How do you personally learn?

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Most of the programmers I have met over the years are really good at learning. You have to be somewhat good at learning to keep up with constantly and rapidly changing technology. And yet we don't talk much about the details of our own personal techniques for learning. Let's share in the comments our own strategies for quick learning. The more detailed you can get about what you do and why will be helpful. Don't make any assumptions that what you do is already common knowledge to other people.

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I start off with a goal of what I want to build, decide on what technologies I am going to build it with, and then learn those technologies as I'm building. I avoid trying to learn something outside of the context of something I'm building, as I've found that it's never "sticks" and so I forget it a short while after.


I'll start. Just off the top of my head:

  • Make sure it's something I'm interested in learning. There is no substitute for passion.
  • Get a hero. Find someone who is already an expert and attempt to get as good as they are. But be realistic that you don't ever need to become as good as they are. It's just something that helps you focus on where you are headed.
  • Have a list of other things you want to learn. You will get stuck a lot in the beginning and it's better to just quickly switch to something else when you are stuck and let your subconscious work on what you are stuck on. Sitting in front of a screen frustrated and trying to get unstuck is usually a big waste of time.
  • Go for a walk. Some of my best thinking is during a walk. And there's mounting evidence that exercise generates new neurons.
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Todd Chaffee profile image
I'm an experienced programmer currently focusing on JavaScript