The Terror of Learning Something New

August 20th, 2023

The older we get, the more we want a faster return on investment. Don’t think about the payoff and learn like a child. Just step back and enjoy it instead.

Walking is simple, one leg forward at a time. Running isn’t too hard, as I started by walking fast from my frontdoor to the street, then progressively walking a bit faster until it became a run. Then running to the next house, and the next and the next. I slowly mastered running, step by step and got used to the process. For bikes, I already knew how to ride one when younger. But, recently, I’ve tried to learn to ride a penny board, that is a small skateboard specialised in cruising around, and it was terrifying.

  As I get older, my tolerance and will to learn new things have drastically declined. When I was younger, I tried to learn to play Dota and there was no resources back then. So I just played and played, failed and failed, until I became good enough. Yet now, when trying to play an RTS game, after just 5 minutes, I labelled it as too difficult and gave up. Even after watching a bunch of tutorials. I thought to myself, this is too hard, I’ll just go play something easier.

  Back to skateboarding, after watching a few tutorials, I wanted to go return my skateboard. I didn’t see the begnning steps, just stepping on the board, moving forward, balancing. What i saw was the infinite infinite steps required to master riding and just how far away I was. That was the terror that froze me. “I don’t have that much time to learn all that. It’s hard enough just to stand on the board, let alone move forward or even turn” I thought.

  Kids seem to have some infinite capacity to learn, whilst as adults, we shrink away. Take learning to sing, it’s a talent you go or not. Perhaps our awareness of the reality is what truly hinders us from advancing beyond a beginner. A child does not think about how difficult it is to ride down slopes, do advanced tricks or cruise at max speed as they take the first step on the skateboard. No, they’d take things one step at a time and not think much further beyond that. They’d revel in their incremental successes, rather than be held back by the magnitude of future work.

  I didn’t return my pennyboard, I took a step on, then a step on whilst moving forward .I tried to turn, go down minor slopes, stacked it a bit and tried braking. We can learn something from kids and their attitudes towards learning something new. Don’t be excessively aware of the future, don’t expect some insane grandeur, just take things one step at a time and celebrate each of those milestones. Purposefully restrict our awareness to not be subject to the terrors of learning something new.

Inspired by “Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning” by Tom Vanderbilt. Give that a read if this topic interested you. Now, if you excuse me, I got some skateboarding to learn.