4 Ways to Simplify New Concepts and Skills

It seems like everyday I become aware of something new I don’t know. It also seems like the rate at which I don’t know is increasing. Everyday I see my bucket list of skills I’d like to learn inch further into a state of impossibility. However I recently started listening to a podcast series by Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur, investor, and a New York Times best selling author. In it he talks about his most recent book, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life, and how to approach learning new skills or concepts easier and in shorter amounts of time.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Helen Keller

At the very beginning, the key is to simplify and get a good understanding of what it is you’re really trying to learn, which is called deconstruction. There are four ways you can approach deconstructing new skills or concepts.

1. Reduce

The first way is to reduce the skill or concept to it’s most simplest form. This is very similar to the First Principles or 5 Whys methods I recommend when solving problems. By breaking down concepts into their individual components, it makes the process of knowing where to begin much easier. Think about it like picking out Lego blocks and starting with the most basic blocks first. This focuses your time and attention on what matters most and will eliminate the over-bearing nature of learning something new.

2. Interview

We live in a super connected world with an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips. When trying to learn a new concept, take advantage of this by reaching out to those who have already achieved success. Often, it’s easy to gather lessons learned and best practices from experts as well as common mistakes beginners make.

3. Reverse

Certain concepts or skills can seem complex at first glance, however once you start to reverse engineer them you often find a simple process that guides them. By starting with the final product and backtracking through the process you’ll be able to map each step and find the best one to start with. It might make sense for you to start a little further down the process than you would otherwise think.

4. Translate

Everyone at some level is multi-disciplinary in nature. In that, we know how to do more than one thing. When facing a new concept, try to deconstruct it by translating ideas or skills you already know that could help you. For example, when learning a new programming language I often start with similar methods I already understand in existing languages.

What new skills or concepts do you want to learn this week?

The fact is, if you want to be successful then you can never stop learning. Whether your goal is to be a better parent or a world-class chef, you have to keep pushing and opening yourself up to new ideas and acquiring new skills to achieve your goals. Use these methods to simplify the skills you want to learn and get started this week.