How do I Learn and Create a Lot of Things Fast? What are my Tools and Techniques?

Kid writing on Blackboard Formulas

I learn and create a lot of things very fast. I also experiment with a lot of different subjects, using many different tools. This is only possible because I have a method that I honed since I was a kid.

My learning and experiments are normally related to software development, game development, digital art, gaming. But they go beyond that, they also involve traditional art, art history, fishing, photography, animals, geography, history and more.

This is an article about using the right software tools, having the right equipment, Photo Reading and an autistic savant kid (me).

Incentives to write this article

I was asked recently on Twitter about my learning and experimentation process and approach:

My answer is on that Tweet’s thread, but since it’s hard to keep track of things on Twitter, I’ll elaborate it in this post with links and more details.

The process

Everything starts with a clear objective: I want to learn how to make X with Y, or simply I want to make Z, no matter the tool/path. For that reason, I don’t measure the progress, I simply keeping learning and experimenting until I accomplish the objective.

It’s very important to be crystal clear open-minded, and not have biases towards methods, tools, patterns and things alike. My techniques involve jumping back and forth between subjects and tools, and quickly discarding and/or adopting new things.

For the actionable steps: clear objective; gather every possible related resource; strip down the resources from top to bottom, creating a lot of clippings and annotations with the following tools and apps:

Then glue parts from all the sources, until you’re done and you have learned and created the final result.

I have written a simplified version of my workflow with some of these tools in the article Tired of meetings? Free tools you can use to explain ANYTHING without having to make a call. Although the article is focused on migrating meetings to writing notes, it’s what I similarly do when studying (but my actual process is much more developed and complex, which wouldn’t fit that article, plus the article uses Evernote as the main tool, I don’t use it anymore since 2018).

Then when I’m done learning, I either learn the next step of that thing or archive it for future consultation and go to something else.

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Additional abilities and requirements

Things that make learning more effective, but mostly important, helps learning quicker:

  • Being fast with a Keyboard.
  • Having a good, fast computer with 2-3 screens in order to arrange windows with different content from many different sources and investigate them all at once.

Of course you don’t need those things above, but they help.

Two abilities very specific to me

  • The most important thing that helps me and that’s impossible to learn and replicate unless you are born with it: being an autistic savant, with a savantism focused on visual memory and visual learning (I talk in details about this in my About page).
  • I learned Photo Reading when I was a kid.

I THINK IN PICTURES. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job [โ€ฆ], visual thinking is a tremendous advantage. Visual thinking has enabled me to build entire systems in my imagination.

Temple Grandin, description of the mind of a visual thinking autistic savant.

A warning about Photo Reading

Notice: the “Photo Reading” website and materials look like those TV infomercials or maybe even some kind of snake-oil salesman trick.

But I was presented to it in a school meeting when I was a kid, and from all the kids, I was the only one that got interested (autistic kid advantages). When my daddy bought the course, I received a few VHSs and two books. I don’t know how it works anymore nowadays.

And considering I was a kid that was only interested in books and RPG games, and a very quiet and introverted kid, I invested all of my time on the course, very deeply, so in the end, it works, I’m a living example.

I have that ingrained in my subconscious, so I’m afraid that it may take at least a decade before you can actually have a “Photographic reading” brain.

Flaws in the process

I rely heavily on existing material and existing examples and implementations, in order to imitate them, and then eventually, evolve them. But in the end, isn’t everything in the world a copy of something?

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.

Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography

Cover photo source: MART PRODUCTION from Pexels (public domain).