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The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

Do you have difficulty comprehending a new concept after you read? Do you refuse to even attempt to improve your math skills? If this sounds like you, stop worrying because there is a simple approach you can use to improve. The trick is to simply apply what you are learning.

    Without any additional application, we will only retain 10% of what we read. 10%! Yet, if we attempt to teach others a new concept, we find that we are able to retain 90% of the information. Even simply discussing the concept with others will help us retain 50% of the information. Essentially, reading or learning a new concept will provide us no practical good without practice.[1]

    So, let’s look at what it actually means to apply what we learn and how we can use some powerful techniques to improve.

    Learning = Download + Process + Apply

    Think of the application of knowledge through this analogy: You have two islands separated by a river. One island represents knowing, the other island represents understanding. The application of new knowledge is like building a bridge between the two; hence, applying new knowledge bridges the gap between knowing and understanding.

    We should strive to create a habit of always considering ways to immediately implement what we are reading or learning into our daily lives. Let me show you why this is important by looking at a formula for learning called The Learning Formula (TLR).

    With TLR, we start by learning something new, followed by actively processing new knowledge, then applying it as soon as possible; thus, demonstrating that learning updates in our brain by using the following formula: Learning = Download + Process + Apply.[2]

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    Let’s briefly breakdown each component of the TLR.

    Download

    Similar to how a computer downloads information, we must first download knowledge. We can do this through the following ways: reading a book, listening to an audiobook, watching a video online, or listening to a lecture.

    The first thing we should do after downloading new information is to deconstruct it. Elon Musk has mastered this concept and found that knowledge has a logical structure. Drake Baer writes, “Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle said that a first principle is the first basis from which a thing is known and that pursuing first principles is the key to doing any sort of systemic inquiry.”[3]

    Process

    We process new knowledge when we connect the dots between new and old ideas. Essentially, we are connecting new chunks of information with something we already know. Here are two great ideas to use when processing new information.

    • Analogies. An analogy is simply a comparison between two concepts for the purpose of explanation. Here is a brilliant (and a favorite of mine) example of an analogy (could also be a metaphor) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol.

    When Carol’s expedition into whimsical absurdity opens, a young girl (Alice) is strolling through a meadow, when a rabbit suddenly appears. She thinks nothing of it at first, until the rabbit pulls out a watch and looks at it. She realizes this is not an ordinary rabbit. This represents the new and unexplored or a burning curiosity. Alice runs after the rabbit like chasing a new idea. She decides to follow the rabbit down a rabbit hole, never considering how she would get out. This represents following through with a new idea for the excitement of discovery is like chasing the rabbit or idea down the rabbit hole. Alice is unsure where this chasing will take her, yet she is excited to pursue the idea without question. [4]

    • Diagrams. A diagram is a drawing that represents the appearance or structure of something in graphic form. This could be anything from a simple sketch to a detailed outline of the universe. For example, let’s look at a diagram to help us understand how objects interact in the classic book Flatland.

      Apply

      Let me ask you a simple question. What good does it do you to read or learn new information if you are not going to use it? Unless you are reading something for pure enjoyment (think Harry Potter), you must have the mindset of using the new knowledge to improve yourself.

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      By applying what we learn, we are able to secure it in long-term memory. One of the best ways to apply our knowledge is to teach it. Teaching forces us to dive into the concept and really start to understand it. However, the best way is to start applying it in your line of work and immediately use it. Once you gain practical experience with this new concept, try to explain the technical information to someone. For example, write a blog about it. It’s amazing what this can do for you retention of new knowledge!

      Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of applying new knowledge.

      • Improved Problem Solving. By applying what we learn, we become better problem solvers. The more we read and learn, the more information and knowledge we come across. If we apply it in our daily life, we will start to notice we use this new knowledge daily.
      • Improved Memory. The more we apply new knowledge, the better it will stick in our memory.

      Let your mind go wild and go down the rabbit hole

      If you find that you are the type of person who consistently goes down rabbit holes when learning or discussing a new concept… embrace it! Yes, embrace it! Here is why.

      I recently created a new theory for learning. I call it the Deep Rabbit Hole (DRH) Learning Theory[5]. I constructed the theory on the following premises.

      Premise #1. Learning a new concept takes us down a rabbit hole.

      Premise #2. Inside the rabbit hole, we find new ideas are easily connected to old ideas.

      Conclusion. Therefore, learning a new concept is easier by allowing yourself to go down a rabbit hole.

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      The key to this approach is to allow yourself the freedom to freely fall down the rabbit hole. When you chase the rabbit down the hole without any hesitation, you will be amazed where you end up! Here is how I construct my DRH (with a brief example).

      Restate the question.

      Clearly define the purpose.

      Use a DRH. Similar to a semantic tree: deconstruct the concept, question, or idea.

      Clearly identify the parts of the rabbit hole you want to apply. Here, you are coloring or circling those components you would like to further apply or break down into their own DRH. This is important, because a DRH will lead to lots of new ideas to get lost in!

      This is going to sound completely crazy, but I used a DRH to conduct a thought experiment. This approach allowed me to create a new (and crazy) theory. The Color of the 4th Dimension. The image below is an example of this creation. [6]

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        Elon Musk’s brilliant approach

        In my opinion, there is no one doing more to move the world forward today than Elon Musk. Musk is an advocate for learning across multiple fields. If we embrace learning across multiple fields, we find that we possess an information advantage as most people are solely focused on just one field.[7]

        Learning Transfer

        Musk has a large thirst for knowledge. He regularly exposes himself to numerous subjects. He also practices a skill known as the Learning Transfer. Essentially, this is taking what we learn and applying it to something else. Think of learning something in physics class and using it in sociology. For this, Musk has a two-step process.

        • Contrasting Cases. This is where you deconstruct something and look for the deeper understanding of it. For example, suppose you wanted to find the deeper principle for what makes the letter A an A. See below.

          • Reconstruct the principles you learn into different fields. To effectively do this, we should ask ourselves the following questions: “What does this remind me of?” and “Why does it remind me of it?”

          Other powerful techniques

          Lastly, there are quite a few additional techniques and examples we can use; however, I have narrowed the list down to two powerful techniques.

          1. ADEPT. When trying to comprehend a difficult concept, try the following: Find an Analogy, use a Diagram, Experience it, explain it in Plain English, and describe the Technical Details. [8]
          2. Solo Taxonomy. Structure of Observed Learning Outcome. This is a model describing the levels of increased complexity. Here, you move from an abstract thought, to a clear image, then to a creative and better outcome.

          I encourage you all to embrace the application of new knowledge. To me, this is common sense. Unless we use it, we will lose it. Learning plus thinking equals creating! Lastly, remember this powerful advice from Marianne Williamson:

          “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”

          Reference

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          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          Last Updated on September 28, 2020

          How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

          How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

          There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

          With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

          With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

          1. Determine Your “Why”

          Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

          The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

          Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

          “Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

          That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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          I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

          Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

          Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

          2. Write Down Your Goal

          If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

          This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

          When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

          3. Set a SMART Goal

          A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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          Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

             

            By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

            • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
            • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
            • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
            • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
            • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

            Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

            4. Take One Step at a Time

            Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

            Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

            For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

            This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

            5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

            With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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            For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

            The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

            Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

            6. Schedule Your Tasks

            Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

            What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

            For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

            Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

            While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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            7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

            Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

            Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

            You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

            8. Check off Items as You Go

            You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

            There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

            If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

            9. Review and Reset as Necessary

            Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

            If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

            The Bottom Line

            When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

            More on Goal Action Plans

            Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

            Reference

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