Learning to Learn

I was good in Might and Magic games. With my good friend Tucky, we explored the world of Might and Magic during the 90s. Most, if not all, of the Might and Magic versions were flawed in some ways or another. Due to poor programming/planning/mapping/testing, I would always spot areas where we could exploit bugs and got our parties stronger the way it was not meant to be. For strange reasons, I had the knack of finding these bugs, some not even popularly documented, even way back in the Nintendo cartridge games era. 

I never like the idea of cheating or hacking the game though there were probably software even back then to help us do this. Cheating took away all the joy of the game and made playing totally meaningless. I remembered watching in boredom how my friends made themselves invincible in one of the first Command & Conquer version or gotten their tanks the ability to exterminate poor foes with laser and laugh in glee in the process. It was fun for the first time but meaningless thereafter. As I aged, I preferred to win a game without cheating. The harder the challenge, the better it felt when I finally smash it.

I am not pretending to be honorable and straight. While I don't use 3rd party software or entering cheat codes, I regarded the odd bugs that I discovered exceptions. To me, they were Easter Eggs rather than outright cheating. Just like Tucky who used to tell me "Load and Save" is not cheating. It is a game function. Though he would never agree bugs were part of the game functions while I did. Well they were part of the game until it was patched. If I could discover them, I could use them. Grey area, life is full of these and has never been downright white or black. Looking back, I think it was quite easy to see how a child will grow up to be by the attitude he/she gives towards playing of a game. It reflects a lot about the values and character of a child and are probably a good indicator how the person will turn out in later life. I'll take note and observe Albany when she starts to play games to get a glimpse who I am dealing with in the further future.

Anyway many of these bugs didn't actually give us a distinctive advantage over people who play their game legitimately. In fact, if you were not careful, it could ruin your game flow and sometimes even destroy your saved game data. The fun part was turning the bug into what could make you slightly better off by your own understanding and feel of the game. It was just like a simple knife. With one in your hand you could choose to use it as your priceless assistant in the kitchen and whip out heavenly meals or you can take someone's life away with it. 

Since I decided to return to write, I seemed to have cultivated a terrible habit of talking totally unrelated stuff to what I actually intended to write from the start. I must have aged several decades in the week's absence.

Well, I was bemused with Might and Magic 6 actually putting "Learning" as a skill. So it meant somewhere in the game, you had to pay someone money to learn how to learn. So that, with the Learning skill, you learnt faster from there on. Come to think of it, it kind of makes sense. Over the years I met many people (myself included) who were guilty of waving a chance to learn away by just declaring,

"I don't know how to do this,"
"This isn't my forte,"
"I'm an Engineer, not a chef,"
"Pay someone else to do it,"

After coming here for 3/4 of the year, I have met enough people who seemingly know how to such a large array of things by themselves. It made me feel inadequate and questioned how I spent my last 3 decades. I remembered I heard somewhere someone commenting about the difference between Australians and Singaporeans. That the Australian is more skilled but the Singaporean is more knowledgeable. This is very subjective and varies from person to person.

I know this is not going to be popular but a fact is a fact. We are by far not as good as we think we are. They used to give me an impression that we are demi-gods if we come to Australia and would be outstanding in any environment over the local co-workers. It isn't wrong, mind you. We stand out because we are ridiculously industrious and we want more out of our career. We have in depth knowledge of what we have been trained in and we can probably talk for days over them. Our areas of expertise however are very narrow. Outside these areas, we are gobsmacked if we were to ask to stand to comment. We had all experienced witnessing people from overseas (not necessarily Australians) who could just stand up to, in our definition, bullshit through some 'out of scope' topics convincingly enough where many of us could not unless we prepared for that.

We used to use terms like 'bullshitting to the top' to describe such people not realising we were doing ourselves injustice by not admitting we were simply way out of depth in areas outside our expertise. If you use computer hardware to describe the situation, we are could be the best graphics card in the world. So our limits are simply restricted in the AGP slot. Don't get me wrong, many of us are completely comfortable sitting in where we are and there is nothing wrong with that. I am pin-pointing those who yell about the injustice of the world and bitch behind the people who took the position they felt they deserve better but refusing to get their butt out of the seat to do any single thing about it.

Back to learning how to learn, my lesson began when I realised I have learnt next to nothing in the past decade. I'm not sure how many of you out there have the same attitude. Once we graduated from university, we felt we have attained a certain safety level and would be able to sail through life if we were not choosy. Though upgrading is sexy, we need to start making and putting money away instead of ploughing it away and ending on the same spot.

That was a terrible way to think because the goal would have been attaining that piece of document to attest your participation in the program, say a master degree or better. I know myself too well, if I were to return to school, I'll be able to graduate with flattering results and attain that piece of paper without actually learning much from the entire process. Jen called me an exam-smart. I disagreed. If I was one I would be a first class honour graduate. She thought I would have a go if I actually bothered to attend classes. I didn't attend a single lesson in my final year and missed out half of my 2nd year. Maybe she could be right, but it was just a hypothesis that would never be tested. With my past attitude in learning, even if I was dragged to the class and chained in my seat, I would probably be in dream world eating pizzas in no time.

That cost me a lot in life. With real knowledge comes confidence. With confidence, we can do so much more in life. Starting with our careers, we dare to venture because we know what we are made of, if we really know our stuff. If we don't have the courage to venture, we will be contented to blend into mid level mediocrity. Again, that isn't a bad thing if it is what we really want. If it isn't, a miserable life awaits as our prolong disgruntle drains the last bits of enthusiasm in life out of us.

As an unexpected side effect, coming to Perth somehow allows me to be able to experience the joy of learning all over again. It turns out to be a blessing for me. I am able to understand true learning and its positive effects on me. I am perhaps a few decades behind people of my time. It is a little late but I'm glad it happens.


  1. Your computer game was absolutely right - learning how to learn is a skill. It is a skill that most children are born with but in an exam-oriented school system, is whittled away.

    Some children, like my son who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old, have to be taught to learn. The ironic thing is that my son who had to be taught how to learn through hours and hours of therapy, went to the Australian International School in Singapore and continued to learn on his own steam. My daughters, on the other hand, went to regular Singapore schools and slowly lost the desire and ability to learn on their own.

  2. Learning is fun. I am sort of a paper chaser. One moment I am diving, the other I am learning a new martial art, the next I am lifeguarding.

    I have all classes of licences here in Singapore and people used to ask me why bother? I am a university graduate and would probably never be in a job to drive a vehicle over 7 tons.

    My reasons were simple; I didn't discriminate against jobs that required truck driving, if it pays better I am there.

    A skill is better than a credit card. One takes out many the other makes money.

    In this day and age anything can happen, arm myself with as many skills and knowledge as I can and we never know it might come in handy. I could be retrenched any moment.

    And most importantly, I really enjoy taking classes and learning things.