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This post originally appeared on blog.startupdigest.com.

The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.

Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.

When you want to learn something new, you want to ask yourself some fundamental questions:

Why do you want to learn something new?

What are the goals that brought you to this point?

What is your purpose?

How will you apply the things that you learn into your life’s work?

If you can’t answer these questions, I suggest that you go back to the drawing board in your quest for knowledge. If you aren’t driving yourself toward a specific purpose, you’ll quickly give up and forget what you’ve learned when things get too difficult. The key to learning something new is to find ways to apply your newfound knowledge on a consistent basis. Don’t just sit there, read, and then forget it.

If you go to college to become a software engineer, you can’t just do the reading, do the basic exercises presented to you and then magically become someone of value.

I don’t want to pick on college. Both sides of the debate when it comes to the efficacy of a college education simplify things too much and don’t focus enough on individual responsibility. But how you approach the art of learning determines what you’ll get out of it. But if you haven’t thought thoroughly about what you want to build with it, it all becomes pretty meaningless quickly.

Our education system in the United States mostly encourages the top-down approach to learning. The system tells you what you need to learn, but doesn’t often tell you why.

But if you haven’t thought thoroughly about what you want to build with it, it all becomes pretty meaningless quickly. Coding is like learning any other language. It’s going to be tough once you realize that you’ve done a bunch of exercises but you have nothing to say.

You know that coding is the way to get a job, so you want to learn it.

Let’s say your top reason for wanting to learn code to get a job. You take the courses; you perform the exercises, but then what happens next? It’s a problem that colleges are starting to confront, too, when it comes to teaching in the classroom.

The question really should be, what do you want to build?

infographic chop dawg

The problem with learning a broad concept from the top and then down is that there is no additional context behind it. Without a more defined purpose, you’ll get lost in the weeds of the concepts, but be stuck afterward.

Why are schools like Cornell expanding their initiatives for active problem-solving in the classroom? It’s because without bringing additional context into your learning, you won’t be solving anything. If you come up with the problem that you want to address first by that is something more specific than you just wanting to learn for the extrinsic motivation of knowing more, you can then forge your self-determined path.

Here are the steps to actively learning something new:

Come up with an idea.

How can you build off that idea? Create a destination point. For example, if you want to learn how to make an app, define what the app is.

Talk to someone who is knowledgeable in the space. If you are in college, take advantage of office hours! If not, start forming your conversations around ideas that you have rather than discussing the minutiae of your social lives. You never know who your friends know and where they can make an introduction! Take advantage of online forums like Reddit.

Once you’ve talked to the experts, you can begin to map out how to get to the destination.

You now need to learn how to connect each point on your learning track. The “learning track” is where you connect each goal you need to accomplish to what you need to learn to get it done. Keep repeating this process as you’re executing on what you want to build. You shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture, but you can learn and do at the same time. You’ll retain much more knowledge that way and have something to show for it!!

Let me know your goals, and I can help you forge ahead and build a learning track:

The best way to first learn is to find out what’s out even out there. That comes from a good, old-fashioned dialogue. Send me an email at mason@chopdawg.com and ask me anything!

The post The Key to Learning is to Have an Active Mindset & Do Something appeared first on Startup Digest Blog.

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