Anyone who is reading this article has probably changed careers several times. Sometimes because of evolutions in technology, sometimes because of industry changes, or sometimes just due to boredom or curiosity. There are plenty of you that don’t even know you changed; remember Actionscript 2? You’re probably using Actionscript 3 now. That was a career change. A significant one. But you probably still call yourself a Flash developer.
Most people on this planet don’t have jobs that need neural updating every 5 minutes. If you work as a production supervisor at a shipyard, or as a GP in a family practice, (or any of the other professions I wish to god I’d chosen instead), your job description and responsibilities will probably evolve at a generational rate.
When you work in tech you don’t live that dream.
Unfortunately I’ve never had a learning strategy. You could probably put the entirety of my university notes on a single sided 4x6 index card. Professionally it evolved somewhat; I would simply commit to a job that I knew nothing about then sweat myself to the finish line (a USB powered defibrillator humming next to me).
None of this is healthy.
Recently, I’ve found something much better. It’s called blogging. You might have heard of it. I can guarantee that this simple exercise can make you smarter.
1) Teaching Stuff is Hard
Explaining a concept to another human being is difficult. It takes patience and a willingness to answer stupid questions with a smile. Often those stupid questions turn out to be deep and brilliant insights.
Writing with an audience in mind does three things; it outs subtle details, highlights the things that you don’t completely understand yet, and reinforces the concepts that you do.
2) Built-in Editors and Fact Checkers
Some call them trolls, but if someone is willing to read your ramblings and then contradict or correct them don’t take it as an affront. This is free editing my pretties. Do you know how much $$ a professional editor costs? Me neither, but it’s probably more than free. Trolls and nerdlings love to correct things, it makes them feel smart. But at the end of the day you’re the one who will benefit.
3) Cheat Sheets in Your Own Words
I don’t trust myself as far as I can throw me, (I’m pretty chubby and weak) but there are times in life when you have to trust your past self because it’s spent a considerable amount of time attempting to help your future self.
That is way too cerebral.
Reading an explanation of something in your own words can reinforce a concept in seconds. Whether it’s well written or smeared on a wall in offal, they are your words and I guarantee that you will understand them. In fact one of my most useful resources these days are my own blogs. Not because I’m amazing and self centred (although I am) but because I can immediately return a concept if I re-read my own explanation.
4) Finding Colleagues.
I’m not great at making friends. I have, and have had, great friends, people who would move bodies for me. Human ones. But these are friends I’ve made during life, not over a coffee discussing logistic regression. You need some nerdling friends too. You are one of them now and some of them are pretty cool. If you have a blog you have an instant ice breaker; you’re both in the same predicament.
It also gives you street cred. No matter how basic or advanced your writing is, the fact that you ARE writing provides a whiff of validity; you must know what you’re talking about.
These new friends will inevitably give you tips, because nerdlings love nothing more than telling someone else how smart they are. And free tips should never be thumbed at.
This may be the most important one. Whether you’re new to English or have been speaking it your whole life, practicing writing is a must.
People judge, so working on your basic grammar is a big deal. I’ve laid sweeping judgements upon people for simple grammatical errors like ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’ or ‘wear’ instead of ‘where’. That judgement is not fair, I admit, but it’s the reality.
We all have habitually bad grammar habits and these tend to become much clearer when you re-read your posts. Small errors pop out like red flags. This drives me interminably crazy because I’m constantly finding and correcting small mistakes. But at the end of the day you’re going to be better off for it.
So go. Now. Write. No one will make fun of you. If anything they’ll be extremely jealous that they don’t have the guts to do the same thing. You are under zero journalistic ethics to get everything right or perfect. You have the technological advantage of an amendable medium. You can go back and update/fix stuff whenever you want. If you wait for the moment when your article is 100% perfect you will end up with exactly zero blog posts. There’s nothing wrong with modifying something when you have new information come in.
Posting your writing publicly will give you a sense of progress and make you realize that you are actually learning something!