## It happens to everyone

What do I do when I just don’t understand something? You may think that “smart” people never have this problem. Well, the idea of “smart” people is a misnomer. Anyone who learns something works hard at understanding the material, and hard is probably the most important part.

In many cases, you might understand material or acquire skills more easily than someone else, and I call this aptitude. Aptitude can even get you through K-12 education and into your college education, but everyone at some point runs into ideas, concepts, and skills that don’t just come easy. In my life, I have repeatedly met these points and know there are more to come; for example, I have been challenged by writing well, recursion, complex math, and graph theory.

## So, what do you do when you are challenged?

The first choice is do you really want to learn the idea. There is nothing wrong with not challenging yourself and pushing to learn something, but this is your choice. Those who choose to want to learn need to apply the acclaimed “grit” characteristic, because learning something that is challenging is not easy, there is no fast procedure, and the process can be both painful and time consuming.

Once you have decided you want to learn something, then you can start to learn it. My starting suggestion is to read the book: The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. This book provides a number of tactics on how to think through difficult topics.

## Does a book have all the answers?

No. When you are challenged by learning, there is no linear path (step by step solution) to learn. For example, when I was in my graph theory class and needed and wanted to learn the topic, it took me three months of daily work on problems to just get a B in the course. This included doing the same beginner problems over and over. The concept of recursion in computer science took three lectures of nothing clicking in my head until I had what seemed like a magical aha moment. Some ideas like probability and statistics are still not areas where I have strong understanding.

The only constant that I have observed constantly in each of my learning challenges is time and work.

**Credits:** photo titled: from confusion hill; by hitchster