In college computer science, I learned how to deliberately develop an intuition.
We read an article on developing intuition for using the Haskell language. The language isn’t intuitive–often extremely complex. But some can rattle off complicated code effortlessly. They seem like super-geniuses, above us mere mortals.
How is their kung-fu so much stronger than ours? Are they just better human beings?
No, they aren’t. The key is rigorous understanding of the type system–ie, the principles that make the language work. Then, doing a ton of examples. A simple solution, but extremely important for getting good at something. The understanding of the principles is enriched by the understanding of how they plug into specific situations. In other words, in the age-old debate about book-smarts versus experience, the clear winner is both, because correct knowledge guides the experience so that you get more out of it. Suddenly you can look at specific, complex situations, and see underlying flow and interactions.
But this applies to all complex skills–if you rigorously learn the principles, then work through a ton of examples, you will build an intuition. And it will be much more enjoyable to work with that skill, because it feels very empowering to just “know” what to do without having to think about it. But even better–when we can easily and automatically solve basic and even intermediate problems, that’s when we can start on great accomplishments.
Take Art skills for example. Study the fundamental structures and shapes of the human body–the core proportions and basic geometries. Take that knowledge and repeatedly draw from references, starting with those shapes. This shows you how the ideals fit into real examples. Do this repeatedly, and watch how much faster and easier drawing becomes–or whatever skill you’re passionate about. But more than that, watch how much better and more detailed your drawings become. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
In short, if you want to be really good at something, you should build an intuition for it–and if you want to build an intuition for it, book smarts or street smarts alone aren’t enough–you need to combine the two.
What are your thoughts on the subject of intuition? Have you ever learned a lesson in one discipline with surprising applications in another?
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