Learning – How I do it Vs how you’re “supposed” to do it.

Throughout my years of study and work, I have come to a conclusion regarding how I pick up and learn new skills and subjects: the way subjects are taught in school or university, is not the way I actually learn.  I don’t think I have ever been “taught” anything.  If I want to learn something, then I go out and discover it for myself.

Compared to most children that I came into contact with when I *was* a child – and several whom I’ve met since – I learned to read at a VERY young age (I was born with under-developed and dislocated hips – so I was splinted up for the first 10 months of my life – and learned to talk and read before learning to walk).  I was taught by my mother and father.  As were my brother and sister before me.  I could say the alphabet (going through a book – “A for apple, B for ball… etc.) at 10 MONTHS old!  Consequently, when I got to school for the first time, I was already well ahead of the other children.  Ever since then, if I have wanted to know something, I go and read up about it.  I almost never ask for help, because generally speaking I’ve never needed it.

I rarely ask questions in class too, I can never think of any! – and I often find that when other people ask a question, the answer just reiterates or confirms something that has already been said, or is about to be explained in the next few minutes.  My lack of interaction doesn’t mean that I don’t “get” it – in fact it means I do.  I don’t tend to identify the sections I don’t understand until after the class is over, and I’m on my own time.  By which point, I’ve got a text book and I’ll read up on it!

In a way, I think that this self-governed method of learning has been my saviour over the years – because of my migraines!  Even if I miss a class (which despite my best efforts DOES happen, it can’t be helped) I manage to cover the material by myself.  When that happens, I do find I miss out on the in-class discussions, which can be interesting to understand multiple points of view, but the main thrust of the class: I can pick up on myself.  At times, my attendance may be lacking – but my results are not!

This is both an advantage, because I can find the answer to practically any question asked of me, but also a disadvantage because a) not asking questions, and not engaging as well with other students makes me appear less-able; and b) asking for help when I actually do need it never enters my mind!  Therefore, I struggle on my own with tasks that I probably shouldn’t be doing (including some heavier DIY jobs!), and that I don’t “get out there” and meet people socially.  My family have always been the type to fix things themselves, and not to get a handyman (or woman!) in; so where other people would think that option as the first, for me it’s the last (or not at all).  This latter point, I may expand on in a future post.


Even prior to enrolling on my postgraduate course, I would frequently be teaching myself some new skill.  Whether it’s crafty, like crochet and sketching; or more academic, such as learning some conversational Japanese, and reading hiragana and katakana (still working on the kanji!), arigatou gozaimasu!

Suffice to say, I am who I am today, and know all that I have learned almost entirely through self-study and self-motivation.  The catch is – the motivation part!  If I can find a use for a particular skill, then I find it MUCH easier to learn.  On the occasions where I can’t seem to relate to a particular topic, it’s like my brain switches off.  I’ve found that if I don’t “care” about a subject, it just doesn’t go in!  Which is why I’ve had to in some cases, almost *trick* myself into caring about subjects, that I otherwise would have overlooked.  Often, later on I do find that they were important things to know (like learning about economics and finances, for example), but until you actually *need* them, their importance and relevance can be difficult to grasp.

Here’s a tip: if you’re stuck in a class being taught something that you just can’t grasp, try and think of some event in your life where this information would become useful.  Make the link a personal one, and the relevance will emerge.  Then you’ll find you have understood it without even really trying.

Hopefully, this post doesn’t end up sounding too much like me blowing my own trumpet!  I’m trying to figure out how my brain actually works!  Writing these posts is starting to help me figure out how (and why) I do things the way I do.

Maybe I should start reading Psychology text books!  I’ll put them on my reading list for AFTER I finish my MBA!  Now, where did I put those business articles I’m supposed to be reading…?

EDIT: Subsequent to writing this self-observation, I tested myself with the following online personality test (http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp) based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach to personality (see the page itself for information on the sources).  I came out as an “INTJ” (Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging) with a full description here: http://typelogic.com/intj.html.

Some highlights of the conclusions are:

“INTJs can rise to management positions when they are willing to invest time in marketing their abilities as well as enhancing them, and (whether for the sake of ambition or the desire for privacy) many also find it useful to learn to simulate some degree of surface conformism in order to mask their inherent unconventionality.”  TRUE – I find the marketing part really takes a huge amount of additional effort!

“..little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation..” Yup, spot on!

“..easy to misread and misunderstand.” VERY true!

The so called “famous” INTJ’s are an interesting bunch of people. and as for the “fictional” ones… I pretty much burst out laughing for one in particular!  (See if you can guess which).


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