How to Learn Anything Faster That Will Make You Thrive in a Competitive World
“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.” — Leonardo da Vinci
It’s exciting to learn something at the beginning, but because it takes time, you easily give up. You stick to what you know because learning takes so much effort.
There are so many things to learn and you are overwhelmed which one to prioritize. You’ve been trying to improve your craft but then comes the next shiny thing trying to steal your attention away.
Outputs that you are hardly satisfied with just for the aim of producing something.
It’s good to produce. That means you are taking action. But what if there’s a way you can actually speed up the process and improve the results you get?
Education is Inexpensive As Compared to Ignorance
“It’s ok to be a fool once or twice but never let it be a third time. Be smart and pretend to be a fool and at the end of the hunt make sure you’re the one that has the gun.” — Surgeo Bell
In this fast changing economy, expertise is a very important asset.
I don’t know about you but I find myself getting overwhelmed by different people offering me courses left and right trying to lure me that they have the right path to success or they hold the key to every issue I have as long as I open my pocket to them.
Don’t get me wrong.
I respect their hustle. Many people are truly credible but there are many out there who offer things that do not align with what you want to learn.
You have to determine the truly “golden” ones versus those who tempt you with their “shiny promises.”
In the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, he mentioned two reasons why you must prioritize learning on this new age:
“To remain valuable in our economy, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work. If you don’t cultivate this ability, you’ll likely fall behind as technology advances.
“If you can’t learn, you can’t thrive. If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
How to Learn Anything Fast That Will Translate In Any Aspect of Your Life
The brain takes time to rewire and reconnect neurons. If you put in the needed discipline and work, you’ll thrive and stand out.
Create New Value That Others Will Find Hard to Replicate
You need to allot time on the craft you are willing to master. Cal Newport, the pioneer behind the term “Deep Work”, defined it as:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.”
Opposite of this is what he termed as “shallow work” which do not create much new value in the world and often performed when you are distracted.
To improve your work, identify the deep and shallow work you have in a day. Newport suggests to start with your personal and professional goals, then, identify the activities you do to meet those goals.
For example, you want to be a best-selling author someday so most likely your deep work is writing. However, because you want to increase your presence to boost page views, you spread yourself thinly by being on different social media sites.
The painful question is:
Do these shallow works deliver the results you desire?
List down every single activity that you “perceive” as helpful to achieve your goals. Then rank them in order of the quality of results they produce. Drop those that offer minimal quality. Stick to those that yield the best results. Rework your schedule to prioritize them.
In the words of Bryan Adams:
“Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.”
You’ll find that it’s difficult to drop a shallow activity after investing some money or time into it. Don’t be scared to automate or outsource some activities that you deem necessary on your craft.
“Find people who do well on the things you’re not good at so you can focus on things you perform best.”
Master the Brain’s Language That Many Often Ignore
“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”
— Josh Waitzkin
Kevin Horsley was awarded the title “International Grandmaster of Memory” on 1995 by no less than Prince Philip of Liechtenstein in England. In 1999, he also broke the world record that was called “The Everest of Memory Test.” He memorized the 10,000 digits of Pi where testers would call out any of the 5-digit sequences and he replied correctly on all of them for fifty times.
All of these happened despite his diagnosis of being dyslexic. He couldn’t even finish reading a book cover to cover until he was in high school. Things have changed when he decided to challenge and improve his memory which then translated into other aspects of his life.
In his book Unlimited Memory, he shared different ways on how to improve your memory. Memory is not just about the rote learning or repetition of words until they stick. It is more of understanding what you know and remembering what you understand.
In order to improve your memory, Horsley suggests the use of SEE.
The more senses you engage,the better the learning would be.
Make your visuals larger or smaller than life. You don’t need logical pictures to remember information. People tend to remember unusual visual images well.
Make your visuals move. Put them to life as if there’s an on-going movie in your brain.
Let’s say you want to learn a language, the easiest way is to create mental pictures that associate or connect words together. Here are some of his examples:
“Cat is Gatto in Spanish — Imagine saying “You’ve got to hold my cat.”
“Snake is Inyoka in Zulu — Imagine a snake slithering in your car.”
“Door is To in Japanese — Imagine you are kicking the door with your big toe.”
Another method that he uses or any other memory master swear by is associating places or objects you are familiar with on concepts you want to learn.
You can also use LOCI (location) where you assign an item to each spot. You are coding memories with specific locations. There are two main steps here:
First: You commit to memory several locations of a place in order that you want to remember them.
Second: Associate something you want to remember to each location.
Let’s say you are about to give a speech, go early to the venue and assign each point with a specific location in the room. Then as you talk, you can look at each location to be reminded of what you want to say.
The more concepts you can recall, the better your understanding will be. It’s easier to connect new and old concepts if you can remember them.
When You Do Something, Make Sure That You Are Really There
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” — Proverbs 9:9
Whatever it is you want to learn, always be present. When your mind wanders, make a conscious effort to redirect your attention and concentration on the important task that you are doing.
When you are fully present, you increase the quality of your work. You can devote every bit of neuron required to finish the task. Instead of simultaneously engaging on multiple activities, focus on one thing.
Be present. Be in the moment. Be There.
As Tony Robbins has said,
“Where focus goes, energy flows.”
Become Emotionally Involved in What You Are Learning
“Education without application is just entertainment.” — Tim Sanders
We are more likely to remember emotionally significant events because they hold more personal meaningful themes to us. Neuroscience also shows that these emotional events are associated with higher levels of arousal like the increase in blood glucose level which promotes memory consolidation.
If the norepinephrine level is high, emotional conditioning occurs more rapidly and conditioned response is learned quickly and lasts longer.
If you want to remember something, increase your emotional involvement to it. Create a strong story you can associate with what you are learning.
Think about why you can retell a funny video of a cat, dog or a person. Or how you cannot forget the emotionally disturbing video on your feed that prompts you to do something about the issue. You easily remember them because they aroused and heightened your emotions.
Condition Your Brain to Always Run At Its Optimal Level
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
― Abigail Adams
All motivation and good intentions are thrown out of the window when you have poor health. If you want your brain to run at its optimal level, support it with the kind of nutrition it needs.
The brain needs amino acids to manufacture neurotransmitters like acetylcholine which is important for the brain’s ability to process memory.
At the same time, pair it with exercise. By doing so, you rev up your cardiovascular system and boost your metabolism to encourage a good flow of nutrients to your brain. A happy brain is a happy learning machine.
Respect A Shutdown Instead of Cramming In More Work
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”
— Vernon Howard
Despite the many incredible qualities of the brain, its concentration is finite. At most, a person can concentrate for four straight hours. Anything more than that, you’ll find that your performance diminishes.
Allow your brain the needed time to recuperate and rest. Cal Newport suggests having a “shutdown ritual” where you stop doing any related activity beyond that time.
In his case, he stops any activity related to his task at 5:30 pm and call it a day. In short, do not open any activity beyond that time and let your mind focus on other things. Cramming or trying to finish work beyond your shutdown time can be counterproductive. As he said,
“Trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evening nights might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.”
Idleness also helps you reconnect the things you’ve learned because your brain is at rest. Of course, excessive idleness is also deadly. As mentioned by Daniel Goleman:
“We need free time where we can sustain an open awareness. Open time lets the creative spirit flourish; tight schedules kill it.”
The Best Interest Comes From The Learning You Invest
In the Google age and DIY era, it has never been easier to learn new things. But this free information doesn’t come without any consequence. Not everything you see online can speed up the learning process.
Sometimes, despite the best intentions, we get information that just slow us down.
Find mentors and courses that target the things you want to learn. Evaluate their credibility whether they show actual evidence and wisdom of their craft. Find out if they have an active community that swear by their results.
Investing also gives you that extra boost especially if you put in your hard-earned money on the line.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Teach Others The Things You Used to Learn Yourself
Learning new things can be fun and not-so fun at the same time. If you are committed to improve your craft, you’ll be patient enough to endure the training.
The initial phase would be extremely challenging, but as you improve day-by-day, you’ll find it becomes a breeze.
Eventually, you’ll find that you are the one teaching others what you used to learn yourself.