We want to learn better and we want others to learn better, but what does it actually mean? Will reading a few books make us smarter? Are grades the only measure of our progress? Is there a limit to how fast we can learn? Nowadays psychological and educational science tends to be self-contradictory, yet some basic ideas still apply. What I discuss is not simply doable, it can be practiced and I have courses for this on https://keytostudy.thinkific.com/. Since by now we offer many courses, please use search functionality.
Possibly the most essential part of actually learning is openness. If we are not open to acquiring new ideas and new skills, we are likely to fail. There is an old story about adding tea to a full cup and seeing the tea spilled all over. This is compared to a person too full of his own ideas to actually learn. An empty cup will absorb the tea and keep it.
However, all of us understand that prior knowledge is equally important. If we learn something entirely new we are not likely to understand, remember and apply this knowledge. Our memory, our entire thinking process is associative. Everything we learn must be connected to everything else. We can use all of our life experience, rather than specific domain knowledge. As long as we generate meaningful associative connections, we are likely to acquire knowledge. This also applies to physical skills. A person who has a high qualification in martial arts will find it easier to learn dance moves or sports games.
Practicing openness while developing general knowledge is not something we have a video course for. It can be achieved with the right coach, provided the person is open to coaching. If the person is not open to learning and if the person resists coaching, there is not much we can do. When I say that our methodology is 90% successful, I acknowledge that there are 10% who stubbornly resist all of our efforts.
We want to have a phenomenal memory. All of us want this, and fortunately, memory skills are relatively easy to develop. Short-term and long-term memory are very different skills and should be practiced separately. Practicing one does not necessarily improve the other. Eidetic memory usually applies for less than a second and up to several minutes. Long-term memory relies on logical or creative connections, preferably on both.
To be honest, memory skills are significantly more complex. We can use mnemonic devices, but they are usually slow. Alternatively, we can rely on very fast visual memory, but it is often inaccurate. Every time we recall something, we may remember the recalled information rather than the original one. With time, our memory becomes distorted. And we are encouraged to use actively whatever we remember. This is very important, yet we are likely with time to forget the smaller details that are harder to use.
With memory practice the improvement can be extreme, significantly more than 10-fold, but it is likely to be in a specific memory we train and not necessarily apply to other kinds of memory. Training all kinds of memory is prohibitively hard, so with time, the focus becomes critical for further improvement.
Knowledge acquisition speed
I improved my reading speed almost x100 since I started practicing. This number is almost incomprehensible. Reading is a complex skill, built from multiple smaller skills. Improving the small skills we generate almost unbelievable aggregate practice. Not that I can promise anyone similar improvement. Most people are more than happy with x3 speedup – which is readily achievable with practice.
While the reading speed itself can be improved beyond anything we find reasonable, this does not directly improve knowledge acquisition. Knowledge is significantly more complex than reading a few books. We need to understand the underlying logic and remember the relevant fact in the right context. Moreover, we need to use knowledge actively, like teaching people, building projects, and creatively enhancing the knowledge base. This usage of knowledge is the hard part and requires significant time. Basically, it can be further improved by training creativity, productivity, and analysis.
There are so many kinds of creativity, that all of us are likely to be very good with some creativity skills and very bad with others. Fortunately, creativity skills are interconnected, and improving some creativity usually also improves other forms of creativity.
The easiest way to develop creativity is by asking questions. The more questions we ask, the more diverse perspectives we explore, the more creative we are likely to become. This is also an easily acquired skill, as we can learn by examining the products of other creative individuals and the way they address their challenges.
Systematic creativity typically provides an umbrella methodology for asking the right questions. Instead of guessing the right questions in each situation, we are given a large toolset to construct questions, quite often various “what if” questions, for a set of similar problems.
There is also a lifestyle that encourages creativity. One can sleep more, read a lot, take long walks in natural environments, create art, and write essays. The actual list of useful habits is much longer, and it usually improves not just creativity but also physical and mental health.
When analyzing we can further ask questions, addressing the subjects from multiple perspectives. As we ask more complex questions and get more complex answers, we may easily get confused by abundant information. Then the focus usually shifts to running simulations of more common scenarios and developing visualizations to present the relevant information visually, while removing less relevant data from graphs.
Alternatively, we may choose a more mathematical approach. In mathematics the methods we may apply typically follow statistical analysis or boolean logic. Here you may consider math enrichment in Singapore to understand the mathematical skills better and apply those in need. In the first case, we address the likelihood of some outcome given the root cause or the likelihood of the root case given the outcomes. In the second case we present an undeniable logical explanation once and for all proving our point.
It is very easy for someone with Ph.D. in stochastic processes and 30 years of experience in computer vision and machine learning to discuss all kinds of analytical thinking. Acquiring these skills is a very different matter. Moreover, I find it very difficult to analyze information without proper scientific tools, and these tools vary by discipline.
Motivation, productivity, discipline…
While psychological tools and productivity-related tools are separate disciplines, they have a very direct effect on our ability to learn. If we are not disciplined and think like investors, we are quite likely to acquire useless knowledge. When we have no motivation we are not likely to learn at all. And without productivity skills, our knowledge is a dead weight.
To make things even worse, learning skills require very specific branches of other disciplines. If we understand both fundamental and technical analysis of stock markets, this does not necessarily make us better at choosing which knowledge will serve us best in the future. Good investors can often predict future technological trends and select the best investment strategies, using a complementary set of skills.
In a similar way, productivity is not just organizing time and building plans. When we actually need to learn something and apply that knowledge, we need the ability to use the flow state, productive multitasking, and creative procrastination. This is not what most experts teach in regular productivity courses. These are complementary skills.
Aggregate improvement and grit
Effectively every time we acquire new control of an accelerated learning skill, we feel that we acquired something great. Then we integrate it into our process and see only minor or specific improvements. We integrate further skills and see more improvements. Eventually, over time, the change is monumental, only we do not notice it. Since each step of the process is small we kind of fail to believe the magnitude of the process. It is like watching our own kids grow. Everyone eventually asks: when did that happen?
Again, everything we discuss in this article appears in https://keytostudy.thinkific.com/
For example for this section, refer to https://keytostudy.thinkific.com/courses/keytovision-compound-changes-minicourse