Day 7 of the 40-Day Challenge

In the name of Allah, most gracious and most merciful,

Thanks to Allah I have managed to succeed on the seventh day of the 40-day challenge. Although I faced a big problem with engagement with what I was attending today, I analyzed the problem and came up with a detailed plan to solve it. In this post, I will share the challenge I faced, how I planned to overcome it, the key takeaways from these things, and some useful information that I learned.

1. The Challenge

Today I was also in an online virtual training like the one I took yesterday. It was 8 hours long as well. It is not part of my work but it is also preparing me for the exam I intend to enter in about two months. The big challenge today was that I didn’t prepare the content that the instructor was explaining. He just showed us how to use the technology, and gave us a brief overview of the theories behind the technologies but still, this isn’t enough for us to grasp the information. We need more hands-on practice, and to understand the theory to a level that will make using the technology easy and to understand what we are doing.

I tried to engage throughout the online training, I asked questions in the chat, I took notes on one side of my screen and the webinar was on the other side. It started really well as yesterday, but the more time passes the more the instructor explains details that I think need me to have familiarity with some concepts before understanding it well. As time went by I became nearly totally disengaged but I was thinking about how could I understand all this, and now I am in a problem that I should solve.

From what I know that learning is up to you. Don’t expect any course, training, or any book to spoon-feed you with the information and practice you need. I see courses and training especially as just a guide for you. They are pointing out to you where you should go, and I mostly see them not so efficient if I used them as my only source since they are just a guide. Another thing it is also good to have more than one resource so that if some resource didn’t explain something well enough for you to understand then you should have another accredited resource to learn from to fill the gaps.

I am with the idea to have one major resource and to fill gaps from other resources like books, articles, blogs, papers, courses, and so on. When you stick to one good resource even if you didn’t understand all of it (which is usually the case and that is normal) then you will get a good big picture, and you should at least understand what the author wants you to know. Don’t expect to understand everything in a book. If you understood everything then that could be a sign that this book is lower than your level so you should go for another more advanced book, and if the book is so difficult that you merely understand nothing then that is another sign that the book’s level is way above your level. The right book is the one from which you understand may be from 40% up to 90%, and you can even read the same book more than once because your first read is not at all like your second one. You won’t realize what you have missed until you grow and see what you have missed, but believe me that you usually miss something from books that are close to your level. Therefore, reading a book or taking a course that is challenging but still, you could make it through is great. You are challenging yourself, learning, and growing. Easy come easy go.

Given what I have just said, I know that I should ask more about this exam. What is expected from me to know, and so on? When I asked the instructor that although I was reading a book that was preparing for the exam, I didn’t understand anything. I told him that I want not satisfied with my level of understanding since I feel it is superficial. One of my attitudes in learning is that I love to enter into depths, and details and I couldn’t withstand superficial understanding. It is kind of I am a more research-oriented person, and I know this. Then the instructor told me that probably I need to read something that talks about the theories themselves, and not just how to use the technology with a small overview of the theory. The exam tests how you apply technology using the theory so it needs both definitely, but maybe it is not too focused on the theory since it is not an academic exam.

So while I was disengaged from the session, I kept searching online on how to prepare for the exam. I know that I should concentrate in the session but I really felt that I am missing critical things. I just couldn’t catch what the instructor was saying, but I knew that I will try to find a solution since this is not the first problem, I fall in. I try to always search how could I solve my problems whatever difficulties I might encounter because if you thought about it a lot of life is “about solving problems”. Even products and services exist to solve problems, and some of them are for luxuries, and indulgence as well. But anyway, I think you got the idea. Sorry for digressing. So now let us see how could I solve that big problem.

2. The Proposed Solution

After taking the word from the instructor that I want to have a book for example that teaches me the theory, I kept searching for good books until I found someone that is medium in size and really good. I read its first chapter, and his style was really simple. It is just exactly what I want. He intended to give anyone the gist behind the technology without complex technical terms, and that’s what I need. Although I love entering into details, I know that I couldn’t know everything, and this exam is upskilling for using some technologies and it is not my main specialty. It is kind of increasing my breadth of knowledge while acquiring a useful in-demand skill. So I just want to understand how things work without entering into the nitty-gritty details.

Do you remember the plan I mentioned in the Day 2 of the 40-Day Challenge? Well, it should be edited because I was updated with new information from people working in the field, I mean the instructor during the training. So, I don’t have to stick to this same plan for one week as I have previously committed because the new information is very valuable, and should not be dismissed. That is flexibility and not a lack of commitment. Insisting on something although you have new information that could dramatically change how you approach things isn’t commitment but I think it is unnecessary stubbornness that won’t necessarily give you good results.

Ok. So let us put another plan using the updated new information. Let us list the resources I found until now and their usefulness:

  1. The book I found that explains theory in good details: It will make me understand the technology I want to learn better, and to perform better in the exam.
  2. The book I mentioned in my previous plan: It is dedicated for the exam, and even includes sample questions, and links to hands-on labs.
  3. The course I mentioned in my previous plan: Its hands-on parts are very useful for preparing for the exam, but its other slides just give me the points I need to focus on remembering in the exam, and brief overview of the theory but really too shallow.
  4. Labs and Workshops: They are found on the technology provider’s website, and some links of them are also found in the book in the previous bullet point.
  5. Training Slides: The slides we were given during yesterday’s training. They also give me a brief overview but very well prepared but of course won’t give me in-depth knowledge.

Ok. Great. Let me list now what I need to pass the exam:

  1. A good but not in-depth understand of the theories behind the technology
  2. How to use the technology in real-case scenarios
  3. How to choose the right service of the technology for the real case scenario

Ok. Not bad analysis, but now what should I do at the end of the day? Well, now I will put the plan based on what I understand about how the brain works, and how to incorporate good learning habits and strategies in my plan. J will state the principle then what I will do to apply it using the available resources:

  1. Go straight ahead, and make your hands dirty. Although you won’t understand everything but you will ask the right question when you go to understand the details thus making learning faster, more engaging, and more enjoyable. So finish the hands-on course first.
  2. But how to apply something I don’t fully understand? The course information is too shallow. Well, in parallel with the course read the training’s slides during the appropriate course section. Although you won’t still understand everything but at least you will get more shallow information from different resources, which is more useful than just one shallow information source. This will make the hands-on lab easier, and makes more sense.
  3. I agree with you, but where are the theories. I told you that I lack a lot of core information. Ok, just make a daily habit of reading part of the theoretical easy to understand book. Everyday, read part of the book while highlighting good sections. Although highlighting isn’t proof of any real understanding but I think that will be enough for me, and any way I am practicing by hand. And I don’ t have time for real grasp of all theoretical information. That is the level I want, and I will be satisfied but knowing that anyway I will practice so there is some compensation here I think.

So in summary my plan is to take the course while reading the training’s slides, and every day read part of the theoretical book. But what after this?

I will suppose that I will push myself, and finish the course and the slides early before the exam. Now comes the second preparation phase. If you have time, do the following:

  1. Replace the finished course with the book that prepares you for the exam which includes sample exam questions. Now I am getting closer to the exam, and I should prepare from the questions themselves directly since the exam is multiple choice questions (MCQ), and not hands-on. Multiple Exposure.
  2. Take the hands-on from the same book’s links to practice again, and continue making your hands dirty. Again, more practice.
  3. Continue with the technical book.

And that’s it. I am still not sure of this plan’s usefulness but I should stick with it for at least one week, and see the results.

But now let’s review. I planned to understand the theories in parallel with the hands-on practice. I intend to initially be guided in hands-on from a course, then from labs and workshops. The theory will be shallowly covered in the course and slides. And of course, the more in-depth theory will be from the theoretical book that I intend to learn from in parallel. Then after this, I will try to see more sample questions and answers for the exam from the exam preparation’s book since I am getting closer to the exam, and I should be familiar with the style of the questions.

I think now this is a good plan, and again I will test and see its usefulness this week, and then see if I could do any modifications or if following the plan is yielding good results.

3. Key Takeaways

  • Don’t expect that a book, course, or training will teach you all you need. Although you should be guided by them especially by experts if possible, learning is up to you. No one will pour information in your head.
  • Ask instructors and experts about whether your learning approach is right or wrong. Ask them how they learned. Tell them your problems, and pay attention to their pieces of advice.
  • If you face difficulties, see them as opportunities to learn and think critically how to surpass them, and solve them effectively and efficiently.
  • Make your hands-dirty and start by doing what you eventually want to do. Step by step you will ask better questions, and go to find them while being engaged from the beginning of the learning journey through real-world hands-on practice.
  • Don’t dismiss theories. Theories are important, and they don’t change as rapidly as technologies. Theories usually stay long, and they are a very good investment in your career and work. But technologies change too fast. So move in parallel with both, but don’t dismiss the foundations or theories. With no foundations, don’t expect that a tool will solve your problem. There is no substitute for thinking.
  • If you could, read the book more than once. Multiple exposure is critical to learning. But take notes, and review them using what is called spaced repetition for information to move from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. Long-term memory information is the most useful since they are the information that you recall when you need them. They are right up in your head, and they are indication of true learning.
  • Do many hands-on practice as well since practice is what makes you acquire skills, and employers wants both theory and skills but they usually favor the skills more than theories. Theories are more preferred in research centers, and universities but in industry they want to make money so they want someone who has the skills to do the job.
  • Choose the right resources to learn from. Not too difficult, and not too easy. Pick something close to your level to help you in challenging yourself to grow.

4. Useful Pieces of Information

  • Make the useful things easier for you to do them. If you want to exercise then put your running shoes, or your exercise suits very close to you so in the morning if you want to exercise in the morning. Reduce the resistance by taking 30 seconds to make the habit is easier for you. But the book next to your bed to read before sleeping. Don’t buy sweets to not eat them. Make your environment encouraging to building good habits by preparing your environment in advance.
  • It is easier said than done. Start by doing, and figure out later. Immerse yourself then ask questions, and make your learning engaging.
  • You may say that you first believe you want to do something (can do), then you want to do it, and finally go and do it. But if you want better results. Start by doing it, then you will want to do it. Motivation comes after taking action, and don’t wait for it to come first.
  • Work like an accountant, and think like an artist. Emotions could be highly variable, and success needs consistency. So, if you only work when you feel like it you won’t be consistent so you won’t succeed. But if you worked no matter how you feel, you will be consistent, and hopefully you will succeed.
  • Three tests to know yourself more. These are taken from The Happiness Equation book:
    1. Ask yourself what you do when you are idle? (i.e. when you have nothing to do)
    2. The Benchmark test: Put yourself in the environment you want to be in, and see how you react to it. That is your authentic self, and that will help you know if this environment is suitable to you or not.
    3. The 5 people you test: You are the average of the five people you hang out with. How you think, what you eat, your leadership skills, and so on in many other traits. Tell me who are your friends, and I will tell you who you are.

Finally

Thank you. I hope this post has been beneficial to you. I would appreciate any comments if anyone needed more clarifications or if anyone has seen something wrong in what I have written in order to modify it, and I would also appreciate any possible enhancements or suggestions. We are humans, and errors are expected from us, but we could also minimize those errors by learning from our mistakes and by seeking to improve what we do.

Allah bless our master Muhammad and his family.

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