3 Fail-Safe Ways To “Power-Up” Your Learning

Reading time: 5 minutes


That’s what happens when you eat ‘magic’ mushrooms! Don’t even think about it kids…



As I mentioned before, I’ve been coding for a year now & I’m currently on Teamtreehouse’s Tech Degree.

Although I made a promising start, I found it really difficult and I often had to repeat certain sections of the course before it sunk in & I had to completely change my whole way of learning to become more efficient. 

But something was bugging me… Why didn’t I develop this improved method sooner? Why did I struggle for 6 months before I hit my breakthrough?

Surprisingly, I found my answer in an argument 2400 years ago…

Meno’s Paradox


Is it me or does Socrates look a bit like Sir Anthony Hopkins?

Meno’s paradox is a famous argument that allegedly took place between Meno, a young Greek general and Socrates, the world famous philosopher.

While arguing with Socrates, Meno’s asked “and how will you enquire into a thing when you are whole ignorant of what it is? Even if you happen to bump right into it, how will you know it is the thing that you didn’t know?”

To put it in every day English:

you can’t search for what you don’t know.

I couldn’t look for a better way because then I didn’t know I needed a better way…

I started to realise that the old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” is poppycock.

What you don’t know will KILL you.

The Darkside of Goalsetting

A lot of motivational books today, talk about setting ‘big scary goals’ and then working your way towards them. But goal setting assumes that you have total control over everything…

Sorry kids – life rarely goes exactly to our perfect plans. On the motorway of life, your paper map won’t tell you about the accident that’s just happened or the detour because of emergency gasworks.


“So much for riding my bike up the hill then”

But like a good satnav, these 3 “power ups” in your learning will help you gain “real-time” information that will help you navigate easier through the twists and turns and help you become a learning MacGyver.

1) Break Something!



Now before you set fire to your office (or your boss) that’s not what I mean. Especially in the coding world ‘breaking something’ to try new things and be willing to fail. I have learnt 10 times more when I’ve had to fix a problem that has stumped me when creating a website than merely following a code challenge. Failures, setbacks and obstacles forced me to think in new ways to solve a problem. Even if I didn’t get the solution or it didn’t work the way I wanted it to I gained a valuable experience.

Ultimately, where you make your bread & butter is your ability to solve problems – guess how you do that? By actually doing them! This experience makes you valuable. So here’s a new saying for your records:

If it’s not broken, break it and see if you can make it better!

Please note: there are only rules when it comes to ‘breaking something’

  1. Don’t break something that can’t easily be reversed
  2. Don’t break something that is not yours or you don’t have the permission to do so i.e an important work project, your Dad’s ecommerce site, your brother’s prized iMac.

2) Become a T-Shaped Learner


This is a brilliant idea that I got from the book “The Extra One Per Cent”by Rob Yeung. A T-Shaped learner not only has a vast knowledge of this subject area (the vertical pillar of the ‘T’) but they should have a wide range of knowledge in different subjects (the horizontal bar of the ‘T’). Yeung’s research points out that time and time again, creativity and deep learning comes by combining ideas together that would previously not connected.

As a music technology teacher, many of my ‘aha’ moments came when I looked at problems from a musician’s viewpoint rather than a programmer. Also my teaching knowledge has helped me immensely in researching and organising my thoughts for this blog. Take up a new hobby or practice something completely unrelated to coding and business and the deeper you go in learning about other stuff, you will be surprised to see the new and clever ideas that you will generate.

3) Talk to people


Rest In Peace Bob Hoskins.

As an introvert, I am really bad at this but is so necessary. Talking to people is not only about gaining their insight, but it forces you to organise and break down the concept in a way that another person will understand. How many times have you had a tough problem and you’ve gone to someone else to talk about it and then halfway through explaining it to answer pops into your head!

The reason this happens is because it forces your mind to methodically and carefully go through the problem and gives you the “space” to see where the core of the problem is. In programming, this concept is called “Rubber Ducking” and it instead of explaining your problem to human being you would explain it to a rubber duck – how fun! But humans have the added advantage of being able to give you new insights & whole new ways of dealing with problems in the future.

Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think? Have you got any ways of “powering-up” your learning? Please comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

See you next Thursday!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s