How do you learn and expand your skills since you've graduated and started your professional career?

Obviously, a blog post is a one-way communication, so I don't know your answer, but let me tell you what I expect. Generalizing a little bit - I see two models here, related to individuals' mindsets:

  1. people with a so-called "fixed mindset" learn when they have to (it's necessary) and what's more important - when they learn it's to address a certain need; it's the REACTIVE learning
  2. people with a so-called "growth-oriented mindset" learn exploratively - to create opportunities or always have a trump card in hand when challenges pop up; it's the PROACTIVE learning

This dichotomy is nothing new, really.

Not everyone is genuinely passionate about what they do for money. We all have different hobbies and suffer from the deficit of free time - that's why we want our choices to be "economically justified". Why spend time on something one may never use? REACTIVE approach sounds far more rational & pragmatic.

But there's one problem worth bringing up. There's a significant difference between these two learning modes mentioned above. It's what we precisely mean by the word "learning" - and it has been brilliantly pinpointed by one of the TEDx talks I've found recently on the Internet:

Let me try to paraphrase it in short words:

Learning REACTIVELY ...

... is a condense process of filling the knowledge gap. But in a dry, "academic" way. To answer specific questions or meet the given (success) criteria. Starting half-blind (not sure where to start), knowing that the failure will be perceived very negatively (it's just the next task on your "to-tackle" list).

The knowledge you gain that way is susceptible to certain flaws: applicable in a narrow context, without a deeper understanding, etc.

Learning PROACTIVELY is ...

... how ... the toddlers learn. They explore. Try stuff. Keep falling and standing up again (not ashamed of temporary failure). They observe. Collect experiences & draw conclusions - only to apply them just a few seconds later. That is also how you've used to beat games like Super Mario Bros - the trial & error way. You've learned to deal with all sorts of traps, obstacles & other adversities simply by ... engaging them. OK, it was painful for the first time (or even a few times ...), but once you understand the pattern (get the "clarity"), it's easy to figure out a way through and beat it flawlessly each time.

Yes, in general, you fail more times that way - but these failures are nothing less but intensive learnings on your path to true mastery. Even ignoring the disproportion of time spent on self-development in both mentioned ways, the PROACTIVE way is few levels of magnitude more effective.

Himilsbach's dilemma

What's my intended effect by presenting you with this mental model?

I strongly believe that we're defined by the sum of our experiences. And we accommodate these experiences while exploring, observing and drawing conclusions out of what we've learned that way. When not exposed to new experiences, how are we supposed to learn at all? We simply don't (learn). Actually - it's even worse - we get bored & fall into stagnation.

Hence the conclusion: as an adult, try to re-wire your brain to keep learning like toddlers do - by experimenting and nurturing the "hacker" inside. It's the professional curiosity that drives our self-development - if you lack this curiosity, your acts of learning are passion-less, nearly forced activities: incomparably less effective and fulfilling. That's why you should build a habit of learning something every day - by practical tinkering, trying something with your very own hands.

Sadly, many fool themselves that their professional development is their employers' concern and they don't have to do anything - because doing anything "out-of-curriculum" would be a waste (of time/energy that could have been spent on something else).

That reminds me an old story (unverifiable at this point ...) about the legendary polish actor - Jan Himilsbach. It is said that once he was bragging that because of his physical resemblance to Spencer Tracy and Kirk Douglas, he had been offered to star in a movie by noone else but famous Steven Spielberg. However, there was one condition he'd have to meet beforehand - to learn English. He did not accept the offer and when he had been asked why - here was his answer:

"What if Spielberg had changed his mind? I would stay with this English like some d*ck." / orig: "Spielberg się rozmyśli, a ja z tym angielskim zostanę jak ten ch*j."

Don't be like Himilsbach. Don't be afraid of staying with this (Kubernetes/Flutter/Pandas/Vert.x/whatever) like a d*ck ;P