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Apprenticeship Patterns by Adewale Oshineye, Dave Hoover

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Record What You Learn

You should not also underestimate the power of writing itself....You can lose your larger sense of purpose. But writing lets you step back and think through a problem. Even the angriest rant forces the writer to achieve a degree of thoughtfulness.

Atul Gawande, Better

Context

You learn the same lessons again and again. They never seem to stick. You often find yourself repeatedly doing things such as setting up CruiseControl, modeling hierarchies in SQL, or introducing patterns to a team. You remember doing very similar things in the past, but the exact details escape you.

Problem

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Solution

Keep a record of your journey in a journal, personal wiki, or blog. A chronological record of the lessons you have learned can provide inspiration to those you mentor, since it makes your journey explicit, but it can also give you a vital resource to draw upon. Those who use this pattern sooner or later experience a moment when they’re searching for the answer to a tricky problem and their search engine gives them a link to their own wiki or blog.

Using a blog to record the lessons you’ve learned also has the side benefit of helping you meet Kindred Spirits, while a wiki that has accidental linking allows you to see the connections between your experiences.

Try to avoid falling into the trap of just writing down your lessons and forgetting them. Your notebook, blog, or wiki should be a nursery, not a graveyard—lessons should be born from this record, rather than going there to die. You make this happen by regularly going back to read what you’ve written. Try to make new connections every time you review the material. This process of creative review can lead you to reevaluate old decisions based on new data, or it can reinforce beliefs that were wavering. Either outcome is fine, as long as you don’t stagnate. By reviewing your journal, you can switch your past and your present around in order to generate your future.

Ade uses two instances of the same wiki, one for his private thoughts and the other for stuff he wants to share with the world. Keeping a private record as well as a public record means that you get the best of both worlds. Your public record becomes a means of sharing the lessons you have learned and gaining feedback from a wider community; the private record allows you to be painfully honest with yourself about the progress you are making. Having both internal and external feedback loops can give you increased confidence that you are maintaining an accurate self-assessment.

When Dave was Reading Constantly during his apprenticeship, he kept a text file in which he transcribed all the quotes that shaped his learning. Over the years, that file grew to contain over 500 quotes, and Dave eventually decided to upload it and share it online.[35] This proved to be an excellent source of references when Dave started writing articles and this book.

Also keep in mind that your choice of record-keeping tool can also be an important Breakable Toy.

This pattern is similar to Share What You Learn, but there the emphasis is on preparing to become a journeyman by improving your ability to communicate with honesty and humility. Here the emphasis is on preserving the route you took to mastery so that in future you can extract new lessons from it.

Action

Grab a paper notebook and start jotting down your thoughts about this book and any ideas it inspires. Make sure your notes have a date on them. Once you’ve finished this book, keep using the same notebook in the same way for the other things you learn. Over time these entries may become the basis for blog posts, magazine articles, or even a book.

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