Study before you start

by Henrik Edberg

People say there are no quick fixes in personal development. From what I have experienced so far, I agree. However, there are easier and more effective ways to do something. One is this:

Before you begin a new project, read about it. Take some advice from people that know what they are doing and have already been where you are now. There are a number of advantages to doing this.

You’ll learn faster
You can shave a week or two or maybe even months off your learning curve when you learn from the mistakes and successes of successful people.

Fewer big mistakes
You’ll most likely experience a lot of mistakes and stumbles. But at least you can reduce the number of big, initial mistakes that can make you waste a lot of time. You can also learn what the most common mistakes are and what fundamental problems overall people run into. Knowing those fundamentals can make a big difference not just throughout a short-time project, but perhaps throughout the rest of your life.

Many common mistakes translates to different fields of interest so what you learned while constructing birdhouses might help you while trying to learn to cook. It might be such things as to follow the blueprint/recipe carefully and at first your birdhouses/meals might not look/taste that good.

Reduced uncertainty and fear
A part of the fear and the avoidance of doing something new comes from uncertainty of what will happen once you take action. When you know that others have gone before you, how they went about it, what mistakes and successful decisions they made and what you can expect that will make things a whole lot clearer. And with that clarity it will not only be easier to take the appropriate actions but it will also feel easier and less anxiety-inducing.

Opening up your mind to new possibilities
While studying you might open up your mind to new ways of doing things. Not just more effectively but also in a more fun and relaxed way. And you might find some totally unexpected and exciting possibilities.

How do you find what to study?
Amazon.com is a good starting point. Do some research about the books/audio programs/dvds before you buy. Check Amazon’s star-rating of the product. A 4-star rating or above usually means it’s a good product. Also read a couple of the reviews to get an overall picture of upsides/downsides with product.

You might also want to do a search on Google. I like to google for: the product name and forum. There is often a discussion somewhere about any reasonably popular product.

When browsing for tips on what to buy you’ll probably come across a couple of items people enthusiastically refer to again and again with. Classics within that area. For personal development for instance, such items would be books like “Think and grow rich” by Napoleon Hill and “How win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie.

Or, a for more recent example, Stephen Covey’s “The 7 habits of highly effective people”. Starting with highly respected and popular works is good because you, most often, get basic and high quality information. Also, if you’re strapped for cash, classics can often be found for free at your local library.

And later, when you find a couple of experts you like and respect, listen to what experts and thinkers they recommend. They really know where you can find excellent value and can be a superb filter.

What to read?
Besides dvds, audio-programs and books the internet is of course really useful.

Use forums for loads of good and free information about just about anything. Find a couple of authors that seems respected and are held in high regard (that doesn’t necessarily mean the ones with most posts) and read their posts. If people have the possibility to rate the forum-threads based on usability and such, try to sort the threads so you get the top rated threads in one nice collection to start your reading with.

Take the advice of more than one person. See what fundamentals people agree on. Read threads where there are a lot of posts (those threads are often interesting in one way or another). When you have read a bit, familiarised yourself with the forum and had your common beginner-questions answered then join the discussion. You might not only get some good advice but make new friends who are just as interested in underwater basket weaving as you.

And, of course, use Google or your favourite search-engine to find websites and blogs that are authorities on the subject. After you have browsed for a couple of hours and read a bit about your new interest you will find such sites pretty quickly. They are the ones that constantly gets mentioned everywhere, such as problogger.net for anyone who wants to start blogging.

This internet-stuff is free and that’s great. There are however a couple of advantages to paying (or using the library).

  • There is often less risk that the information is faulty, misleading or a timewaste if you buy a book. The quality has already been checked by numerous people before publishing.
  • You can take a book with you anywhere.
  • You get a lot of good and vital information in one or a couple of books. You don’t have to browse websites, blogs and forums for hours, days or weeks to find all those great little or big tips and advices.

Reality check
Reading before you begin might sound like nice advice in theory. But chances are that you’ll sometimes be too excited about this new thing, whatever it is, and can’t stop and plop down in a chair and study before you begin. For instance, how many actually read the manual before they start using their latest cool purchase?

If there isn’t a lot of investment (like money), then start right away. You can always study while you are taking your first steps. But start reading or listening or watching. It will most likely save you a lot of time , money and pain.

Read the follow-up, Don´t get stuck in reading.





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{ 3 comments }

Jeffrey Seely October 18, 2006 at 2:31 pm

Studying is key in many areas of personal growth.

One reason for this that I’d like to add is that our intuition is often wrong, and we need more reliable sources than our inexperienced selves.

Perfect example? Diet.

How many people you know make silly attempts at eating healthy? Out of intuition, they might skip breakfast (the most important meal, some experts tell us). Intuitively, they find it best to go gung-ho and try a

Henrik Edberg October 19, 2006 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for the comment Jeffrey (although it seems cut of…)
I totally agree, we cannot trust our inexperienced selves. I wrote a bit about that in Why you should not trust yourself too much

Jeffrey Seely October 19, 2006 at 2:26 pm

Strange how it was cut off :P

I think I wanted to say something like:

…Intuitively, they find it best to go gung-ho and try a 1000 calorie diet (which is a wasted effort since psychologically, we typically cannot handle that feat for too long. It’s unhealthy too).

I think it’s safer to study a bit first, ESPECIALLY with diet and nutrition. Our intuition says that protein and calcium (we’re basing our intuition off of TV milk ads…) are two of the most necessary nutrients. Open up a nutrition book based on scientific studies and you’ll hear plenty of speculation over protein and calcium.

If you’re interested, my two favorite nutrition books are Superfoods RX and Eat, Drink and Be Healthy — great, trustworthy guides for the layman.

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