Continuous Improvement and Development

Posted on December 06, 2019

I'm always in a constant state of wanting to learn. Exactly what I'm trying to learn at any point in time changes. But, I always have a true passion for learning.

More often than not, that usually coincides with my other passions, like programming. Early this year I made a resolution to continuously learn Rust. Why? Because I thought it was a fun language, but more important I thought it was a tough language. Yes, I know I could've picked C, or another system language, but Rust is an up and comer and I want to pick one that felt like it had a more lucrative future (bleeding edge tech and all that).

Later this year, I realized that my perspective in my professional environment was almost exclusively focused on development. Working on jobs that requires collaboration with other people, including non-developers, it was important to me to to have different perspectives. That meant having perspective on design (this is a big one to me right now) and having perspective on business. Generally, I wanted the ability to make decisions that caused more success for the entire team I was on, instead of just a direct success of what I was specifically working on.

I like to think of myself as a leader. That doesn't necessarily mean I always feel the need to be in a leadership role, but it means that I do like to work with a team, and I like to ensure the success of that team. Having different perspective, and having clear and transparant communication is the key (in my opinion) to success.

It's easy to say that you're going to improve. Saying you're going to do something isn't actually doing it though, right? I know myself. I constitantly want to learn, which means that I pick up new things and drop them like a hot potato. Upon that self realization, I know that it's important for me to have actionable and measurable milestones and tasks. That way, I cant track my own progress. The way I go about learning something depends on how new it is to me.

For example, learning something new in programming: The way I go about this is usually by enforcing constraints on personal projects. Imagine Daggers earlier this year was a project, initially, for me to learn Rust. So, I incorporated it with another passion, DnD, and created an API for journaling the DnD sessions. The constraint I implemented for myself was that the API had to be built in Rust.

Another one that I did recently was actually this website. I wanted to re-inforce my GraphQL knowledge. In addition to that, I wanted to create my own blogging system instead of using the platform I had formerly. The constraint I added here was requiring that this new feature utilize GraphQL for retrieving data about posts.

For me personally, adding constraints is good for when I already have a good foundational knowledge on something. It doesn't work as well for a lack there of that foundational knowledge, at least for me.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to pick up some new hobbies. I spent quite a lot of my time programming or playing games. I wanted to try to break away from that a little bit. So, I picked up Guitar and Illustration. Knowing nothing about either, introducing a project with constraints felt like a bad idea. For these two new learnings, I decided implementing a more classic methodology for getting my initial foundational knowledge it was the best method for me.

I grabbed a guitar, and grabbed some lessons for learning it, and started practicing every day. The actionable item here is that I'm putting in at least 15 minutes of practice every day. That was really important to me, especially for something like Guitar. Illustration was similar. I grabbed the software I needed, and started taking some classes. Making sure I was putting in the time every day.

That brings me to my last point for continuous improvement, consistency.

Consistency is important, because not only do you need to learn the information, but you need to practice it. Practicing it is going to reinforce the knowledge, make it callable faster. I once had a friend tell me about how he imagined the brain like a index card list. The more recently used index cards were always in front. And this is how I like to imagine the benefits of practicing.

The more I practice, the closer that index card is to the front of my brain. The closer it is, the faster I can call it when I want to. The more I call it, the more I use it. And the more I use it, the more I learn.

In conclusion, there's lots of methods for continuous learning. What's most important is that you best identify how you learn, and it's also important that what you're learning is something you want to learn, otherwise it's going to feel like a chore.