A good strategy for learning difficult subjects
Some things are just difficult to study. They contain complicated facts that are confusing to the uninitiated. Having to learn such things can be a very frustrating experience!
What's the best strategy to cope?
During my time, I've studied some very complex subjects - advanced mathematics, economics, and computer science. In the beginning, all of these seemed baffling to me. I wondered if I'd ever really understand them. But I struggled through and now comprehend them quite well.
How did I do it?
The brain is an amazing thing. Over my years of learning, I've found the best way to make things stick is to simply expose yourself as much as possible to the subject. Even if you think you understand so little, that the whole exercise is pointless, your brain will be storing away facts for later.
Read a book on the subject, even if it makes no sense to you at all while you're doing it. Don't bother too much with trying to memorize everything, instead just concentrate on getting through the book as quickly as possible. This can be very frustrating, and your emotions may well tell you to give up, but persist because the reward will be worth it.
What you are doing when you first expose yourself to a topic is building up a framework for how everything fits together in your mind. Focus on the big picture, rather than getting bogged down in the details. By the time you've gone through a book or two on the subject, such a framework should be well formed, even if it's short on detail.
What I often find is that my brain needs a certain amount of time to let things sink in. I'll read a book on something, and find it totally confusing. But afterwards, my subconscious will be turning over this new information - prodding it and searching it. After a night's sleep or two, I often surprise myself with how much I have understood on the subject - even if I felt frustrated and ignorant during the actual learning process.
Once I've formed this framework in my mind - then I start to fill in the gaps by examining the detail of the subject more closely. Often, I'll choose another book on the subject to do this, as it will provide me with a fresh way of looking at the information. It is during this stage that I'll make an effort to carefully understand what I'm reading. I will also try to memorize important facts. This is much easier at this stage, because I've already built up a framework on the subject, and I better understand where things should fit into that framework.
After I've gone through these two distinct phases of learning about a subject, I usually comprehend it quite well.
This strategy has worked brilliantly for me on many occasions, and I'm sure it will for you too.
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