Why I Blog to Learn

There is a good reason why blogging will never die for me and it’s because I use it to learn.

How is that possible?

Can’t I just read book and watch videos?

No.

That will only show that I’ve gone through some material.

You see, you don’t learn until you understand and you don’t understand until you prove that you can teach.

You might be familiar with this as the Feynman Learning Technique:

  1. Choose a concept you want to learn about
  2. Pretend you are teaching it to a student in grade 6
  3. Identify gaps in your explanation; Go back to the source material, to better understand it
  4. Review and simplify

I started my first blog back in 2002. It was about web design.

At the time I didn’t know much about web design at all so why did I blog about it?

Because it helped me to flesh out my thoughts. If I was going to argue for a certain point of view in the web design world then I needed to make sure I stated it in a way that everyone understood.

Which meant that I had to understand it as well.

Whenever I think I understand something I can know definitively if I do or not by writing a blog post.

The answer is usually that I don’t know enough to present whatever argument that the blog post is making.

That doesn’t mean that I will or won’t publish the blog post right away, but if I can’t break things down in an entertaining way in a blog post, then I know there is more work to do.

For example, when you look at this post that I wrote over at Raising Sloths, I wanted to get it out of my head the concept of telling a brand story and its importance to a brand’s success.

In my head I kept on telling myself that I had something amazing to share with the world, but that’s all ego talking.

And that’s why most people really don’t learn.

If I tell you about a concept and you understand the concept on the surface when I tell it, then you’ll walk away believing that you completely understand it.

However, what if we talked about that concept a month later?

Would you still be able to break it down assuming you haven’t revisited it at all?

Being able to write a blog post on something can show that you have understanding of it. This isn’t always a guarantee (just ask Medium writers) but we can’t control who is full of shit and who honestly knows what they are talking about.

Immediate Rewards

Because many people view blogging as a time sink, they wonder what are the rewards for it.

That’s an unfortunate way to view things.

Just because your blog post isn’t getting you 50,000 views in a week doesn’t mean that it is less valuable to you.

The secret to making a lot of money in this world is to provide immense value. That’s kind of nebulous to say so let’s get more specific.

If you want to provide immense value then you need to be really good at something. It could be multiple things, but for simplicity’s sake let’s just say you have to be good at two things:

  1. Whatever thing you want to think about
  2. Communicating

The reason why communication is so important is because if you can’t communicate the value that you have then how will people know about it?

This is another benefit of blogging but that’s more for another topic.

To get really good at something you have to understand it. Do you understand woodworking because you know how to use a planer or do you understand it when someone brings to you a problem and you can solve it?

Learning doesn’t happen in a book.

Learning happens through activity.

The activity can be doing the thing or talking about the thing.

Talking about the thing requires you to recall what you know and when talking about it you’ll begin to find gaps in your knowledge that you’ll brain will try to close.

Sometimes you’ll be able to close those gaps and other times you’ll realize that you have more learning to do.

It’s why experts in many fields aren’t big on giving advice because they understand what they don’t know while those who just read a blog post on something are suddenly experts.

This is pretty similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect which seems to get worse and worse each year as people continuously brag about their Facebook Degrees.

(Sidenote: It’s also why it can be so frustrating arguing with someone online as you understand they don’t have all of the knowledge to present their case and yet they’ll continue to try.)