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Stop Asking; Learn by Doing

We often get trapped into the "ask first" mindset. Not intentionally. We almost instinctively forget that we could actually try first -- actually to do the thing we were to about to ask. Instead of asking, do. Learn by doing, get your hands dirty, then ask questions if you get stuck.

What I mean by "stop asking."

When I say "stop asking," I mean that people are inclined to ask questions without ever attempting to do the task on their own.

In contrast, this is to "learn by doing," where a person does the job independently and learns from the process. Often, asking a question can be very quick, while learning something from experience can take longer.

This is especially true for simple tasks like finding what time a restaurant opens. Instead of searching Google, finding the restaurant listing, and verifying the hours -- they'll ask in a Facebook group if someone knows. 

While it is quick to post the question, it could take hours (or more) before someone answers -- if anyone answers at all. In contrast, if they just searched Google, found a website for their restaurant, and looked at the hours -- it could take no longer than a couple of minutes (depending on how familiar they are with Google).

You have to get out of the "ask first" mindset because not only are you wasting your time; you also could be wasting others' time.

Moreover, if you are looking to solve a problem or find a solution, your time could be better spent learning the practical skills for solving that problem yourself.

I find this interesting from James Clear:

"The state of your life right now is a result of the habits and beliefs that you have been practicing each day. When you realize this and begin to direct your focus toward practicing better habits day-in and day-out, continual progress will be the logical outcome. It is not the things we learn nor the dreams we envision that determine our results, but rather that habits that we practice each day." (jamesclear.com)

Do things; test your theories

The next time you're about to ask a question in a public forum, stop and ask yourself a simple question: Can I try to do it on my own first?

Assuming the answer is yes, stop asking and do it. Test your theories. Think about the question you were about to ask and think how you may solve it with a little research. 

For example, let's say you want to update your WordPress website with a new theme to improve its attractiveness and maybe make more sales. Let's even say you have picked a cool theme, but it costs $39. 

Instead of running to a forum and asking, "Hey, what do you think of this theme before I pay for it?" why don't you pay for it, test it, and learn all about it? Besides the $39 price and some time, what have you got to lose?

🚀 Got a second? Because I'm curious -- as someone interested in learning by doing, what would you search for in Google to learn more about it?

My point is you should actually do the thing it is you're about to ask. Or experiment with the things you're about to try. Don't just ask someone if it works.

That's skipping the learning part. Google it, follow what you find, research it, and then put yourself into action to do it.

Instead of asking, "Hey, what does this setting do," change the setting and see what it affects. Instead of asking, "do you think this template is good enough" build a website using that template, and find out for yourself.

Yes, even when it costs money to test

I know it can be daunting to pay for a service to test it, but that is precisely what I recommend. I realize you might not be in the financial situation to do this (which is the only real excuse) -- but if you can afford it -- buy it.

You can ask a thousand questions and review hundreds of feedback about something, but you won't know until you try it yourself. Only you know what you wanted from a product or service.

Why would asking strangers in a Facebook group somewhere be precisely what you needed to know if the product/service is a fit for you? 

Suppose you are really in a bind and cannot afford to do this -- at least Google as much as you can about it before asking questions. Informed questions are so much better than uninformed ones. You may find out that the service is not what you think it is, and all of your time wasted asking others for advice may have been for nothing.

If you're in the middle of testing something and run into problems, that's when you ask questions.

Ask if you need help during your tests

When you're in the middle of testing a product, service, or even a new restaurant -- this is when you can ask questions if you run into problems (or need some advice). 

Let's go back to the WordPress theme example. If you're halfway through updating your website but there is a pesky problem that you don't understand yet -- you should ask.

This is where a quick answer from someone with experience in the field could give you just the right information to get past your problem and continue learning from doing.

The critical point here is that you're right in the middle of doing what it is you're asking about. Not only will answers make more sense to you, but it will be easier for you to implement them. And you'll learn along the way.

Why does learning by doing work?

It works because you construct the knowledge in your brain. When you actually do something, using reason, deconstruction, and experimentation â€” the information will better be stored in memory. It becomes a part of who you are and what you know. 

Another fantastic benefit of learning by doing is you can connect the dots with your other experiences. In some ways, this is actually what creativity is. You'll learn to solve problems in ways others haven't thought of yet.

Pro tip: this is also why it is important to study other industries outside your own. Sometimes things are done differently across sectors, and you may find interesting ways to incorporate them into yours. More on this later.

Gain insights others might not know yet

Find meaningful tangents to your initial idea. For example, instead of just finding a new theme to put on your website, let's say you found a resource discussing how you might modify the code of an existing theme to achieve what you wanted.

You've now not only learned about the new theme but also how to hack a theme to make it your own. Maybe you're not a master at it right away, but you've started down the path of learning it. 

You were able to learn how because you actually did some testing and learned from it. You gained insights that many people aren't aware of yet. And this can help you continue to grow your skill-set in a direction many others may not be thinking about.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, try to connect your idea with other industries. What I mean is to try to see how your thought could be used for something else. This is where you might find a really great tangent that can take your idea in a new direction.

Actionable Takeaways

In closing, I want you to understand that this is about learning by doing. It is not about sitting for hours trying to find answers or answers in places like Quora.

You know the questions you have... now do the work. Find the solution for yourself in your way. Experiment and test your theories. Try changing things to see how it affects things. 

It's not about how fast you can find the answer, it's about how much you learn in the process of doing it. And if you find that you are not learning -- look for ways to change things up a bit. 

If all else fails, try asking. Just remember to do what you can on your own first.