What kept me from becoming better over the years
I am a daydreamer.
I like to spend hours and hours thinking about all kind of things or reliving parts of my life that already passed, trying to imagine different ways that things could have gone, or different things that I could have done in order to change my life in an interesting way.
Because of that I often spend time thinking about why I am where I am, and why I'm not better. I lament the fact that I quit doing some of the things that I was interested in, such as web design and development, or programming in general, because I know how far I could've gotten if I wouldn't have quit.
One thing that I've been thinking about for quite a while now was the reason for not getting better at everything I do over the years. Don't get me wrong - I did get better at the things I did, I just didn't improve as much as I would've wanted, or it took me too long to get where I am right now.
And after a lot of thinking I realized that the reason is my stubbornness and my idiotic way of thinking about improvement and mastery.
I have this dumb idea, that probably comes from playing too many video games, that if I want to truly learn something, if I want to master it, and to become really good at it, I HAVE to do it on my own, without any help. Otherwise it's "cheating".
I think I got this idea from playing so many video games because there, if you can't figure out things on your own, and you're constantly searching for what you need to do online, well, you're kind of cheating, ruining your fun. Things just aren't that fun if you can't figure them out yourself.
But this type of mentality affected my other activities, and especially things that I really want to get good at, such as writing, graphic design, 3D modelling, and so on. I want to be better at those things, and yet I subject myself to weeks and months of trial and error instead of simply searching for the right way to do something and learning from others.
Here's how learning something new works for me: I decide on which skill I want to acquire, then I watch a few tutorials or I read a few articles, in order to learn the basics. Once I understand the basics, I'll try a few projects on my own, and once I'm done with them, well, I get stuck. Completely.
At that point I have enough knowledge to use the skill I learned at basic levels, but I don't know enough to actually work on more difficult projects. Sometimes I'll ignore that and I'll pick a project that is way harder for my current knowledge level, and I work on it until I get something done.
That's pretty much how I learned 3D modelling, and the little C# I know right now. I just looked at a few tutorials in order to learn the basics and then I simply jumped right into more difficult projects without thinking too much about it.
But while this strategy can work really well, and it can really help you understand concepts that you might not understand that well otherwise, it can also slow down your learning process by a lot. You're basically rediscovering the wheel on your own, instead of just learning about it from others.
So I guess that if there's anything to take out of this post is that while discovering things on your own can be a great thing, watching tutorials and learning from others who know more than you is just as great.
As cliché as it may sound, balance is key. If you do what I do, and you try to master everything on your own without too much help, then you might understand certain concepts better, but you'll progress slowly. If you do the other thing, where you just watch tutorials again and again, you'll never be able to do something on your own, without the help of a video or an article. The best method is to balance them both.