaches me what else I need to learn/what I need to focus my learning on much more effectively and precisely than e.g. reflection does.
  • When I have actual experience of something I can relate new information to this experience making it easier to understand and easier to remember.

This doesn't happen naturally for me though. I'll come back to this in much more detail in a later part but long story short: I don't like to not look good... which sometimes sucks because it means I want to learn something reeeeeeally well before I go out and actually display my skills in it (including displaying it to myself, I get frustrated to see myself do things in a way that's not "good enough").

This makes me prone to becoming "an intellectual" and while some like being that I don't, so I'm trying hard to change my own approach.

... and I actually have a history of very effective "doing" in my learning so I know it's something I can get back to...

Becoming a doer

"Doing" came naturally when I was learning software testing. I think it was because "doing" was such a central in part in everything taught and highlighted by my heroes and peers which meant whenever I tried something new I got plenty of positive feedback simply for the effort alone. So it was easy to motivate myself to continue doing things even when it meant a great risk of "failing" publicly (which I'm unfortunately not very comfortable with as I mentioned before).

Stop being a doer

When I had to cut down the time I spent learning testing one of the first things I stopped doing was... doing. I'm not sure why I quit practicing testing alone (e.g. test open source applications at home) but the more public stuff is more clear to me:
  1. Other testers started to surpass me which meant I thought I would not perform "as well" in public challenges as I use to which made me ignore them all together not to "humiliate myself".
  2. I had built "a reputation" for myself and since I started feeling like I wasn't progressing as fast as some other people I kinda avoided public stuff simply to not hurt my reputation.
I understand that both are very counterproductive ways of thinking and it annoys the heck out of me that I held myself back just because of them. The good thing is thinking can be changed...

How do I get back?

When I transitioned into an active doer while learning software testing I had to push myself and the results and feedback made it easier and easier until it almost felt hard not doing things.

When learning coaching I have a couple of ideas on how to make "doing" happen again:
  1. Simply exclude any resources that doesn't have a clear mandatory action connected to them (e.g. most books).
  2. Make it a deliberate process to describe and perform at least one action for each resource I use before I move on.
I lean towards the second option for now because I see a risk of me losing my motivation if I exclude "easy resources" all together but that might change if I find myself skipping the required actions in option two.

An interesting coincidence in this case:
One of the primary purposes of coaching is to stimulate action... so by practicing on myself (a very light form of "doing") I can actually both get coaching practice and help me back to a more action-oriented way of learning...

Finally I love a great discussion but I need to hang out more with the doers in my network simply to be affected by their mindsets and routines. I know this was a big factor when I learned software testing...


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