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Why is learning something new so hard?

Learning Tableau

In my first placement, one of the key areas of my role was training and driving engagement at the company.

People who attended the training sessions were surprised at how easy Tableau was to navigate once you understood how Tableau organised your data and where you needed to drag/put it.

However, I noticed that some became complacent and used lack of time as a justification for not practising. On the other hand, there were some people who kept coming back to me about questions they had and things they were struggling with – these had created the most workbooks and shown the most progress.

I mostly trained people who had never seen Tableau before but have heard of it and were curious to find out more.

That is the first step – to be curious. The second is to continue being curious.

The key to success is not rocket science – just keep going!

So why is it so hard?

  1. Routine

The whole point of Tableau is to democratise data exploration – to empower people to use data to get the insights and information they need to make better and more informed decisions.

However, in practice, empowering people is one of the hardest things to do. It is not a simple consequence of providing them access to new technology/tools.

What usually ends up happening is people go on the same path they have always taken. Routine! There are things that we do on repeat and that is comfortable.

We know what our day looks like, we know what we need to get done and most importantly, we already know how to do it!

We like things that are predictable.

When a new thing is introduced, we see it as a “disruption” to our routine or an addition to our workload.

This is a normal feeling to have when something new forces us to change. There is always going to be some resistance.

A way to deal with this is to check your mindset:

  1. Examine why you hold such a resistance and decide whether they are good or bad.
  2. Be honest in your answers.
  3. Try to make an objective judgement.

Once you’ve made your list, see any good change through the lens of opportunity rather than fear.

  • Responsibility

“It’s not my call. That’s for management to decide. As long as I do what I’ve been told, then I’m happy. What more do they want?”

The same way that management is taking responsibility for the team, you too should take responsibility for your own work.

Take some time to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Understanding why you are doing what you are doing helps you to stay motivated and to create a meaningful career.

Once you start asking the ‘Why’ questions, then you start asking the ‘How’.

Example: You are in the marketing team. You are told by your manager to give out certain promotions to individuals on a list.

Ask yourself:

Why am I giving promotions to certain customers? How can I better target/cater for those customers? How is this list compiled? Can I cater for more people?

And eventually, in this process, you are going to want to have some numbers to back you up!

  • Time, time, time!

When faced with learning something new, the main barrier we have is time.

“I don’t have enough time”

Time is an investment, and what you decide to spend it on matters.

When we start learning something new i.e. a language, how to drive, how to cook, the first thing we think about is the amount of time needed to learn it.

We see this massive mountain we need to climb and we say to ourselves “is it really worth it?” and then we turn around and say “I’ll do it later”.

 “Is it really worth it?”

I’ll refer back to point 2.

Priority – what you decide to spend your time on is driven by what is important to you.

Think about what kind of career you want, the importance of your job role and how you can better support the team you are in to achieve success.

Asking yourself the ‘why’ questions keeps your aim and goal at the forefront of your decision making and is what drives you to keep going when you face challenges. It is the thing that is going to keep you accountable when you start asking the question: “Is it really worth it?”

“I’ll do it later”

When we have our motivation and our goal set, the next barrier we face is the amount of time needed.

We look at that mountain we need to climb, get overwhelmed and we turn around and say “I’ll do it later”.

So what should we do?


The good thing about learning anything new is that the best way to do it is by doing it “little but often” rather than “a lot but seldom”.

This means we can break down that mountain into little blocks of steps.

In between tasks, try doing a 15 -30 min challenge of familiarising yourself with the data, what each field means so you know what you refer to when you start your analysis.

Then, try another 15 -30 mins exploring any correlations or insight from your data, by building simple bar or line charts.

Set yourself small and realistic challenges. Each time you finish one, not only will you feel motivated and ready for the next challenge, but you might even find gems of insight!

When you come across a bigger problem, again break it down into small digestible steps and keep yourself to those 15 – 30 mins.

Learning something new – although in theory it sounds easy enough to do, in practice it takes a bit more reflecting and will power to implement. I hope these tips have been useful.

And remember. Be curious and stay curious!

Laine Caruzca

London, UK

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