Let me ask you a question – let’s say that you want to install a door in your house. With the internet these days, we can go on sites like YouTube or whatever and figure out how to install the door. You know that you will watch a carpenter say, “okay here’s the kind of door that you buy, here’s the kind of screws that you need to screw it in, here’s the kind of pins that you need to install the door.
You need to install it this way and get it leveled off.” They really give you step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do exactly what you’re wanting to do.
After watching that you may have a sense of, “I know how to install a door. Yeah, that doesn’t look hard whatsoever.” You get this false sense of confidence in yourself, you think, “yeah, that’s easy.”
Taking that back to something in IT, you can go to TechSnips.io (I highly recommended it), or Pluralsight or LinkedIn Learning or you know one of these other courses and watch somebody install some software, set up a DevOps pipeline or something or do anything like that, if I figure I’ll learn this skill on how to do it, you go through the course and just simply watch the video.
You don’t have another monitor on the side and follow along trying to build the project that their working on, you just watch it and think, “yeah, I don’t have to build that product. I don’t have to do this because it’s obvious. Look, you do this. Okay, he did that. Yeah, I’ll remember that now.”
It's like whenever you think that you’re going to remember things, but you never do. That’s why they say to write everything down and so you think about it, capture ideas. It’s a big productivity thing that I do where I have an inbox where I recapture ideas. It’s kind of generally the same concept to where you think you see it.
You see somebody physically do what you’re wanting to do, and you think you’ll remember it, but it never happens. It helps you get a shortcut; a head start on learning it but by far and away you do not learn it because just the fact of taking action and following along step-by-step exactly what they’re doing because chances are your environment is not going to be the same as their environment exactly. It never works, so you’re going to have to come up with decisions to make on the fly.
It is Never Exactly the Same as Yours
Okay, let’s say you’re installing the door for example and the guy says to lift the door up here and install it. And, let’s say that guy’s installing some screen door and you had this big-ass oak door or something and you think okay, I can’t exactly pick up the door because it’s not exactly the same.
Well now you need to have somebody else, so you need to improvise a little bit. That’s exactly the same way it happens on every video you watch, every course you watch, it’s never going to be exactly the same as yours.
Just the fact of going through step-by-step seeing the result of the actions that you take on the screen and seeing what happens, maybe there’s some kind of error in the product that you’re working on. You have to kind of get around that or anything could possibly happen. The point is you have to do the thing until you actually learn it.
The difference between a certification exam and actual skills and experience (I don’t want to knock on any certification because I know some of you really like your certs) is a cert you could probably just watch it, take some notes, ‘when this happens to choose A, when this happens to choose B’, it’s rote memorization. However, when you’re learning a skill and you’re trying to get experience it’s never going to be exactly that easy. You’re not going to go back to your notebook and think, “if that happens I should push this one.” If you push it, let’s say you accidentally added some bug in the software that they are working on that caused something unexpected to fail or the site that you wanted to access is down or it could be anything.
NPR's Hidden Brain Podcast
Again, the point is I really wanted to stress this so much because I recently listened to a podcast, NPR Hidden Brain, and it was all about just this topic of people are getting falsely confident and what they can do when they just watch a video.
I would love you to watch all of my courses and all of my videos and go to TechSnips.io, sign up as a contributor and author and watch these courses but that’s the difference between being a TechSnips contributor or a Pluralsight author or a LinkedIn Learning author or someone that just goes onto YouTube and decide to show their knowledge or blog about something.
The Difference Between Producer and Consumer
There’s a difference between the producer and the consumer here. When you’re just a consumer of the information you learn but you don’t fully comprehend what you’re doing until you actually do it. That is one of the big things that I constantly preach about that I have learned so much over my career because I’m typically a doer.
I cannot watch a course or video and just sit there and watch. It’s just my personality, I can’t do it, I get bored, my attention span goes crazy. I mean, I constantly have to just go do something. I learn something really quick and then I just go try to do it myself because I need that good feedback, that real feedback.
I think that attitude has really helped me a lot and if you get started training others instead of just consuming because even if you want to learn something default first. It may sound counterintuitive, but you should default first to teaching it. There’s a lot of different ways you can go here to learn a new skill or concept but let’s say that you want to learn Azure Virtual Machines.
So, let’s say that you want to learn how to manage Azure Virtual Machines. There is plenty of courses, plenty of videos out there that tell you how to manage virtual machines and you go to these videos and watch them.
Okay, here’s the videos, here’s the portal, here you click on this, then you click on this. Well, you may not know that I know, in the cloud world things constantly change all the time, the portals constantly change, by the time you even watch it, you may not even have the same menu buttons to click on. You’re not a robot, we’re not robots that say click this, click this. If that’s the case somebody like me will just go ahead and automate it. Anyway, what I’m getting at is default to teaching when you want to learn.
Teach to Learn
You can either teach something that you just have tons and tons of experience about and that’s awesome. You will be able to help all kinds of people and I highly recommend that, but you can also teach to learn.
Now this is more difficult because obviously you have to know enough to teach but what I’m talking about here is that whenever you approach the subject of let’s say managing Azure Virtual Machines and you want to learn about this, well first off you come up with a course or an outline or some kind of high-level topics that you want to learn. Say, “Okay, I want to learn how do I provision a virtual machine with these characteristics. Okay, how do I set up failover clusters or availability set or something like this? I want to learn all these things.”
Then, you set a commitment to somebody else or even to yourself and say, “okay, I’m going to deliver this course on this, this, and this.” To deliver the course your ultimate goal would be to teach it, however, obviously, you are going to have to learn that skill or topic before you can teach it. Inherently learn it, you don’t set up the goal saying I want to learn this, you set up the goal of I want to teach this topic and then through that process, you’ll automatically learn it.
If you can teach it, you pretty much know what you’re talking about. I’m sure there’s going to be some nuances here and there and this really takes a lot of practice to be able to figure out the level you need to learn to teach it. I hope you kind of get the point there.
You can set up the goal of teaching and delivering something, blogging, doing a video, writing an article, just the fact of you explaining yourself be it text or I find it easier to explain myself via a video or screencast because just the act of you saying something and hearing yourself back, it helps out tremendously if you want to learn something.
Just like if you were talking to somebody about rubber ducky debugging (I think it’s called), it’s where a developer will set up a rubber ducky or something and just talk to it, talk to the problems and they can automatically figure out what the solution is. Just the fact of audibly hearing yourself really helps out quite a bit.
So, that’s today’s talk. NPR’s Hidden Brain episode inspired me of how we feel so falsely confident and I think that’s by far and away from true in the tech world where we watch videos constantly. We think we’re awesome, we’re an expert.
I don’t need to do that, it’s just a waste of time and in reality, you just have this total false confidence in your abilities and when it finally comes down to you proving those abilities you’re going to be sadly mistaken and soon figure out that you really don’t know what you’re talking about until you actually experience it.