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The right way to learn something new

Almost all of us have the bitter experience of picking up a new subject or language, only to give up on it soon afterwards. Why does this happen? The answer lies in our approach, or lack of it, when starting a new course.

To quote an example, I will draw from my own experience of having worked for years as a management consultant. I have seen many businessmen and students studying Kautilya’s Arthashastra to apply its principles in modern businesses. But several hit a block in understanding the terminologies and words used by Chanakya.

For all such people, I have only one advice: Do not worry about the initial challenges, just keep going. New subjects always have tough parts, but it’s quite easy today to fish out their meanings.

Let us take an example. Chanakya had said: “Between the eighth day after the full moon day of the Asadha and that of Kartika, ferrying (shall be provided). The workman should give surety and should bring in the regular daily earnings” (2.28.27)

Most of this verse is already translated into English, except two words—Asadha and Kartika. These are months from the Indian calendar. So, first learn about the Indian calendar system. And then your interest will grow.

Now, how does one maintain this interest? Indeed, how does one go about learning any new project? Here are some tips for this:

Start with a positive mindset. Only then will the battlefield be set for your entry.


Develop a positive attitude

The step for any student is to inculcate the right attitude. If you start with negative thoughts like, “It’s impossible”, or “I don’t have that much time”, then there’s no hope.

You would have lost the battle even before you go to war. So start with a positive mindset. Only then will the battlefield be set for your entry.

Seek information

The next step is to find people who know what you want to learn. For example, if you want to know about the Indian calendar, your own grandparents or teachers are probably the best bet. Make a few calls. Search for more information on the Internet and get the basic knowledge in place. As I’ve already said, things are far easier now to fish out additional information. But even if you have to go and meet people to clear any doubts, please take that extra step.

Practice makes one perfect

This is very important—revise what you have learnt till you master it. In Sanskrit, this is dealt with in Abhayaas, meaning constant repetition and practice. Then you start enjoying the whole process.

As you repeat a chore, it goes into your subconscious mind and you can recollect the information whenever required. This is the only way we can study or adopt any new lessons. Take continue to take inspiration from the past, work in the present and attain a glorious future.

Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai is an Indian management thinker, author, and Founder of Atma Darshan and Chanakya Aanvikshiki. Dr Pillai has extensively researched Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the 3rd century BC treatise and incorporated it into modern management.

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