First Learn How-To, Then Why

Learning something new demands more action than details. More often than not, excessive details and information get in the way more than they help during the initial steps.

In my opinion, only the minimum amount of information that leads to a successful outcome should be provided the first time someone learns something new or completes a new skill. Variables should be minimized in order to create a simple, straightforward path from starting to success, without dabbling into the myriad details that lie below the surface.

For example, if someone wants to learn to light a fire with one match in damp or wet conditions, I don’t give them a long lecture on the principles of fire. Instead I try to just explain the minimum they need to be successful; find dry wood, carve it into small pieces, etc. I also minimize the theory, telling and showing them only the practical steps they need to succeed. Then I stop and let them have the experience.

I want them to feel the heat of the flame, hear the popping of the fire and see the flames grow. They’re better teachers and motivators than words ever could be.

If they become interested in the process, there’s plenty of time down the line to dive into the minutia of physics, wood working, tree selection, etc., that is involved. By then, they’re driven by their own interest, and nothing could stop them from learning it. It’s a huge difference than telling them all this information up front (ie. lecture), and hoping they develop an interest on their own and are able to pull out the important bits to ensure success. By starting with the experience, when they do learn the background information they have a framework of practical experience into which they can add the theory.

To summarize, first learn the how-to. The why can follow after.

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