On Learning Stuff

On Learning Stuff

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Editorial

Upon close examination of my life, I realize that aside from elements outside the scope of this blog (house, family, job, etc), I don’t really have a whole lot to show for my time here. When I get home I usually move right on down to the PC until dinner, and either eat with the family or, if everyone scatters to the wind or my wife insists on watching dumb crap on TV, move back to the basement until it’s time for bed. Most of the time I have is spent consuming stuff — games, TV, whatever — and considering how scattershot my posts here are when I try and talk about these things that I do, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not even very good at doing those things.

I spend a lot of time, then, trying to Learn New Things. I have to literally force myself to do so, as this virtual book-cracking is just a shade lower on the scale than “eating better” and “losing weight”; the reason why I end up gaming is that it’s so low-cost and provides some level of positive feedback that makes me feel good about the immediate actions I’m taking, and doesn’t immediately result in the level of self-reflection that happens to me at times like this…writing a post…about how I am trying to spend less time consuming and more time producing, or learning to produce.

So I’m back to square one with Blender. I have restarted my video tutorial series because it has been quite some time since I last made the effort. I’m kind of amazed at how much I have forgotten in between then and now. This realization has lead me back to the high-school mantra of “when are we going to use this in real life”, and the implication thereof: If we’re not going to use it, why learn it; and if we’re going to learn it and no use it, aren’t we just…going to forget it eventually?

I have tried to learn game development through Unity, and while I’ve made great strides (IMO) when trying, returning to it after an absence requires me to re-learn everything I already have in code in front of me. Same with Blender. Same with new technologies at work. I’m trying to put together a dynamic web form builder, and I’ve already run into situations where I’m looking at code and wondering how I ever figured out how to get it to work because I sure as hell can’t see why it’s doing what it’s doing right now.

Is this an old age thing? Is it a diet thing? And exercise thing? We have already established where on the scale those things lie so I’m hoping not. I’m just not entirely sure if it’s worth plunging into new projects these days.

The silver lining, I hope, is being able to put learning into practice. For this form builder I’ve learned a whole lot about technologies that I’ve employed which should help me in other projects — assuming I have other projects which call for these kinds of things (I’m not the kind of developer who looks for excuses to shoehorn the “flavor of the month” tech into my work). Similarly, when I was working with Unity or Blender, I did OK. Certainly well enough to have made any instructor proud, had there been any to oversee my progress. But in the case of the latter, I didn’t have any reason to continue to deploy my new skills. Being on a self-imposed schedule apparently doesn’t do it for me, and there’s no way I’m going to come across any circumstance where a looming deadline is going to help hammer home the lessons learned under pressure.

At the very least, I can feel some minor level of accomplishment in moving away from being a passive consumer to being an active producer in the things that matter to me, even if I have to keep going back to the start every six months because I’ve already forgotten what I’d learned last time.

What do you think?