Letters to My Nephews #2 – Learning to Learn – Extra Credits

dear Max and Dave four years in grade
school when I was right around your age
we had these exercises where they would
take us to the library and tell us to
research a topic or give us research
papers where we were supposed to find 17
sources and list them in our
bibliography but for me none of this
ever stuck no one ever really explained
why you needed 17 sources or why you
even needed two sources heck nobody ever
explained to me why we needed to
research at all games taught me
different there were lots of games that
I had read the Prima strategy guides for
or dug through Nintendo power to find
out about their secrets but when I got
to high school I started playing a game
called EverQuest now I spent far far too
much time playing this game of course
but as I played I realized that I could
play better level faster and get better
equipment if I didn’t just play the game
but studied it so night after night I
would pour over web pages comparing
leveling pads and investigating where to
get the best gear for my level I
probably spent half as much time looking
into the game as playing it because I
learnt that I could play twice as
effectively if I really learned what I
should do and besides this there was
something exciting to the learning too
just going out there and studying
something that I was interested in and
forever having knowledge that I didn’t
have before so I would go out with every
free minute I had and hunt down all the
information I could I would cross check
leveling guides bookmarked the gear I
wanted to acquire and filter out all the
bad and unreliable information that came
with those early days of the Internet
then one day I was given this massive
history report to do and as I started
looking into it
I felt so clever because I realized I
could use the same techniques to find
out everything I needed to know for this
paper I could do it quickly and
efficiently because I knew how to hunt
for this stuff unlike all of those who
didn’t spend their days researching
stuff and man I just attacked this thing
I dove into it thinking about how
quickly I was going to be able to rip
through this thing and still nail it
then I stopped I remember the exact
moment I had Soundgarden turned up to 12
it was so loud that I couldn’t even hear
my keystrokes despite the fact that I
was pounding away at my old gray
monochrome keyboard
on the windows 95 bucks in my folks
basement and there it hit me
this wasn’t like what I had been doing
forever quest it was the exact same
thing I had been doing forever quest
playing that game had taught me to
research to really research to
understand how to filter the sea of
knowledge that’s out there and come away
with what I need and it wasn’t just
EverQuest I did this all the time for
games I did it when I was trying to get
your sister all the pokemon and the very
first version of red I did it when
getting ready for Starcraft tournaments
in the days when battlenet was a new
thing and I see you doing it all the
time playing Minecraft you go to wiki’s
you go to youtube and you hone in on
exactly what you want to learn you do
the research you need to get the
knowledge that’s going to make you more
successful we live in an incredible
world right now where anything you want
to learn anything you want the answers
to is available at your fingertips if
you know how to look for it
games will teach you just that games
will teach you how to look or rather
games will motivate you to teach
yourself that without you even realizing
it and this skill has carried me through
my whole life through college through
graduate school when I went to get my
first job as a designer even when I
write these episodes today when I first
needed to know how to start a company
you know what I did I used the exact
same skills that helped me figure out
how to get through lower guck the first
time I wanted to build a computer for
myself I wasn’t intimidated because I
knew I could go out there and get all
the information I need I could find
step-by-step instructions I could get a
broad overview I could find out what
parts were best for the price and all
that is no different than what you do to
figure out how to make a cool redstone
contraption but perhaps the most
important part of this is that games
left me unafraid
they had armed me with this tool and
told me that I could use it to learn
anything and in doing so put things that
were mystical and out of my reach within
my grasp this may not resonate for you
for years but I have seen many of the
people I know hesitate or simply give up
on things they wanted because they felt
like they didn’t know how to do them but
for me it was different after all if I
can slay ogres and unearth ancient
artifacts why should I feel like I can’t
fix a car or start a business or tie a
tie see you next time