written by Lee Yoke Ling

Senior Lecturer (Communication Skills), Singapore Polytechnic
The Joy of Learning
True learning sparks joy. Think of the first time you submitted a design or rendered your first line of Python code; or validated your first Excel sheet.

The way to find joy in learning is to make it relevant. Call it Hands-on Learning or On-the-Job Training, learning something you want to learn, really keeps you going.

So here are 4 ways to make that happen.

Know What You Want To Learn
Take a good look at your work. Notice areas where you are struggling, where you're taking more time than needed to complete a task. Are there negative scenarios that keep cropping up as a result of this? For example, you may be great with technology but lack the presentation skills to share your ideas, resulting in good work that rarely gets noticed. Or you could be great with initial client meetings but do not know how to follow up on them, leading to loss of sales.

If you're not sure what the missing piece is, try asking for feedback. Ask your clients or close friends specific questions like:
"What could I do better to make things easier at the office?" or
"What professional courses should I take to help me do a better job?"
You want frank, honest feedback. So make sure your colleagues know that you are really open to their input.

Once you know what you need to know, you can be sure you'll want to pick it up because you can see the benefits it will bring to you work.
Shadow Someone Who Knows
When you're unfamiliar with a skill it is often difficult to know how to start. Which parts should you learn first and for how long? Which parts can be picked up later?

An easy way out is to find someone who is a master at the skill. A mentor of sorts. Then either ask for advice directly or better still offer to help with a task. The latter will give you the opportunity to observe them at their job without them feeling self-conscious about it.

As you talk to this person or work alongside him, take note of not just how the skill is applied but also why it is used. Notice how the person approaches a task, the steps and actions he takes. Get access to his thought processes, the interpersonal interactions required to achieve the task.

Ask questions. Often the person who is good at a skill does it instinctively or may take short cuts that he has developed over the years. So he may not think it necessary to detail certain steps or explain the reasons to his approach. Asking helps unearth issues which he would otherwise not realise he needs to share with you.
Shadow Someone Who Knows
Learning is only valuable if at some point you are going to use what you learn. The faster you start, the more enthusiastic you will be. Making progress is a sure way to increase interest.

If you are learning coding or picking up a new language, start once you have mastered a few statements and variables. You don't have to learn every syntax or understand every rule to begin.
But before you start, brace yourself. More specifically, tell yourself you don't have to be an expert at it the first time round. Aiming for perfection is counterproductive. It stresses you out and makes the task seem daunting.

What you need to do is set a target you can achieve – give and take a few flubs, of course. Define what you want to do in clear, concrete terms.

Instead of saying "I want to be more efficient with paperwork", set a target like `I want to be able to mail merge a set of documents'. Once you have achieved that, you can then raise the bar.

And have fun! Laugh at your mistakes, check out youtube to see how others do it. Remember that the person you shadowed didn't become an expert overnight.
Keep Practicing
Practice is key to success. No practice, no skill acquisition.
The secret is to build it into your workday or work process so you don't even realise you are using the new skill. Skills that require you to set aside a lot of time to practice often get neglected.

So you have learnt to mail merge. Use it the next time you have a lot of documents to generate. Need to practice your presentation? Offer to do several minor ones at informal meetings.

Build the learning into your work day and soon the skill will become something you frequently use. It will feel natural, a part of you. The gaps in your workflow will be reduced. You will struggle less to achieve the tasks and the negative scenarios that used to hamper your progress will disappear.
The key to success is loving the learning process, not just the outcome.
The person who learns coding just to earn a good salary is less likely to keep going. Sure the money is nice, but good coders enjoy the thrill of seeing how the code plays out when creating new solutions.
So savour the process, take breaks and discover the joy of learning.
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