I want to learn more about learning. These are articles I’ve had on my reading list for a while, or partly half skimmed though in an open tab. Now I’m going to actually read them, and write up some notes for me to revisit later.


Curse of the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli 🥦

Nicky Case has read 4 papers about emotion in learning, so I don’t have to.

  • Beginner? I will probably learn best by following step-by-step instructions.
  • Advanced? Then learning by exploring will be more effective.

This is interesting, because I feel like my whole career as a developer, people have talked about how it’s best to learn by doing. That seems to make so much sense, but maybe that is only true after you have first created a foundation. Like learning your 3rd or 4th programming language might be most effective by building something, because then you are not a beginner anymore.

Perhaps I would benefit from embrace that my programming skills are still at a beginner level, and my learning will be most effective when it’s guided. I can go off on explorations later. That is probably exactly what happened when I was learning Python.

The loop from cognition to motivation

You’ll learn poorly if you’re not motivated, and you’ll be demotivated if you’re learning poorly. But, from vicious to virtuous cycle: you’ll learn well if you’re motivated, and you’ll be more motivated if you’re learning well!

What does this mean for me?

  • Cognition: aim for a load that is just above my comfort zone
  • Motivation: look for medium sized gaps in what I know

The original Cognitive Load Theory taught me to strip the chocolate off my broccoli. But finding out that emotion directly improves learning? That taught me I need to season & roast those veggies, to bring out the natural tastiness that’s already in the broccoli.


Flow is the Opiate of the Mediocre 🎹

Cal Newport has written a lot about deliberate practice, I remember having read some of it before. This particular post is with advice from a piano player:

  • playing != practicing
  • drill the difficult parts (more than the whole)
  • know your weaknesses (and work to eliminate them)

Learn Like an Athlete 🏀

David Perell makes a strong case for knowledge workers imitating athletes and musicians by training with a learning plan: with a positive vision and broken down to increments.

The learning project needs to be challenging enough to demand focus, but easy enough to make consistent progress. That way, you can enter the optimal state of learning.


Note to self

There are steps I could take to make my learning more intentional, with better focus, and not underestimating to also work actively on motivation. Remember to let myself be a beginner, even when everyone else claim it’s best to learn by doing. Take the time to make plans.