Learning update May 2013

Posted: - Modified: | learning

imageEvery so often, I make a list of things I would like to learn or work on. Not only does thinking about what I want to learn help me decide how to spend my time, it also makes it easier for me to ask for help. I don’t refer to the previous lists while making a new one, because the differences between the lists gives me valuable information. If my new list is missing some things that were on my previous list, that tells me that my priorities and interests have changed. I can decide whether I want to go back to those old priorities, or if it’s okay to shelve those ideas for later.

Here’s my current list:


  • Consulting for E1: Plugin development might be an excellent new skill to add so that I can hit even more home runs when it comes to client requests
  • Tech skills: This is too good an advantage to waste, and I enjoy it.
    • Automation/productivity hacking: More text, data, and image processing! More macros and shortcuts and application scripting!
    • System administration: It’s good to have a solid platform and a streamlined development process. I want to learn more about managing multiple sites, setting up reliable backup and restore systems, automating deployment, and keeping up with security updates.
    • Web development: It’s so nice to be able to quickly build my own systems. I want to get better at writing neat, solid code that follows best practices so that I can rely on tests to keep me from breaking things that I infrequently modify.
    • Web design: I really like using HTML5 and Javascript for data visualization, and I want to get even better at doing that.
    • Other geekery: 3D printing, electronics, sensors, speech recognition, scripting… there’s so much to play with. =)
  • Writing: It’s a fantastic way to learn.
    • Collecting and organizing my blog posts, then filling in the gaps: Right now, people discover lots of my posts through search engines, and I write new things based on what I’m learning or what other people ask me about. I want to get better at making an outline and filling it in so that I can guide more people along their journeys.
    • Exploring more visual formats: This takes more work up front, but it can be more enjoyable and more accessible for people. Someday it would be great to be comfortable making comic books and illustrated guides!
  • Drawing: It’s becoming more and more fun, and people find it useful too.
    • Drawing people and situations: It would be fun to learn how to draw manga characters well, because that will give me anchors for my imagination.
    • Animated sequences: Wouldn’t it be nifty to be able to put together short explanations and tutorials that help people learn useful things?


  • Cooking: I want to try lots of recipes so that we can enjoy a variety of yummy and healthy meals at home.
  • Gardening: I’d like to learn how to work with the seasons and the soil for a productive and happy garden.
  • Enjoying time with and helping family and friends


  • Languages: I’d like to be comfortable enough with Japanese that I can read manga, watch animé, listen to tech podcasts or read articles, and go to technical conferences. Super-awesome level would be to sketchnote something in Japanese – that would be a challenge! I also want to be able to chat with W-, neighbours, and shopkeepers in Cantonese. (And let’s throw Latin in there for quirky fun…)
  • Exercise: Learning good exercise habits will have lifelong benefits.
  • Learning: I could get even better at learning by building habits around spaced-repetition study and practical application. I could expand my range by learning how to learn from online courses. I could get deeper into learning from books, blog posts, conversations, and experiences. I could get better at reviewing, consolidating, and sharing what I’m learning.
  • Making decisions: Quantified Self, tracking, applied rationality, all sorts of other good things…
  • Sewing: Useful skill, and might be a way for me to work around clothes shopping. =)


Compared to my list from January, it looks like traditional sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship skills aren’t as large a part of my list at the moment. Delegation is lower too because I’m less interested in scaling up beyond myself (at the moment) and more interested in making the most of my flexibility. I haven’t dug into Android development, so I can probably shelve that for now. Connecting is still somewhat interesting, though.

Now, how do I want to learn?

I like the idea of working on personal projects, and possibly applying the skills commercially if people get inspired. Being able to follow my interests is one of the advantages of this semi-retirement, so I should make the most of that. Maybe that looks like this: “Hmm, that seems like an interesting idea… <clackety-clack> Let’s see if we can build a quick prototype… Here it is, and here’s a blog post about what I’m learning along the way!”

I’m not very good at asking for help. I’m too comfortable with my limits. I might learn something more slowly, or not as effectively as I could with other people’s help, but that’s okay. If I rely only on myself, though, I think I’d miss out on all the interesting opportunities that happen when you learn together with other people. I’m not entirely clear on what that might look like. I imagine that it would be along the lines of, “Hey, check out this thing I just learned!” “Oooh, that’s serendipitously close to what I’ve been learning – check this out!” “That’s super-helpful. What did you think about this other thing?” … Which is actually what I have through this blog, so I guess it works out after all. Onward with the blog posts, then.

I also tend to feel a little scattered, mostly because I work and write in short chunks (~2-4 hours of learning). The blog’s chronological format obscures the growth in various areas over time, unless you look at a category view – and that’s not really a map, either. I’ve been maintaining a topical index to make it easier to see blog posts, but it might be interesting to mindmap the key things I want to know, look at what I already know, and identify the specific small gaps I want to address first.

Mm. That might work. If I map out the questions, I can pick from this grab-bag of curiosities. Who knows where that might lead? So much good stuff out there!

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