Image Credit: NASA

Rule the World with these Three Learning Hacks

The title here is not for grabbing your attention. It is what it says. Knowledge is power. Greater knowledge is greater power.

And knowledge comes with learning. It is that easy!

All right, it is not. Things you learn you should not only memorise, but truly comprehend and practise.

All the more reason why you should hone your learning skills. In any case this would be your first and most important step towards greater power.

1. Know more

This point is not as simple as it sounds. “Yeah, sure, to increase my knowledge I should learn more, kinda obvious!”

It’s different.

The greatest truth is that our mind’s capability is not finite. Our mind isn’t like a box that can be stuffed with different things until it is full. Here is what is happening in reality: the more we put into our ‘box’, or mind, the bigger it gets.

The more we know, the more we are able to learn.

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” — Voltaire

Voltaire was somewhere near the truth, still I propose the following version of this aphorism:

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I am yet able to learn much more.” — Mark Marchenko

Realise this and you will open a whole new world of opportunities.

Do you lack knowledge in a particular domain? Feel that learning new language is too difficult? Not satisfied with your memory’s abilities?

Learn in order to know more. It will definitely help.

2. Vary locations + use Spacing Approach

Varying Locations

This phenomenon was first discovered by pedagogues studying different methods to help children memorise things better and improve overall quality of learning. They found out that children would better understand and memorise new learning material when they are studying in different places.

Example #1. Here is what Metrokids, an online journal dedicated to discovering best ways to raise and teach your child, saying: “Cathy Holland, school psychologist… says studying in varied locations works best. “The goal of studying anything is to understand it and be able to think critically about it,” she says. Varying the study setting helps a student to encode information differently and to understand it on a deeper level”.

“What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” this is Dr. Bjork, whose words were published in NY Times.

Example #2: Smart professors know this rule works for grown ups as well and utilise it for the good of their own students. Take Jason Tangen, a Senior Lecturer in cognition at The University of Queensland, who co-created one of the most successful Massive Open Online Courses ever, called The Science of Everyday Thinking (still open for enrolling, by the way).

Every video lesson of this course consists of a thoughtful dialogue, and different dialogues take place in different settings. At first, lecturers are standing right in the middle of a lecture hall, next time they are chatting by the pool, then we see them moving into a dining room for their next discussion and so on.

It looks like this:

The reason for changing location is the same: your mind better memorises things creating a connection between information and surrounding. More connections means it would be easier to remember what you’ve learned, associating it with things happening in the background. Associations is the right key word for this process.

Spacing

The second learning phenomenon is correctly spelled as “the spacing effect”, and every (good) educational psychologist knows about it.

To better understand the principle behind it let us introduce one more word that has an opposite meaning: cramming.

Cramming is what you do when you try to prepare for an exam during one sleepless night. You “cram” new information inside your brain in one go and hope to still remember it during the exam.

Spacing, on the other hand, is studying or reviewing things many times spaced over a long time span or studying at intervals in a longer time frame.

Example: You want to learn new language. Let’s say you are going to visit Japan and you’d like to learn Japanese from zero to some basic level that will allow you to greet natives, talk to baristas, and explain basic things to people asking you where did you come from.

You bought yourself a special phrasebook for tourists and decided to simply learn by heart main phrases and words. You can do it one day before your trip, spending about three hours trying to memorise everything you think you will need there. That would be cramming.

Better way would be to start at least a week before and spend just 15 minutes a day to memorise a couple of new phrases and words. Next day you spend 5 minutes to review things you’ve already learned and 10 minutes for learning new stuff. This would be spacing.

Spacing is a legitimate way to ensure that what you’ve learned is staying with you for a long time, and is the only way to learn things if you are serious about knowing more.

And conquering the world, yes.

3. Pick People’s Minds

To be able to rule the world you should change your perception of learning opportunities. Getting knowledge isn’t only about taking classes or reading books.

There exists even better way to learn new things in extremely fast pace — ask people to share their knowledge with you.

  • Find smart people who know more than you. Ask them questions. Listen to them and ask even more questions.
  • Remember what they told you.
  • Repeat. Hundreds and hundreds of times.

Did you hear about Elon Musk, who builds rockets and electric cars and knows about space sometimes even more than people with degrees in Aerospace Engineering? Well, our number 3 is his favourite way of learning new things.

Here is an extract from “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”:

Unlike when attending classes or reading a book, when learning from people you can get exactly what you want. The key is to find the right person and ask the right questions.

This way you get one hundred percent relevant and useful information.

Tap into people’s stores of knowledge.

Put all of your efforts to find a way to learn from smart people. Learn how to be a good networker. Ask people out for coffee. Use your current job to gain access to experts.

You will never regret the time you spent learning from other people.


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