One of my passions is thinking deeply about how to learn new things. Why do I end up learning some things but not others? Is it innate skill? Is it interest? Is it the resources I randomly encounter or the support I get from others?
Recently I’ve whittled down all of my experiences into a simple, easy to remember 3 step process that I call: MAKE MAKE MAKE.
It’s a sequence you can apply to absolutely anything you want to learn, starting from scratch.
Let's check it out. Step 1: Make the Time
The more new things I've tried to learn, the clearer it’s become to me that the one most important deciding factor in how good I get is whether or not I invest the daily time.
Actually, invest is the wrong word because it implies that it’s some work-like, pull-your-pants-up-and-just-do-it kinda thing. What I’m talking about is gently creating the time for a new skill in your life while barely realizing it.
When I first was learning to play piano, first I just tried to play a few chords every time I walked by it. Once I’d made that part of my daily habits, I’d sit down and play a bit everyday. Just whatever I wanted.
At this stage, it’s important to focus on making the time. If you do that, consider it a success regardless of how well you performed or if you feel like you’re improving.
Just make the time.
Eventually as your daily expectations for yourself grow, you won’t have the time and will miss a day. Then another and another and it will feel difficult to get started again.
Do you know what you do when that happens?
Scale back and make the time. Refocus on just the habit of starting.
If you’re trying to write and say, “I’m going to write 10 minutes everyday” but then go 2 weeks without writing, re-evaluate. Make the time to write a title everyday. Eventually writing titles will be such a part of your habit, writing the first sentence will come on it’s own - then the second, then the first paragraph, until entire articles come naturally.
That’s when it’s time for Step 2. Step 2: Make the Thing
Once you’ve made the time and you’re putting your skill to action everyday, it’s time to start thinking more about what it is that you’re creating. It’s time to focus on creating a complete thing.
If you’ve wanted to learn to build websites and made the time by practicing a bit of HTML everyday, now it’s time to make the thing. Make a complete, website. Simple but complete.
Simple but complete.
If you’ve wanted to write songs on guitar and have been putting in the time everyday, now try creating a simple but complete piece with a beginning, middle and end - even if it’s just 15 seconds.
The point here is to focus on completion not quality. Something special happens when you are able to start and get to the end of something, it creates full-circle connections in your brain.
You can zoom out and see your work as a whole, instead of a bunch of loose ends you "have to get back to."
In Step 1 you built the practice of starting; now you're building the habit of finishing.
Once you’ve made the thing many, many times it’s time for Step 3. Step 3: Make it Great
At this point you’ve made the time and are doing the new skill everyday, you’re producing simple but complete works and chances are you’re already better than you ever imagined you would be.
But things are still a bit sloppy and you’re not satisfied because you have taste. That’s why it’s time to now focus on making what you’re working on great.
This is the time to focus on quality. To go into the details and produce the masterpiece you envision in your mind with the project that’s worthy of it.
Important: Most people start here and this destroys them. They expect the first song they ever write on guitar to be a masterpiece and their first website to generate millions of dollars. When it doesn’t they quit (also known as not making the time).
If you’re just getting started with something do not start by focusing performance and quality.
First, focus on making the time in your life to develop this new skill. You will never stay bad at something you do everyday with intention.
Then, focus on actually having enough control over the skill to complete something - anything.
Once you’ve gotten that far, you’ll have given yourself the space you need to naturally develop not only the skills and knowledge but the genuine love and passion you need to create to the quality you’ve envisioned all along.
What are you going to MAKE MAKE MAKE?
p.s.: I have something important to say that I couldn’t work into the article above itself (I’m putting completeness over quality on this one).
You may be thinking that MAKE MAKE MAKE delays the gratification of realizing your vision until sometime really far away and that thought may prevent you from getting started at all (from making the time).
But I want you to know that this a really, really fun and rewarding process starting from Step 1 because it allows you to ease up on yourself and just get lost in what you’re doing. It allows you to give yourself credit for the time and effort you've put in even before you reached that ultimate vision.
When I apply this process, I get good faster than I ever imagined. When I don’t, I quit.