Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

Make something you want to exist

How to find ideas and start learning by doing

Make something you want to exist

If you want to make something but don’t know what, a good place to start is you. You know yourself better than anything else. Use that knowledge.

Go through your day in your head and think about the moments when there’s opportunity for improvement: Something that doesn’t work. Something that could be automated. Or just something you think would be really cool to exist.

The chances are other people crave the same thing and will love you for making it a reality.

Doing accelerates learning

When I wanted to learn JavaScript a few months ago, I started with an online course. But it didn’t work for me. It was dull and sluggish. I needed a project.

So I asked myself: What would be useful to me that I could create in JavaScript?

And after thinking about it for a while, I decided to make a super simple app called Talk about this – a web application that generates prompts for conversations better than small talk.

A simple web app I made in 2 days to learn JavaScript

A simple web app I made in 2 days to learn JavaScript

Let’s be honest. This app isn’t something to write home about. The fact that it took me like 8 hours to make is a sign of how little I knew about JavaScript.

However, it worked. I enjoyed making it, I learned a lot, and I’m proud that I willed it into existence with my own hands and brains.

Did something like this already exist, only 3000 % better? Almost definitely. But my goal wasn’t to find a game like this. It was to learn by doing something I truly care about.

The process of making it felt much more meaningful because it was something I actually wanted to use.

Process > Outcome

Some people might tell you it’s a waste of time to make something that already exists: “Don’t reinvent the wheel, son.” Okay, dad, now let me learn, would you?

When your primary goal is to get better, it doesn’t matter if you build things somebody else has already done. Most of your learning happens in the process of making. The outcome is just the light on the other side that gets you through the learning tunnel.

Plus even if you make the exact same thing as somebody else, or you build something that doesn’t work, you’ll still learn a lot more than if you did nothing at all.