3 Simple Steps to Learn Anything

Posted by in Security+ | 0 comments

You can learn anything you want to know in three simple steps. While I’m talking about this in the context of certification exam topics, the same methods work with any concept you want to master. The three steps are:

  1. Formulate a question
  2. Search the Internet for the answer
  3. Repeat

Learn Anything

Feed a Mind

I often get emails from people asking questions about a topic such as something about the Security+ exam. I’m usually reluctant to answer directly, mostly because I know the person can probably answer the question with a little research.

Should I answer? Or should I try to teach the person to answer the question without me?

It’s the classic example of “Give a person an answer and you feed his mind for a day; teach him how to learn and you feed his mind for a lifetime.”

While I often try to guide the person with questions, this isn’t always successful so I put this three-step method together.

Learn Anything Step 1

Formulate a question

The first step is to formulate a clear question and write it down.

While this sounds simple, many people find it difficult in practice, especially when it comes to writing it down.

As an example, I often receive emails from people starting with something like “I want to ask you a question.” After four or five paragraphs, I notice I still haven’t seen a question. I’ve even searched some emails looking for a question mark and found that the email doesn’t include one.

Some people do have direct questions.  Here’s an example that I’ve cut and pasted from an email I received:

“Question: Suppose you are a new system administrator who has already been hired from a company. You realized everybody has never changed their password for years, since the first time they have created it.

 

“What would you do to fix it such that it will be effectively right away?

 

“It is redundant if I have some choices here because of your knowledge ( such as Password Complexity, Password expiration, Password age, Password length, Password disable, …)”

Here is part of my response:

“While it would be easy for me to answer that question, I’d be remiss in my responsibilities as an instructor if I did so.

 

“What do you think the answer is?

 

“Of the possible choices you gave, I’d ask you to research each and describe why each one would (or would not) meet your needs.”

 

Get Certified Get Ahead

Another way a person could find the answer to this question is to reformulate the topic into separate questions related to the possible answers.

Learn Anything Step 2

Search the Internet for the answer

We live in an amazing time. You have at your fingertips the answers to just about any question you can ask. Use your favorite search engine such as Google or Bing or Yahoo or something else. As long as you can formulate a question, you can find an answer.

Again, I strongly suggest you write out your question. Many times people forget the question they were originally trying to answer and end up going in circles.

Also, take notes as you’re doing your research. Depending on the complexity of the question, you may need to review your notes to clarify the answer.

Plug your question into the search engine of your choice and start reading the pages that appear. One of two things will likely happen:

  1. You’ll find the answer, or
  2. You’ll find the answer, but have an additional question

The process of researching these topics results in a much deeper understanding than someone would gain if I simply gave them the answer.

It’s worth noting that anyone can post articles on the web. It’s best to verify your answer is valid by seeing it on at least two pages. Additionally, it’s best to find your answer on an authoritative page.

As an example, I consider Microsoft Tech Net pages to be authoritative for Microsoft topics. Similarly, if I’m looking for RFC topics, I consider ietf.org to be authoritative.

Wikipedia is awesome and often breaks down complex topics into easy to understand terms. However, anyone can add and edit topics so you need to verify information that you get from Wikipedia. I don’t consider it valid as a single-source authority but I consider it so valuable that I donate money to them every year.

Learn Anything Step 3

Repeat

If you have an additional question…

Take the time to clearly formulate the question.  Do the research and then take notes on what you find. One of two things will likely happen:

  1. You’ll find the answer, or
  2. You’ll find the answer, but have an additional question

If you have an additional question… Repeat.

I was left with the impression that the person that emailed me forgot his original question while researching it. However, he did gain a deeper understanding of the topic. Here’s what he sent.

“I have researched everything related to password . To force changing password to make it effect immediately, I think I can only select ‘User must change password at next logon’ Is that correct?

 

“If that is correct, I am wondering if a system admin will have to go all around computers ( suppose there are 100 computers in the company)? Is there a way to change / modify GPO from computer server to apply for all computer clients? I do not know.”

As with many topics, he had many more questions after he learned a little.

While he clearly wanted a straight-forward answer to his new set of questions, I was still hopeful that I could help him feed his mind for a lifetime.

I suggested the following:

If you have an additional question…

Take the time to clearly formulate the question.  Do the research and then take notes on what you find. One of two things will likely happen:

  1. You’ll find the answer, or
  2. You’ll find the answer, but have an additional question

If you have an additional question… Repeat.


Note. While I see a lot of value in using the Socratic method of teaching to help people learn, I don’t always use it. If someone sends me a clear question and spells out their understanding of the topic, I often answer it directly.

 

Leave a Comment

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list and get a free excerpt of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide.  This excerpt includes the introduction and Chapter 1. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Get Certified Get Ahead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,
an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Copyright © 2015 Get Certified Get Ahead. All Rights Reserved.