The Most Important Thing to Keep In Mind When Learning a Skill

February 12th, 2021

Whether you made learning a new skill your New Year’s resolution or are fulfilling a long-held dream, learning something new is an admirable undertaking. 

However, when learning something new, it’s common for your enthusiasm to fade more quickly than you expect. This is especially true when you aren’t mastering a skill as quickly as you think you should be. 

It makes sense! It’s frustrating to try out something you think you would love, only to find that it’s much more challenging than initially expected. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should give up right away and never return to the task. Even the most masterful of artists were once novices. They were once right where you are—the difference is, you know who they are only because they’re famous. There are plenty of average people who learn skills without getting famous for it. So take hope, and don’t despair yet because you aren’t playing “Moonlight Sonata” within five minutes of sitting down at the piano.

Don’t want to believe me? Take it from Yo-Yo Ma, one of the most celebrated classical musicians in the world. During one of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, Ma explained he too learned to play slowly. His advice? Take it slow, and learn one measure at a time. 

Though Yo-Yo Ma is a renowned musician, the advice can apply to anything. It’s important to take the learning process slowly. Mastering a little bit at a time will give you a solid foundation to build upon. It’s much harder to learn when you expect to know everything at once!

Another important thing to remember? Practice is all about the quality, rather than the quantity. Sometimes you may have a great day and practice for hours, while others you only practice for a few minutes. Both are valuable, and will eventually help you meet your goal. But recognizing when you’re getting quality practice and when you aren’t is an important step to mastery. 

Few of us will ever be publicly lauded for our brilliance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn new skills or enjoy ourselves doing it.

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