Learning vs training

It's very easy to conflate learning and training. I'm not sure if this is because they're both ways of increasing your capability, or because it's convenient to pretend they're equivalent so you can do whichever you find easier. Both, probably.

Learning is a detached intellectual process: to learn, you step back from the activity itself in order to analyse it. This stops you from getting bogged down in the details and reason about the space in abstract. It's a process that provides knowledge and understanding: learning means you know things you didn't know before, but also means you in some sense grasp the structure, connection, or meaning of those things.

Training is an embodied practical process: to train, you dive into the activity and perform it in order to improve at it. Here, the details aren't irrelevant: they're the entire point. You might use abstraction to determine what to train, but training itself is an abstraction-free zone. It's a process that provides skill and intuition: you are able to do something you didn't do before, and, even without reasoning about it, you just have a kind of sense of how it will go.

These two things are not substitutes. You can't learn skills any more than you can train knowledge. If you try to use learning in place of training, you'll end up with a theoretical understanding that you have no ability to execute. You can study music for years and still have no idea what to do when you pick up a guitar. The theory can tell you how your hands should move, but not how to move your hands; they're your hands, so only you can do that.

If you try to use training in place of learning, it's no better. You end up stuck on a plateau, trying and trying again with no substantial improvement. Why? Is it because you just need to try harder? No, most likely it's that you need to try something different. Knowing what to do is an intellectual process, not a practical one, and it requires a higher understanding you can't get until you stop practising and start thinking.

But even if we know there is a difference, I think the temptation will always be there to train when we should learn, or learn when we should train. That's nothing more complex than habit and inertia. You spend a lot of time learning, you get better at learning, you get used to learning. When you need to train, you're comparatively bad at it, so you compensate by learning more. That works up until it doesn't, and then you're stuck with deeply unbalanced development.

Which means the problem with learning vs training is that it's easy to understand the difference between the two, but far more difficult to put it into practice.