Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Learning New Skills Like A Boss

I've been reading a lot about real estate lately. Exciting! Action-packed! Adventure!

Ahem.

Anyway.

Occasionally, I get these random obsessions, often enough that I've developed a specific procedure I go through.

Sometimes you just need or want to learn about something and it's so large a topic you have no idea where to start. I suppose you could just find someone who looks like they know what they're doing and then follow them around. You could turn on your expensive cable package, find a channel dedicated to what you're interested in and follow that.

Problem is, if you don't know what you're talking about, people will ignore you, blow you off, or try to sell you on something--sometimes literally, sometimes not. Sometimes the person you ask won't know that much either. Sometimes they're obsessed with some esoteric angle which won't be what you need. Sometimes they're just complete fucking idiots, but you don't know enough to call them on it. You get the idea.

And TV? Don't even get me started. If you took, say, all your investing advice from television, you'd get yourself poor very quickly. Ditto on real estate, I'm finding.

The obvious and loudest places are usually the worst.

So, I start with a book. I Google around, read reviews, find blogs filled with people who don't seem to be assholes and find the most interesting-looking book they recommend.

This is the honeymoon phase.

Read the book. Read the hell out of it. Daydream a lot. Get enough of the basics you don't seem like a complete idiot if you ask questions. Get drunk at the end of the book and dream big about all the awesome shit you're going to do.

Then find another book. This time, a more boring but dense and informative one. While you're doing this, find a community of people to join online. Lurk there. Read the posts. Get a broad smattering of the going concerns. Listen to their thoughts and tribulations. Find out what kind of person you'd have to be do the things you want to do.

After you finish the boring book and lurked a bit, you'll have a better idea if this is something you want to be doing. Maybe weight-lifting is too intense for you. Maybe real estate is too risky. Cooking freshwater fish requires you to make sacrifices to dark gods.

This is the end of the honeymoon phase, in other words. If you're still interested, continue.

The most important part is next: wallowing in the culture like the filthy info-pig that you are.

Participate in the community. Wallow in the media. Read blog posts. Specialize in your topic. Don't be a generalist--specializing lets you develop filters so you can sift out shit you don't need to worry about. This is especially important if you're getting into a very broad topic, like finance. Find some aspect of your new shit which interests you and use that as a launching point for the next step which is...

Do it. After the initial wallowing-in-culture phase, you have to get your hands dirty.

You can read about dirt-biking or adventure travel or whatever, but you're going to get to a point where you'll stop learning things from books and have to apply your knowledge for any of it to make any sense.

After the honeymoon phase is over, and you've made up your mind about doing said new hobby, any more reading is just going to be a form of elaborate daydreaming.

I'm currently in the community-wallowing phase on real estate. I suspect this is why my writing is kind of stalled--my job takes such a huge amount of mental space currently that I don't really have much capacity left over at the end of the week to learn a bunch of new stuff or push my boundaries.

I suspect this will normalize. Either I'll run the numbers, do the research and realize that real estate investing isn't my bag or I'll jump into it, learn the ropes and then hopefully it'll become automatic enough that I can go back to writing regularly.

This is the same pattern as any of my other hobbies. Lifting weights. Investing. Coffee. I learned them all the same way I did above (full disclosure: I have not read any books on coffee). I've also picked up and set down any number of other interests through the same procedure. Swimming, scuba, bear-fighting. Okay, maybe not bear-fighting.

On a smaller scale this is also the same pattern I follow when I need to research something I'm writing. Just dive in and swim around in the discourse. At the very least, doing this will turn you into a trivia god if you go through it enough times.

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