Okay, I lied. I didn’t write another post last month. Sorry for lying. I had an idea for a post but I don’t remember it now. It must not have been–never mind, I remember. I’ll post it later this month.

I was recently (like this morning, in the shower) thinking about how I learn how to do new things. I’ve been going through a phase where I’ve been constantly trying to improve my current skills and learn new ones. Improving old skills has basically been a period of grinding: repeated trials, self-observation and minor tweaking. Most of us do this without thinking about it; you get better at cooking, cleaning, driving, speaking, whatever. Just by doing those things.

But picking up a new skill doesn’t come around as often as you’d think. When was the last time you tried something new? If it was recent, think about how good you are at that thing and how much better you could be at it. How much time did you spend at getting as good as you are? If you spent more time doing it, how much better can you get, and how fast?

In my last few months in this phase, I’ve learned that the easiest way to start learning something is by comparing it to something you already know. For example, I’ve learned how to play about 10 new board games in the past few months, but I’ve had the benefit of being able to compare each new board game with one that I already know. The best name I’ve come up with for naming this process is “metaphorical learning” (admittedly, I didn’t try very hard to come up with a name).

What if I want to learn something in a completely new area? What if I want to learn to cook beef stroganoff without any prior knowledge of cooking (which is basically me right now)? I Well, I think there’s still some metaphorical learning to be done. The execution of any skill is a process, and each part of a process can be compared with another process of a skill you may already know.

So if you’re ever having trouble learning to do something new, try to think of how it can relate to something else you know. It’ll make the learning process a whole lot easier.