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How to Enjoy What You Are Doing No Matter What

How to Enjoy What You Are Doing No Matter What

Ideally, we can choose to always do what we love without ever needing to think about the things we don’t like. That, unfortunately, is not the case in real world. There are times when we need to do something we don’t like.

Just think of the time when you were in school or college. While there were some modules you liked, there were usually also some modules you didn’t like. But you needed to work your way through all of them, not just the ones you liked.

Here is what Joel Spolsky wrote in Advice for Computer Science College Students regarding what he – as recruiter – looks for in resumes:

I’m going to look for consistently high grades, not just high grades in computer science. Why should I, as an employer looking for software developers, care about what grade you got in European History? After all, history is boring. Oh, so, you’re saying I should hire you because you don’t work very hard when the work is boring? Well, there’s boring stuff in programming, too. Every job has its boring moments. And I don’t want to hire people that only want to do the fun stuff.

As you can see, the ability to do well on things you don’t like is essential for success. It makes you perform consistently well no matter what. Such consistent performance will make you stand out among your peers.

Of course, we still need to motivate ourselves. We are more likely to perform well if we enjoy the process. While this might not be easy, here are some tips to help you enjoy what you are doing no matter what:

1. Look at the long-term benefit

Often, we need to do something we don’t like as a part of something larger which will give us big benefit in the future. For example, we take the modules we don’t like in college because it will eventually earn us a degree that gives us the opportunity to get a good job. It is unlikely that we need to do something we don’t like if there is no long-term benefit involved. By looking at the long-term benefit you will eventually acquire, the activity won’t look as bad as it is.

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2. Find what you can learn from it

I believe there is always something we can learn from every experience. If we can’t find one, that’s maybe just because we are too focused on the negative side rather than the positive. For example, European History which Joel talked about may help us learn from thousands of years of experiences so that we do not need to repeat the same mistakes people did. Besides, it can give us more potential common ground to connect with new people (especially with those who like history). If you really can’t find any, at least the experience teaches you to be persistent in any situation. That’s a valuable lesson in itself.

3. Think of doing it for someone you love

Love is a strong source of motivation. If you do something for someone you love, it’s very likely that you can stand even the most boring activity and even enjoy the process. So keep in mind that you do not do this for yourself, but for someone you love.

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4. Enjoy the interaction with the people

Your source of fun and enjoyment is not just the activity, but also the interaction with the people there. While the activity itself might not be very exciting, there might be a lot of rich experiences you can get from the interaction with the people. That’s also one reason to enjoy what you are doing.

5. Think and say something positive

If you keep thinking or saying that you don’t like an activity, there is no way you can enjoy it. Always think and say something positive. The points above helps you find positive things you can think and say about. You may think of the long-term benefit you will get, or the nice interaction you have with the people. Focus on these positive things; don’t ever think or say something negative..

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6. Gather with passionate people

While you may not always have the luxury to choose who you work with, whenever possible you should choose to gather with positive people. Choose the people who you know are passionate about the activity. Their passion would be contagious. They will give you the energy to stay positive and even enjoy what you are doing.

Donald Latumahina is an avid learner who blogs regularly about personal growth and effectiveness. Read his articles on 15 Tips to Stay Positive in Negative Situations, and 10 Ways to Increase Your Arbitrage Power.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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