As you live life, there are a lot of times when people need your help or you need theirs. Life is a game of learning and there are certainly some people better at it than others. Why is that and how can I become a better learner?

The most important thing I’ve noticed recently as I’ve been mentoring more people is that those who truly want to learn take a completely different approach when they ask for help.

Most of the time people come to me with something like:

Hey this isn’t working.

Well good for you!

And then you get some people who go a bit further:

Hey this isn’t working. Do you know why?

No I don’t, and you haven’t even told me why it’s not working.

Next, you’ve got people who come to you who are a bit further down the path:

Hey this isn’t working. It seems that X is broken but I don’t know what’s wrong.

Now we’re onto something a bit better. At least I know what the issue is in regards to.

The best learners often come across as this last type:

Hey, so X isn’t working. It’s giving me error Y, and I was looking online about how to fix it. Someone suggested I do Z but it still fails after that. Can you take a look?

Ah yes. Of course I can!

I’ve written before about making it easy to say yes. This is unbelievably important when you’re trying to learn.

My buddy James has been learning Rails recently. He’s got tons of questions, but it’s been a joy to help him through it because when he has a question, he brings everything to the table. He knows what he wants to accomplish and, best of all, he’s already attempted a solution and is looking for ways to finish or improve it. And after only a couple weeks of some fairly minor help, his learning ability has brought his skills from asking lots of questions, to explaining the problem to me, and figuring it out on his own most of the time.

Just think about that, a couple weeks of determination can bring you further than most people can do in 6 months.

Having an open mind about solving problems is the best way to be. Most people who are afraid of annoying someone by asking too many questions are afraid of this because they aren’t really letting you help them.

I know I haven’t always had this mindset either. Taking Chemistry classes in college, english in highschool, and many other situations, I shut myself off mentally from learning these topics as much as I would have liked. All I had to do was embrace things and TRY. And the funny thing is, you’ll quickly realize you don’t even have to try hard! If you actually care, you’ve immediately done more than 80% of people. You just have to try.

Live life with an open mind. Try new things, ask questions, and learn. It’s incredible what you can do when you really open yourself up.

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