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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
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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

          More by this author

          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          Last Updated on July 21, 2021

          The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

          The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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          No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

          Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

          Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

          A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

          Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

          In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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          From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

          A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

          For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

          This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

          The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

          That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

          Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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          The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

          Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

          But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

          The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

          The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

          A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

          For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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          But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

          If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

          For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

          These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

          For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

          How to Make a Reminder Works for You

          Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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          Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

          Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

          My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

          Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

          I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

          More on Building Habits

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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          Reference

          [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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