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@DanielOaks DanielOaks/motivation.md
Last active Jul 17, 2018

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What would you like to do?

How to stay motivated and constantly learn new things

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How do I stay motivated when life sucks?

Everyone's life sucks sometimes. It's a long, hard slog of good times and bad.

When those bad times come, it's really easy to tell yourself that everyone else is going well. You see everything flowing by on Twitter, Facebook or maybe even just day-to-day in life. Nothing is crumbling, nothing's falling down, but your life is.

When things get like that, it's really hard to convince yourself to keep going. That it's worth doing things like learning new stuff, like practicing skills, and even like working in general.

Personally, when things get like that... I just have to try my best. Accept that sometimes, stuff sucks, and just move day-to-day. Try to do the most useful stuff I can – even if the most useful thing I can do that day is take a few steps outside my front door.

Learning what motivates you is a really big part of being able to convince yourself to keep going.

One of my big motivations is building stuff – software, websites, a piece of art, a decent story, even something physical now and then. As well as that, maintaining my relationships with my close friends. When life really sucks, I... focus on those. I try to poke and prod at my sketchpad, I add or change a few lines of code on one of my projects, or I just reach out to my bestie and ask "hey, what's up?".

It's absolutely not a magical solution, but having a good idea of what really gets you going helps you aim in decent directions. I like to think about this: "What stuff do I feel good after doing?" Those are probably things that motivate me. I like putting on some music and dancing around like a spaz, and I like making up a decent meal with some veggies now and then (when I can be bothered). Those are also things I can do when I'm having a bit of a down day to at least help me feel a bit better in the moment.

I also have some idea of what gets me going in the other direction. If I sit still and don't get anything done, I feel like a bit of a failure. I feel sorta worthless. So I try to avoid doing that. But hell, I know how things can get sometimes, so if sitting still and just letting the day go by is the only thing that gets me through for now, I can take it and justify it reasonably to myself.

Keeping motivated is hard. For everyone, really. If things feel down, they might feel better tomorrow. They might not. When you're in the good times, working out what makes you happy or excited might help you when you're in the not-so-good times. At least, it does for me, and hopefully does for you as well.

How do I learn a new skill?

Learning something new is difficult. Here's the some things that make it especially difficult:

  • To learn something new, you need to accept that you aren't good at it (yet).
  • Keeping yourself motivated at something when you can see you suck at it is hard.

Let's go through that first point, the one around you not being good at whatever you're trying to learn.

Protip: You suck. Specifically, you suck at whatever thing you're trying to learn. No, really. You're just getting started trying to draw? Draw me an owl. Yeah, it looks bad, doesn't it?

Of course it does. You've never drawn a damn owl before, or skated in an ice rink, or written a story, or fluently spoken whatever language you're trying to learn.

Here's another protip: Everyone you respect for being competent at something has really sucked at that thing. For ages.

All of the artists you look up to fucking sucked at drawing for years. All of the athletes you look up to absolutely sucked at sports for ages, and all the writers you love to read have a mountain of work they would love to set on fire and forget about.

If you're gonna become really good at something, prepare to suck at it for a long time. Years, if you wanna become really good. You're gonna look at your skills and go "How in the hell did I draw this piece of trash?" or "Why can't I even remember the word for LEFT?!".

Stick with it. Keep drawing those crap drawings, keep writing those crap stories, keep practicing that language you can barely write or speak. Because y'know what, one day you'll look at a drawing you do and think to yourself "Hey... that's not as bad as I expected".

There's zero shame to sucking at something. If you like to draw, then damn go and draw. If you like exercising, then damn go exercise. If you're bad at it, who bloody-well cares. You keep at it, for a long while, and over time you get less bad at it. If someone wants to make fun of you for sucking at a thing today, you'll show them a while down the line when you're good at it. Or hell, when you move onto something else and get good at that thing instead.

If anyone says they have a way to make you good at something in a week or a month, they're lying. Either what they're teaching you is really specific, or they're only teaching you a very small part of it. To build decent skills, you need to keep at it for a long while.

Let's go onto the second point: Staying motivated.

So, you're not good at drawing, or writing, or speaking whatever language it is. You know that you're not good at it. Even if I wasn't telling you this, you'd look at yourself doing it later and think God I'm no good at this.

You need to find a way to keep yourself motivated. Because if you're just learning to draw, then doing the traditional artistry thing everyone says and drawing a thousand circles, or a thousand cubes, or doing drawing exercises every minute of the day is going to get you to stop. Hell, when I was first learning I dived headfirst into those same exercises and dropped it after a couple days.

If you look at young people trying stuff they like, you'll see that they suck at it, and they generally do a lot of stuff other people find weird. You look at young people trying to draw, they spend a lot of time drawing their favourite characters and not much else. You look at 'em writing and a lot of them sit around working on fanfiction all day.

Why do they focus on their favourite characters or fanfiction for their favourite shows? Well, because they like those things.

And sure, you can say that they're not learning enough because they're focusing on copying other peoples' drawings of characters or they're only writing fanfiction or whatever other excuses, but at the end of the day they're still drawing, or writing, or playing music or whatever else.

Personally, when drawing, I really like to draw characters from a couple of fairly-simple cartoons that a lot of other people would make fun of me for. I don't mind different types of drawing exercises as much as I used to, but they're still not why I like drawing. I like drawing because I want to draw cool cartoons.

So I draw cartoons. Until I'm happy and motivated enough to do those exercises and the things that help me improve. And then when I can feel myself getting to the point of giving up with those, I go straight back to drawing my cute cartoons.

When you're learning a new skill, trying to learn it in the fastest time possible isn't the best goal to have. Your goal should be to make sure you keep doing it, whatever it is, so that you keep getting better. And if that means focusing on writing fanfiction for your favourite shows, or only exercising while you listen to K-Pop, or whatever else, then do it. Keep yourself motivated, because otherwise you're gonna drop it even when you should really like doing whatever it is.

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