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Lucas Chitolina
Lucas Chitolina

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Why It's Harder Than Ever to Learn Something New in 2024

A man in the middle of his ideas.

Every day, a kind of paradox is perceived by people trying to learn something on the internet: the variety and availability of content have increased, yet we can hardly choose what content to consume.

I'm sure you have a huge list of courses you want to take, several books to read, and an even longer list of videos to "watch later". You have practically an entire library at your disposal, but you can't start anything.

This happens to me more often than I'd like. I always spend too much time analyzing what to study, and when I finally choose something, it takes only a few minutes to start thinking that I'm wasting time and could be doing something more productive.

In this article, I try to explain a bit about what happens in this difficulty of decision-making and show the way I try to avoid this choice paralysis.

There's So Much to Choose From, But There's Also a Lot of Noise

This phenomenon of choice overload, although discussed here in the context of technical content, is not limited to this sphere. It extends to many other aspects of modern life, including how we consume entertainment. A recent study reveals that Netflix users spend, on average, 17.8 minutes browsing possible series and movie options before selecting something.

This pattern of hesitation and uncertainty in the face of multiple options reflects a broader challenge we face: the difficulty of making decisions in a world full of possibilities.

This image shows a middle-aged man sitting on a sofa from behind, facing a large TV screen that displays the Netflix interface, filled with a variety of movie and series options. He is holding a remote control, symbolizing his indecision in choosing what to watch. The cozy living room setting is illuminated by soft lighting. The back of the man's head and shoulders are visible, conveying a sense of being overwhelmed by the multitude of choices on the screen.

Peter Drucker, a visionary in the field of management, perfectly captured this condition of modern society when he stated:

"For the first time, a substantial and growing number of people have a choice. And society is totally unprepared to deal with it."

Drucker's observation deeply portrays the current context, where an abundance of choices, whether in education, entertainment, or any other area, often results in paralysis instead of freedom.

Back to the realm of technical content, there are two possible explanations for why this paralysis happens:

  1. Producing content has become cheaper
  2. The content reaches more and more people.

Producing content, especially technical ones, has become cheaper compared to the past. Until not long ago, to create something, you had to contact a publisher, have expensive filming and audio equipment, and go through a long and complex process.

Today, with the help of the internet and the democratization of production, practically anyone with technical knowledge can create and share content. The fact that any course, video, or tutorial arrives as a notification to several people's devices has resulted in an explosion in the volume of available material.

The real cost of a bad course

When you invest in a course that doesn't meet your expectations, it's not just the money that hurts. The real cost is in the time and energy you invested, resources that are irreversible and more valuable than money. There's also the pain of regret, the constant "what if" question: what if you had chosen that other course that seemed more promising? This doubt can be more exhausting than the financial loss, as it affects your confidence in future decisions and intensifies the paralysis when choosing new things.

"We are always looking for the perfect book, the perfect game, the perfect food, the perfect movie. But as perfection has nothing to do with the content itself, but with our state at the moment, we find ourselves in an incessant search - hours, days, months to start doing something that, in the end, we never start."

Conclusion: Finding Clarity and Actually Learning Something

In summary, learning something new has never been easy, but the year that begins brings us more challenges than just accessing information. With that in mind, here are some points that can help you learn effectively:

  1. Limit your choices: Avoid the temptation to accumulate courses or books. Having fewer options can help prevent overload and distraction. Don't buy more books or courses than you are willing to undertake.
  2. Close all tabs: When you start watching a course or video, close all other tabs. Keep your focus on a single task.
  3. Realistic goals: Set a real study plan with goals you can achieve (avoid creating ego-filled goals to make what you are doing seem bigger than it is).
  4. Do good content curation: Choose simpler and shorter initial content to understand if that's really what you want to study.
  5. Always have practice for theory: Ensure that for each thing you study, you can practice in some way. This reinforces and validates what you learned.
  6. Revisit your study: Always revisit your study and see if it is aligned with what you aim for. This reflection can be weekly or monthly, but it is important that you understand which path you are heading (and also which you are not).

I wrote another article "Learning Tailwind CSS and a reflection on goals". I think it's an interesting combination because it shows exactly how I applied these principles to actually learn something new.

Remember, in our learning journey, every step, no matter how small, is progress. Nothing is wasted; in the worst case, you learned something new.

Top comments (22)

aliadelnour profile image
Ali Nour Al Din

I made learning process a habit then my brain releasead a doubamin and now I can't stop learning

lucaschitolina profile image
Lucas Chitolina

That's the path, my brother. There is no silver bullet, the way is to know how your brain works better!

fenriuz profile image

How did you create that habit?

dheeraj_02 profile image
Dheeraj M

I am dealing with the same condition quite a long time and yes no progress has been made that I have aimed for. This blog described exactly what my situation is, seems like many have this same situation. Thanks for making simple steps (yet very crucial) which gets out of this situation.🫡

lucaschitolina profile image
Lucas Chitolina

I know, this is a very important topic that we have to deal. I'm glad that my post helped you somehow

lymah profile image
Lymah • Edited

Great post. Thanks for sharing !

lucaschitolina profile image
Lucas Chitolina

Thanks for beeing here, @lymah!

ranjancse profile image
Ranjan Dailata • Edited

Welcome to the AI world, where everyone needs to be constantly upgraded. It's a matter of survival of the fittest. Obviously, there will be a human vs AI fight, and we need to take everything positive and do what is right. Enjoy every moment of your learning. Stick to the plan and accomplish on what you are intending to do. The choice is yours where you want to head :)

anmolbaranwal profile image
Anmol Baranwal

"We are always looking for the perfect book, the perfect game, the perfect food, the perfect movie. But as perfection has nothing to do with the content itself, but with our state at the moment, we find ourselves in an incessant search - hours, days, months to start doing something that, in the end, we never start."

I really like the post, the problem is very huge and most of us aren't even aware about it.
I made a very detailed post with similar topic on LinkedIn if anybody is interested. Not a self promotion, LOL!

"Set a goal to make you stretch that far -> for what it will make of you to achieve it."

Image description

stefanmoore profile image
Stefan Moore

Well said

chasm profile image
Charles F. Munat

These are all good suggestions, but you missed the most important one, I think.

The key to learning in the modern (postmodern?) age is this:

Learn just in time.

Don't learn anything until you need it. Learn exactly what you need to know exactly when you need to know it. Wait until the last moment, but no longer (don't learn "just too late").

This doesn't mean wait until you need to learn a programming language, e.g., JavaScript, and then learn all of it all at once. It's "just in time" all the way down. Don't learn loops until you need one. Don't learn conditionals until you need one.

And when you learn something new, use it immediately (and repeatedly).

Don't memorize anything. If you need to remember it, you'll use it often enough that you'll remember it without effort.

The only exception is some essential context – but keep it to a minimum – and skills that might be required suddenly and unexpectedly, e.g., first aid.

Don't try to front load. Learn all life long, but right when you need it. "Learning to warehouse" or "learning just in case" means your new skills rust, bust, and collect dust. Pointless.

code-hunter profile image
Code Hunter

I can attest this works. I am doing this already for 20 years, after having heard the saying (paraphrasing): In order to drive from the east coast to the west coast by night, you only need to focus on the illuminated road ahead of you.

derbenrich profile image
Ben Richter

That's exactly how learning is supposed to be:
Have a Problem? Learn the solution. Use it!
To make knowledge useful, you have to apply it.

But you need an overview too. This "heard of" surface knowledge is required to know what you don't know yet. The basis for connection to new ideas. But don't deep dive if won't need it

berack profile image
berack kaunda

I have been doing this, but I was not aware of it. School is literally the opposite of this, you memorize a lot just to pass the exams, then what.

alexwills512 profile image
Alex Wills

Welcome to the world of confusion - here everyone is confused and deception is upon us. Truth is always hidden and unfortunately lies are everywhere :/

normanyonionchen profile image

This really hits me! I have the absolutely same condition as you mentioned. Thanks for your provision

lucaschitolina profile image
Lucas Chitolina

This tends to be the new normal, we always need to be very attentive to our minds. And I'm the one who should thank you for the first comment on my first post here!

starswan profile image
Stephen Dicks

I think this is just a perception. The software fundamentals are still the same, and lots of developers haven't grasped them yet. Focus on the fundamentals like design patterns, testing, information hiding (class design) coupling and cohesion. Pick a learning friendly language like C#, Java, Python or Ruby. Avoid the web to start with, it adds confusion and complexity. (Unless its just a single function in a single web page) Find Katas, cli tools, solve a simple problem. Look for courses that would still be relevant 10 years ago as they will stand you in good stead for the next 10.

stefanmoore profile image
Stefan Moore

What I'm seeing is that in order to get to that next step you need to know more that one thing. Like with the A+ exam maybe 20 yrs ago. Back then all you had to know was just the A+ and that was it. Fast forward for the A+ you needed to know more than that.

Next is everyone is a content creator on something (no offense) and this adds to the noise in making learning harder as you look for content to suit your needs. For me as I study for AWS I have tons of resources to suit my needs. Have I learned something...I guess.

So what's the goal (again)? No sure reworking that in my head for everyday I waste in doing this is maybe a monthly paycheck for $8,000 that I have lost.

alexravenna profile image
Alex Ravenna

Your post spoke to me because I suffer from:

  • choice paralysis
  • having way too many tabs open
  • wanting to start learning/trying out too many things
  • accumulating books/courses/links that I'll never have time to read/use
  • and of course the time and money wasted on these things

I have no focus and no impulse control, so I just keep collecting and collecting, all with the intention of "one day" using all these things, while also knowing that logically, I never will.

Maybe your closing points will help me break this cycle.

tinkermakar profile image

They say if you put 2 haystacks on either side of a donkey, the poor one will starve to death due to inability to choose )

abdullahimran999 profile image
Abdullah Imran

Much needed post.

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