When learning a new tech skill, letting go of your need to learn everything is more challenging than figuring out the vital 20% that you'll use most of the time. This can be a tough pill to swallow for highly ambitious folks who are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.
It's important to realize that you’re always going to feel like you’re ignoring something…because you are.
So how do you truly become okay with not knowing everything?
RAPID learning and PERMANENT retention is possible when you focus only on the vital skills you’ll use most OFTEN.
I spent over a $1,000 on a digital SLR camera, convinced that it would help me take better pictures and record quality video for my business. I even took a half-day photography class to learn how to use all these fancy features on my camera.
The class was so overwhelming. We spent a few hours in a classroom learning and then another couple hours outside “applying what we learned.” I remember changing settings on my camera that resulted in horrible-looking pictures but then being unsure of what setting to change to fix it.
After class I still struggled to make sense of it all (even after re-reading my notes), so I eventually resorted to using the camera's auto feature. Eventually I started using my smartphone's built-in camera to take pictures and record video.
If I had taken the 80/20 approach to learning how to use my digital SLR camera, I would have established the types of photos and videos I wanted to shoot and then practiced the skills I needed to know in order to produce quality results. There would have been less to learn making it easier to retain and apply.
And I'd be really good at it by now. 🙁
3 Considerations When You Don't Want to Let Go of the 80
I once read a statistic that only 20% of a phone’s services and features are used regularly and up to a quarter remain completely undiscovered (source). On the other hand I also read that 94% of folks had some serious negative emotions – panicked 73%, desperate 14%, and sick 7% – when they lost their phones (source).
When I first read these statistics, they seemed to be at odds with each other (why would these folks have such negative feelings when they barely use the features and services of their phones?). When I though about it deeper (and what really influenced how I structured my tech classes) was the realization of a deeper issue: bloatware.
Bloatware usually occurs as a result of feature creep. Because software is traditionally redesigned on a yearly basis, many developers feel the need to add additional functionality in order to entice users into upgrading the existing software. Unfortunately, the added features increase the size of the program and the system requirements needed to run it smoothly, eventually forcing the user to upgrade in order to run the latest software.
In essence, these developers create technology that is filled with features and services that we'll never use. We get entranced by these new features and continue to upgrade in order to use them. But in reality, we are still only going to use about 20% of the features anyway.
So it’s obviously not knowing everything that makes a given technology invaluable. Remember these things whenever you feel tempted to learn more than is necessary:
- Always focus on practicality. If a skill is not going to improve the quality of your life or make something that you do a lot easier to handle, it doesn't make sense to learn it.
- Refer back to your target performance level. If the sub-skill doesn't contribute to your desired performance, it doesn't belong on your list.
- Master the vital. Once you're a master of what you'll be using most often, and you're still itching to learn more, you have my permission to to to your bench of sub-skills and learn more (old habits die hard).
Hopefully once you master the important, the urge to focus on what you’re missing will be gone.