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The Power of Persistence in Learning New Skills

James Huang | 2023.08.29

Taking the plunge into a new field or trying to master a new skill can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Often, we find ourselves enamored by the idea of quickly acquiring new abilities, mastering the most difficult challenges in a short time, or even pretending to know a lot when in reality, very little reaches our deepest comprehension. 

This was exactly the case when I found myself working on an entirely new tech project. Considering my role these days doesn't involve much coding or going into the specific technical implementations, I usually stay removed from that world. However, on this project, I had to collaborate with someone who embodies the “technical Nazi” stereotype. His language is tech-dominated, and any conversation without a basic understanding of it is nearly impossible. 

Despite the challenge, I persist. I dove headfirst into a 500-page book on the technical field, slowly savored every page, and asked for help when I encountered concepts I struggled with. Before I knew it, I was conversing smoothly with my colleague. 

This experience took me back to the time I shared a particular learning method with my team. For English language learners, I advise moving past the tricky study methods like “speak a lot” or relying on an “English environment” to improve. My advice was more straightforward - exhaust yourself in repetitions. Learn the words and repeat each 200 times. 

Sure, cramming repeats sounds like a dull rote method, but my method stands on a fundamental principle of consistency and hard work. Many people fumble because they seek shortcuts. Regrettably, shortcuts vividly fail in language acquisition because it is a step-by-step accumulative process. 

Theories that promise to turn you into a wordsmith overnight or techniques that claim to help memorize 20,000 words rapidly are merely distractions. Experience a mighty handful of words firsthand and make them a part of your core vocabulary. First 6,000 for an average high school-level reading comprehension; over 10,000 for postgraduate-level texts, minus lengthy challenging academic sentences. 

The beauty of this tedious, exercise-heavy method is that it applies elsewhere and not just to gaining language skills. For instance, the larger picture also captures programming, where one needs to write and run thousands of lines of code from simple to complicated to make any significant progress. 

There’s a Chinese anecdote that rings alarmingly true to those who like to cheat their way through knowledge prep - “too many people who haven’t ever made something remarkable of any kind are losing it left and right.” 

Facing complexity can induce anxiety which can trick us into seeking faster results. Not pacing ourselves and going through the necessary learning curve stages often lead us to underinvest in the giving task and overestimate the desired results. This miscalculation keeps the rebounding cycle spinning - getting started, then disappointing quit followed by more quits .. each time with a smaller span on the trying end. Too little success in this pattern of unsuccessful learning then boomerangs back as skepticism or even discredits all types of functions and mental efforts. And with enough negative loading, it can hurt overall wellness and mental health.

Here lies the solution: hardcore arduous training. Carving the path towards knowledge does induce anxiety, tedious routine, and not to mention those whispers of disappointment testing your threshold every step of the journey. But you have to own every unclear word or disappeared name crossreferenced by different titles.

Each steep, punishing trek brings you to a door screaming “Welcome to Effort! It’s Hard Work!” and guides you to the reason you did persist. And once you realize you vested enough, that you never quit, you will feel less lost, less worn down than before. You will have already crossed the threshold, sheathed yourself in an embarrassing struggle that many can't bear. 

When the fundamentals are correctly understood, complex problems uncloak themselves as combinations of small-scaled issues. A deep understanding of these smaller-sized, manageable tasks allows you to bulletproof the journey going further.

As Winston Churchill once said: “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." Willingly accepting hardship to build personal strength reduces the upcoming complex challenges to a likely opportunity of growth and triumphs. Training and persistence are the muscles flexed every step of the way on this ever-lasting trek of gaining knowledge and skills. They overpower the glamour of shortcuts, preparing us to command unfamiliar territories with the confidence a novice in an area could only wish for. Remember, your novice posture and ration against the complexities are your walls - your fortress. In such strong footing, who could ever follow up?

The Power of Persistence in Learning New Skills
MERCURY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION, James Huang 29 August, 2023
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