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Boudewijn de Roode Delta TU Delft

Calling someone a fast learner implies that the ability to acquire a skill or information is a given trait, says Delta columnist Boudewijn de Roode.

‘It’s never too late to learn’. I know for a fact that this does not mean that unwrapping your textbook for the first time a week before the exam is not too late, because it is. You’re better off barely following the curriculum than thinking you’re able to do it at the eleventh hour.

When thinking of a fast learner, what comes to mind is that girl in class who got good grades while seeming to barely work any harder than the rest. But calling someone a fast learner is actually selling them and, by extension, yourself short. Because it implies that the ability to acquire a skill or information is simply a given trait, so there is no credit in having it nor reason in pursuing it. Outside the fact that aptitude for specific skills is to some degree inherited, the ability to learn is one that applies to all skills and should be honed by definition.

Make more mistakes, practice makes perfect

Entire books have been written on training and using your memory efficiently. The endless waxing on and off may teach you a certain karate move, but learning in general goes beyond this. Have you ever lain in bed and had a revelation about a subject you read hours ago?
This is actually typical. Apparently the brain works on two levels. It consciously acquires new information, but it ‘connects the dots’ in the subconscious.This is also why it’s ineffective to endlessly stare at a problem you’re stuck on. You have more chance solving the problem by not trying to.
So that girl in class actually did learn much more with little effort. Finally, open your mind to how your brain works. It took me years to figure out how to work with mine and it still feels like I have a long way to go. I am a massive scatterbrain and have a very short attention span. As a result, I now meticulously note what I have to do, cross out what is done and take note how I did it.
Only recently did I realise that I actually learn like a toddler: I have to be told something several times. I could read twice not to put my fingers in a wall outlet, but until the current actually flows through my nerves the message simply won’t get through. In the end it comes down to consciously undergoing what life throws at you. Make more mistakes, practice makes perfect.

Boudewijn de Roode was bachelor student mechanical engineering and is currently working as a project engineer. 

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