Student Tip 21: Do It Again
There’s a guy on YouTube called Mike Boyd.
Look him up. He’s great.
He learns stuff.
Not German or Geography but fun stuff like axe-throwing or dice-stacking or spinning a basketball on one finger.
But the reason why I recommend him isn’t just to watch the fun stuff he does. It’s also to look at how he does it.
You see, most of us approach learning new stuff with a bit of uncertainty: “Dice-stacking? What’s that? I’m not sure if I’d be very good at doing that.”
You have a go and, of course, you inevitably fail.
You have another go, and another, and another. And, of course, you fail, fail and fail again.
By the time you get to the tenth or twentieth attempt (assuming you’ve managed to get that far), you’re probably saying to yourself, “This is really difficult, too difficult for me. Look how badly I’m doing. I’m no good at this at all. Nope, I’m definitely rubbish at it. Yup, that’s me—rubbish at dice-stacking. I think I’ll give up now before I waste any more time.”
Take ‘dice-stacking’ and replace it with ‘French’ or ‘algebra’ or ‘archery’.
That’s how it usually goes, isn’t it?
Think of something you’re ‘rubbish’ at.
You only need to have a couple of goes at it to prove just how rubbish you are.
But let’s go back to Mike.
When he sets himself a new thing to learn, he’s just as rubbish at it as you or me.
He starts his new project on ‘Day one, hour zero’ and records himself.
He videos himself trying to do it but doing it badly, failing, time and time again.
He doesn’t just fail ten times or twenty, but fifty, a hundred, two hundred, five hundred.
For example, look at his video of him learning how to spin a basketball on one finger for over 30 seconds.
Eventually (and after a lot of video-editing) he manages it after practising for a total of 4 hours and 39 minutes. That’s right, 4 hours, 39 minutes to go from can’t-do to can-do. With an average of 10 seconds per attempt, that’s more than 1,600 fails.
Let me repeat that.
More than one thousand six hundred fails.
Don’t be put off if you don’t get something the first time, or the fiftieth time.
If you want to learn something, you need to practise it, time and time again.
Fortunately, most things you’re studying don’t need to be repeated 1,600 times to learn them.
But the number is still higher than you probably think.
So don’t give up too easily.
Just because you didn’t get it on the first or tenth attempt, doesn’t mean you can’t.
You have to keep trying.
Keep going until the ‘click’ comes.
For anyone learning something new, there is a ‘click’ or an ‘Ooooo’ moment.
The ‘Ooooo’ moment is when there’s a breakthrough— something happens and your progress makes a sudden leap.
There’s a moment when it all starts to come together.
Something becomes noticeably easier.
These moments are important.
They are signs that your brain is starting to learn, clicking bits of knowledge and experience together like bits of LEGO.
Once you’ve had one click, another click will come along quicker than the first one did.
Breakthroughs will start happening until what you’re studying starts to feel easy.
You can get to that point, too.
You can study something difficult for a long time. But at some point—click. Suddenly, finally, amazingly, you start to get it.
If you’re struggling with something, set aside an hour at the weekend and keep at it.
Whether it’s irregular verbs, quadratic equations or perfecting your backflip, countless others with lesser abilities than you have managed it and if they were able to do it, so can you.
Tip 21: Trying and failing repeatedly is a natural and necessary part of learning something new. Don’t let it put you off.