Zen and the Art of Learning

Zen and the Art of Learning

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This course is long, but informative and easy to follow, and that’s the bottom line here: tech teaching usually sucks real hard. When I finished up the video instruction for the day, I had a really sweet looking bowling pin and ball! I credit the instructors for knowing how to talk to an audience that knows nothing about the upcoming task without talking down to the audience that knows nothing about the upcoming task. Tech people are the worst at this kind of thing, by and large, because they know what needs to be done, but don’t always think about what needs to be done. Tech people like to always move forward, and don’t always consider the steps they need to take to do the things that are now second nature to them. When tasked with instructing someone else in how to perform as task, at least one of two things happen:

  1. They get all eye-rolly and condescending
  2. They skip a crap-load of constituent information

Everyone knows — or has been at the center of — stories of tech folks talking about how non-tech people are “stupid”. That’s a load of bullshit. No one is born with knowledge they enjoy holding over people, there’s plenty of knowledge that even the smartest people have trouble grasping, and “stupid” calls to mind people who can’t do anything. I can build a PC from parts, but I can barely do more on my car then start it and change the wiper blades. To an auto-mechanic, I might look “stupid”. To me, a mechanic who can’t figure out what an error message on his computer screen means might look “stupid”. Different strokes, people. We all have potential, if someone else can muster the patience.

But having patience is no good if we can’t articulate. Tech people are funny in that they’re always thinking current or abstract. Here’s the desired outcome, and here’s what you need to do to get it done. A lot of the Blender tutorial info I was finding took that approach. It told me what I needed to click and what it did, but never really explained why I would want to do that. “To get the desired results,” is certainly the sarcastic answer, but it’s not the answer that helps me help myself in the long run. Because tech people rarely look back to evaluate what they’ve already learned, they usually can’t give out decent advice on how to get up to speed. This has been the core issue for me in game development. I can repeat steps someone tells me I should take, but I don’t understand why I need to do it. How do the parts relate? How can I recover something if it goes south? Are there any best practices involved, and what are they? And if I run into a similar but also different situation in the future, will this technique still be applicable? I’m being given a fish, not taught how to use the fishing rod.

I enjoyed my video tutorials so much that I didn’t want to stop last night, but I had to, you know…get up and move around to avoid an embolism or something. I felt that I was really getting somewhere and learning something. I had started out wanting to accomplish “a thing”, found that I couldn’t because I didn’t have adequate training on how to accomplish “a thing”, and then found that one of the resources I had at my disposal was actually helping me learn. Not specifically about the “a thing” I wanted to accomplish at that moment, but I feel that I’m making progress, and will eventually learn enough to be able to do that “a thing” that I need to do.