Here is the final part to the two-part series about the art of learning! If you have missed the first part, you can read it here.
So to continue, what I will be mainly talking about for this final part will be techniques (speeding, mapping, and habit of practice) and some personal stories.
Why techniques? Because as I have said in my previous post, I believe that autodidactism can be learned. Even though I was becoming an autodidact without realizing it, some of the techniques that I am personally using are supplemented by my additional research from books, other people’s testimonies and techniques, and some research data results.
So ‘lo and behold!
This is in reality two techniques compacted into one: speed-reading, and speed-listening.
A.) For the first, speed-reading is a technique that is generally used to increase efficiency in reading. I will not be talking in detail about this since there are alot of resources and tutorials live out there in the wild web. If you’re a natural slow-reader like me, and would like to train on this skill, there’s a good and free web application called Spreeder.
Some famous people who were known to be speed-readers are:
- George Washington
- Thomas Jefferson
- Abraham Lincoln
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Franklin D.Roosevelt
- John F. Kennedy
If these fathers and leaders of one of the most powerful countries are speed-reading, then surely there must be some value in it.
As a child, I never loved reading (I was a visual-type of kid who loved cartoons, comics, images, etc). But as I studied and dug deeper as to how successful people became successful, it has come to me that reading books is a necessary part of their success. To my knowledge, there has never been an effective CEO, leader, general, or even scientist/inventor who doesn’t read books.
Also, do not read a single book on a given topic. Never. Instead, read atleast five books on the given topic. That way, you are most certainly sure that the information you are taking in is legit and is on solid ground.
But how can you read five books?
Speed read. Speed read a lot of resources about the given topic, and you will find common patterns and things, and eventually, master the topic easily.
B.) For the second, speed-listening, is my made-up term. Its not in actuality a technique, but rather a method. Speed listening is listening to audiobooks, or watching Youtube videos with 2x the speed. I find that I can understand better when listening/watching with 2x the speed, as compared to the original 1x speed. With this method, I can watch 1 hour-long videos in just 30 mins, and with better comprehension. After becoming so acquainted in this method, watching videos (or even listening to lectures) with 1x the speed seems to me like the world is in slow-motion. Lol.
Why speeding? Why in such a hurry?
Because our brains can absorb better than we think it can. Also by speeding, we can selectively absorb the things that are most important, and thus eliminating any unnecessary jargon or stories.
It is about efficiency.
There has been a famous quote, “The rich gets richer, and the poor gets poorer.” Fair or not, but I believe it to be partially true. I also believe that this rings to be true also when it comes to learning.
This is because of the concept of mapping. Research shows that people learn better when they deep process it. There exists a good video from a psychology professor from the Samford University about this deep processing. I suggest you watch it to have a grasp of how we, as humans, learn deeper.
Anyhow, I will translate it in my own terms: people learn best when the new information they take in are associated with the things that they already know.
When taking new information, associate, compare, and contrast it with something that you already know.
As a growing musician, I first learned the piano. After that, I decided to learn the guitars, violin, and drums. Learning to play the piano was significantly harder for me, as compared to my experience with the guitars, violin, and drums. This was because after learning the piano, learning the other instruments had become easier to me because I can relate the new information/techniques that the guitars/violin/drums required me to learn, to the things that I already know because of my piano knowledge.
I see all kinds of skills as a web of interconnected things. Somehow, one way or another, they are connected. And the better you are at having a set of skills, the easier it is to learn the skills that are connected to it. That is why I believe that the more knowledgeable a person, the more knowledgeable he becomes (assuming he does not get proud).
In mapping, there is also this specific technique that I am using called mindmapping. Have a Google on it if you are interested.
3. Habit of Practice
Success is not overnight. You won’t learn and master a skill overnight. It takes a habit.
The book Outliers has popularized the “Ten Thousand Rule.” It says that research shows that the world-class doctors, athletes, and musicians, people, have one thing in common: They have given atleast 10,000 hours honing their skill.
Ten thousand hours? That’s insane! How can anyone give that much time?
Through habit. Simple. Do not give 10 hours of practice on the first day, then giving up on the second day. Instead, give atleast 30mins on the first day, then continuing it on the second day with increments, until it becomes a habit.
As a final note, these techniques are not independent of each other. Instead, they build up on each other. To recap from part 1, here are the totality of my techniques:
- Solidification. What do you want to learn specifically? Why?
- Deconstruction. Skills are a collection of subskills. Break down the desired skill into smaller subskills.
- Visualization. Use your mind and imagination. See the outcome in your mind.
- Speeding. Speed-read, and speed-listen. It is about efficiency.
- Mapping. Associate new information with information you already know.
- Habit of Practice. Practice, practice, practice, until it becomes a habit.
Here are some additional tips that supplement my techniques:
- Have a timeline. Be organized, and have specific goals in mind. What will you learn in 1 week? In 2 weeks? In one month?
- Get feedback. If you are working on a crafting skill like game development, music, or art, be deliberate on getting feedback. And choose the constructive feedback from the nasty ones.
- Practice day-in, and day-out. There is this concept of consolidation that our brain is natural at. Our brain consolidates any new information that we are taking during sleep. So it is best to practice hours before sleep (to consolidate new information), and after sleep (to test and reinforce the information).
- Remove barriers. Remove distractions. As a self-taught piano player, I can clearly remember how in highschool I taught myself the piano classic masterpiece “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. I locked myself in a secluded room in a secluded building (we have a shop beside our house) alone with my electric piano, turned off all of the lights to remove distractions, blindfolded myself to focus my practice on improving my muscle-memory, and practiced the piece until 1:00am (and I have to go to school by 6:45am).
Nothing worthwhile is easy to obtain. But in the process of doing so, it is better to be smart in doing it.
I pray and hope that these techniques shall be used for the betterment of humanity, even the world, not destructively.
As a conclusion, I will end it by saying that learning is not a matter of intellect, but a matter of emotion. Everyone can try to learn. Its just that not everyone can stomach the criticisms of being initially unskilled.