Exploit Your Interest While It Lasts

December 19, 2019

I want to learn X, but should I learn Y first?


Learn what you want to learn, while you want to learn it. Exploit your interest while it lasts.

I want to learn Rust, but should I learn C++ first?

No. If you want to learn Rust, then learn Rust. Exploit your interest while it lasts.

I want to paint, but should I learn to draw first?

No. If you want to paint then paint. Exploit your interest while it lasts.

Being Interested is a Rare Gift

Being interested is a rare gift. It enhances every physical and mental trait while studying that thing you are interested in. It makes you happy. It makes you have fun while doing work! That is a rare gift.

An old co-worker and friend taught me this. He was once interested in machine-learning. He studied it for awhile, he learned a lot about it, then he was done. He explained to me that he was able to be many times more productive with his study time by studying those things that he was interested in, while he was interested.

Why do we ask these questions? Why don’t we just get to work? Because we’re scared. We think we are not ready, and we’re right, we are not ready. We haven’t fulfilled the prerequisites.

While thinking about this post a phrase from The War of Art kept coming to me:

“The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt.”

– Steven Pressfield

If you’ve managed to find a genuine interest in something new and worth while, then today is your game day. You’re not ready? Then you’ll have to play hurt. Your interest will not last forever. The extra productivity and joy you can only gain through genuine interest must be exploited now. Time is running out. If you wait too long you wont get to play. You’ve seen this before; you’ve had goals you were excited about, but you waited, and the excitement left you.

No Really, I Am Not Ready!

Maybe you really are not ready. You simply lack the prerequisites for success. – Wait, who said anything about success? – Do not try to succeed, try to exploit your interest. You will succeed as a side effect, although your success probably wont look like what you have imagined success to look like. You will learn, you will be engaged and efficient, that is success. Perhaps your interest will only last an hour before you become overwhelmed and frustrated? So be it, that is an hour well spent, and you will be better off for it.

Sooner or later, your interest will fade, and then you have my permission to do something else. At the very least you will have learned why some things are hard. Maybe you’ll get stuck on some piece math or something and save yourself from becoming another student who asks “why would I ever need this?” You’ll know why.

Speaking of math. In the real world tricks are good and there is no cheating. Just solve the problem. Use a calculator or a computer algebra system. Let the computer do your derivatives for you. It wont matter in the real world. – Well, it might matter eventually. Having a deeper understanding cannot be a bad thing, but you don’t need it right now. Make a mental note of those things you’d like to learn more deeply, and maybe you’ll find an interest in them one day.

The same goes for other areas of study. The internet is big, people can help you. You can copy and paste, don’t feel bad about it. It’s OK if your program only works on your computer. It’s OK if your first drawings are on scratch paper. Just don’t let your interest go to waste.