This is one of Ciro Santilli's most important principles.
Steve Jobs has a great quote about this. He's totally right on this one!
You've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with the technology and try to figure out where you're going to sell it.
Video 1. Steve Jobs Insult Response excerpt from the 1997 WWDC. Source. TODO understand the context of the question a bit better. It is something to do with an OpenDoc thing and Java.
Decide your goal first, and then do whatever is needed to how to reach it.
Don't start randomly learning tech, because that means you will waste a lot of time learning useless stuff.
There is of course some level chicken-and-egg paradox in this, as highlighted by Dilbert, since choosing an achievable goal in the first place requires some level of technical understanding.
Figure 1. Dilbert cartoon about designing a nuclear power plant from user requirements (2002) Source.
This cartoon illustrates well how when doing deep tech and fighting against the laws of physics, you can't just start from user requirements, but you also have to also think "what can we actually get done at all with this new technique".
The best research engineers are able to identify what is just on the cusp of the "possible", but which has the greatest value. This is the endless dance between the tech push, and the market/need pull.
However, it is much more common that people will get way too involved in learning useless stuff and lose sight of the useful end goals.
Rather, take an iterative approach:
There is some truth to the counter argument that "but if you don't spend a lot of time learning the basics, you can never find solutions".
However, these people underestimate your brain. The brain is beautiful, and human intuition is capable of generating interest towards the things that are actually useful to reach your goal. When you feel like learning something related to your goal, by all means, give yourself the time to do so. But this still be much more efficient than just learning random things that other people tell you to learn.
Bibliography:
Or: how to learn X.
This pops up on Reddit every week.
The right question is: what is the most awesome project I can do to improve the world?
Then, once you decide to try one, if that involves programming, only then learn to program to achieve that goal. And don't stop learning what's needed until you either get the thing done, or decide that it is actually not a good idea, or not possible, or that there is something else more important to be done first.
But if doesn't involve programming, then don't learn to program, and learn whatever you actually need to reach that goal instead.
Having that goal is the only way to be motivated to do something.
This is the essence of backward design.

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