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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Faster You Learn, the Easier You’ll Fall Behind

The Faster You Learn, the Easier You’ll Fall Behind

Garry Kasparov is a chess grandmaster – and also a former world chess champion. Over the last few decades, he’s beaten hundreds of first-class chess players. It’s no surprise then, that many people consider Kasparov to be one of the greatest chess players of all time.

However, in 1997, Kasparov lost a game of chess to a computer. A year earlier, he had played against IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer and defeated it. But the computer was to have its revenge, as just one year later, when the rematch took place, Deep Blue defeated Kasparov.

    Over the next few years, humans and computers traded chess moves and blows. Fast-forward to 2017, and the picture is crystal clear: today’s best chess programs can easily beat the world’s best human chess players.[1]

    As the Kasparov story demonstrates, even the world’s top players – who practiced a lot – can end up losing.

    Now consider your friends, family and colleagues. How many of these people think they’re doing well in what they do? And how many think they are doing better than the average and have stopped looking for ways to improve themselves? The answer is, a lot.

    Why Learning Can Lead to Stagnation

    When people learn well – they pick up knowledge and quickly become skillful. And the smarter the people, the easier they pick up knowledge, and the easier and faster they become very good at something.

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    These types of individuals find learning effortless, and therefore, they pick up knowledge and skills much better than the average person.

    Take a look at the picture below. The tool in their hand represents the skill they have learned, and the cloud is the level they are currently on – in this case ground level.

      When these learners become knowers, they believe that they know what they’ve learned extremely well. This may be the case, but in reality, they’re already better than average. Because of this, they are unlikely to find anyone who can surpass them. It’s at this point that they may think to themselves, “I’m good enough” and “there’s no need for me learn anything more.”

        As I’ll show in the next few paragraphs, people’s egos can stop them from learning and improving themselves.

        For example, let’s take a look at an expert pianist. They can perform proficiently because of their hard work and practice that they’ve put in over the course of many years. To help them, they may have had a tutor who developed their skills and brought out their talent.

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        The consistent tutoring and practicing led them to become an accomplished pianist – one who regularly performs paid concerts in front of decent-sized audiences. However, their success has led them to believe that they don’t need to make any further changes or improvements to their musical skills.

          When experts stop learning – they start to fall behind. This is because others will keep improving, and eventually get ahead of them.

          The world is constantly changing, so sticking to the same way to practice (and failing to improve) will lead to people dropping the ball. A recent study predicted that one in five U.K. employees are under threat of losing their jobs to automation. A person who’s comfortable in their job today, may find themselves replaced by a computer or robot tomorrow. If this prediction comes true, millions of people will soon find themselves out of work.[2] This is a real life example of how people can fall behind when they stop learning and improving themselves.

          Clearly, any experts who stop learning and improving, will be replaced by those who keep learning – whether these are humans or machines.

            When You Think You’ve Learned Enough, You Fall Behind

            The cloud depicted in the visuals isn’t concrete, and it’s prone to fall and disappear any time when you stop paying attention to your own learning and development.

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            Everyone, no matter how good they believe themselves to be at something, should never stop learning. Reaching an ‘acceptable’ performance only means that you’re doing okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing it to the best of your ability or potential.

            As I stated earlier (but well worth repeating again)… When you stop learning, you’re falling behind.

              Push Yourself to Reach New Heights

              To keep ahead of your competitors, you need to keep learning and practicing. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean doing things in the same way. You may need to step outside of your comfort zone in order to improve.

                Do what you can’t

                When you think you’re doing something well enough, find what you can’t do – and then do it! Here are four key things to remember about pushing your boundaries:

                1. If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.
                2. Getting out of your comfort zone means trying to do something that you couldn’t do before.
                3. Sometimes you’ll run into something that stops you in your tracks. Find ways around these hurdles by focusing on improving your skills and knowledge, and then practicing them until you become proficient.
                4. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may need to try different ways to make things happen.

                Set yourself specific goals as you practice

                People who achieve great things set themselves definite goals. And I highly recommend that you do the same.

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                One great way to do this is to follow the SMART and Stretch goal methods, which will help you set a big goal, while at the same time giving you baby steps on how to reach it. When SMART and Stretch goals are combined, your goal setting will have genuine purpose and power. You’ll be motivated by the giant goal, while having confidence in the small, incremental steps that will lead you there.

                Find out more about goals setting in my other article: How to Get Bigger Things Done in the Coming Year

                Along the way, you need to get feedback to help you improve

                It goes without saying that to make progress, you’ll need feedback to identify exactly where and how you are falling short. This feedback can be from yourself or from outside observers (e.g., your audience, your mentor, your peers).

                Do you know why computers can beat humans at chess after those times they’ve lost against them? The answer is, that people who program the computers have learned through all the steps humans have performed. They also gathered valuable feedback through their computers losing against some competitors. The programmers pick up the clues and change the way the computers perform in their next matches.

                Learning Should Never Come to an End

                When we’re young we naturally crave learning. We constantly seek out new knowledge, skills and experiences. However, as we mature, there’s a tendency for us to stop learning new things.

                If this happens, you can be sure that stagnation is just around the corner. And as nature shows, nothing (even stagnation) stays the same for long. Things are either building up – or breaking down.

                To avoid the latter, you must maintain a positive outlook that embraces big goals and constant learning. By doing these things, you’ll stay fresh, lively and ahead of the pack of hyenas snapping at your heels!

                Reference

                More by this author

                Leon Ho

                Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                Last Updated on January 27, 2021

                9 Remote Learning Tips for Efficient and Effective Learning

                9 Remote Learning Tips for Efficient and Effective Learning

                If you’re taking a course or working on a degree at the moment, chances are that you have to take most of your courses from home instead of at a physical location. This is called remote learning and brings with it some unique challenges.

                How do you learn efficiently when learning remotely? How can you absorb the material and learn at an accelerated rate, and most importantly, find enjoyment in it and keep up the motivation? We’ll talk about all of this and more here.

                What Is Remote Learning?

                It’s easy to confuse remote learning with online learning. Before we continue, it’s important to define what remote learning is and how it differs from online learning.

                The main difference that I want to point out is this: Remote learning is when the classes or courses have been designed to be taught in-person but are being conducted in an online environment. This kind of distance learning usually happens, for example, during a pandemic.

                Online learning, on the other hand, is when the classes have been specifically designed to be taken online instead of in a traditional classroom environment. Courses taken on Udemy or EdX are examples of online learning.

                Preparing Your Environment for Efficient Learning

                Before we get into some of the more advanced accelerated learning techniques, we need to cover some basics first. Without these fundamentals in place, it might be difficult to effectively apply the accelerated learning techniques that I will share with you later.

                1. Have a Dedicated Learning Space

                For efficient learning, focus is everything. Having a dedicated learning space that is set up in a way that makes you feel comfortable is a great help for your focus.

                A lot of people find that this helps, mainly for two reasons:

                1. Since you associate that space with learning, you will be less distracted and find it easier to get into the correct mental headspace that is conducive for efficient learning.
                2. If you have a nice space with a good vibe, you are more likely to associate learning as something you enjoy.

                2. Get Rid of Distractions

                Once you have set up your dedicated learning environment, get rid of all distractions. Distractions include everything from people, TV, the radio, other open tabs on your computer, and most definitely your phone.

                We are all different, and we get distracted by different things. Therefore, knowing which distractions you have to get rid of is about knowing yourself and being honest about what distracts you personally.

                3. Have a Dedicated Learning Time

                If learning or studying isn’t your favorite activity, then scheduling in a set time every day as your dedicated learning time is a great aid. Apart from the obvious benefits of the structure you get, it has an amazingly helpful side-effect: It requires less effort to get started.

                When you have promised yourself to abide by a strict time to go over your notes and revise, you don’t have a choice when that time comes. If it’s entirely up to you to choose when to study, you might sometimes put it off completely.

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                As a result, you won’t establish the habit of getting started, and a habit is your greatest ally. Why? Because a habit has the extraordinary ability to make difficult things easy.

                In his amazing book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown says:

                “Learning essential new skills is never easy. But once we master them and make them automatic we have won an enormous victory, because the skill remains with us for the rest of our lives. The same is true with routines.”

                Priming Your Brain for Efficient Learning

                What you do before a remote learning session can be just as important as what you do during it. If you’re not in a mental state where your brain absorbs new information with ease, half of your learning session might be wasted.

                In this next section, I am going to give you 3 tips on how to get into the right mental headspace so that you can access states of laser-sharp focus and absorb the material with ease.

                1. Look Forward to Your Learning Session

                Jim Kwik, a world-renowned expert on learning and memory, says that learning is “state-dependent.” This means that the mood you’re in affects how efficiently you’re learning.[1]

                Here is how memory works, according to Joshua Foer, the author of the brilliant book Moonwalking with Einstein:

                You remember things by what you associate with them. If you’re on holiday or you’re having an amazing experience at an event, you are likely to remember this event because it had such a profound impact on your emotions. As a result, it’s very likely that you will remember a lot of what was said at that event. This is because you connect what has been said to how you felt emotionally during the event.

                Humans are incredibly emotionally driven creatures. The way we learn and memorize things is also profoundly impacted by our emotional state.

                If you struggle with looking forward to your learning session, try to realize what a great thing learning is. For many adults, learning is the most fun thing that will happen to you today. It’s a break from work and all obligations. It’s about upgrading yourself—it’s your time.

                Now, I’m going to give you a simple but effective tool that will hack your brain into looking forward to the learning session. This will get you into an excited and positive state of mind—the best state for learning at an accelerated rate and to soak up knowledge like a dry sponge.

                2. Segment Intending

                Founder of Mindvalley, Vishen Lakhiani, has developed a great mental tool called segment intending that sets your day up for success. It’s the perfect tool if you struggle with staying positive about your remote learning experience.

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                The best part is that it takes only 1-2 minutes and is easy to do. You can do this in the shower or while you’re preparing your coffee in the morning.

                Here is how it works:

                In your head, go through the course of your day, and split it into segments. The first segment might be your morning routine before going to work. The next one might be your commute to work, then the hours where you are at work. The last segments might be the time right after work, dinner time, then your evening activities, and the last one should be when you go to sleep.[2]

                For each of these segments, imagine that they are going remarkably well. Imagine that you’re having a stress-free commute to work. Imagine that you’re having an extraordinarily productive workday while having fun with your colleagues. When you get to the segment including your study session, imagine that it will be really exciting learning something new.

                It’s called segment intending because you split the day into segments and produce good intentions for each segment.

                3. The Reset Technique

                Let’s say you have had a long, stressful day. When you get home, you are supposed to study for two hours through remote learning. How on earth are you meant to focus completely on your learning when the events that happened previously that day are gnawing away at your mind?

                By using the Reset Technique, of course!

                The Reset Technique removes emotional baggage from your mind. It “resets” your mind so that you can carry on with what you’re supposed to do with a clear mind free of all distractions. This will enable you to focus 100% on the task at hand.

                I call it the Reset Technique because it pretty much works the same for you as a reset or restart button does for your internet router or computer.

                Here is how it works:

                Sit down on the chair by your study desk, and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and count slowly down from ten to zero. Feel yourself getting calmer as you approach zero, and when you reach zero, your mind is in a relaxed state. For the next 2 minutes, just breathe in and out slowly and deeply, and focus your attention on nothing else but the fact that you’re breathing in and out.

                When you open your eyes, you’ll have just done a quick reset of your whole “system.” Now, you can approach your learning session with a much less distracted mind.

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                I first heard about a similar technique from author and high-performance coach Brendon Burchard in an interview. He just called it “a quick 2-3 minute meditation” (which is exactly what it is) and proposed it as a way of not carrying emotional baggage from one part of your day into the next.[3]

                Accelerated Learning Techniques for Remote Learning

                So far, we have talked about how to prepare yourself and the environment around you to maximize your learning efficiency. Now it’s time to focus on the actual learning session.

                This is where the magic happens.

                1. Note-Taking

                Note-taking is incredibly important if you want to learn fast and efficiently. It sounds obvious, but few people know how to actually use their notes after they have taken them.

                If you’re watching a lecture on your computer screen, take a quick note of everything that sounds like it might be important. Right after the lecture, while the information is fresh in your head, go through your notes and collect all your key points on a single sheet of paper.

                The reason why this helps is that having an overview of the whole topic makes it easy to understand the big picture of the subject you’re learning. Having all the key points neatly on a single page makes you feel less overwhelmed. If all the key points can get space on one page, you feel confident that you can learn it easily.

                If your teacher has already provided you with a list of key points, it might be tempting to think that this relieves you of the obligation to make notes yourself, but it’s important that you make your own notes with your own words. The reason why this is so important will become evident when I tell you about the Feynman Technique, which is my next tip.

                Learn to make note-taking your habit during remote learning: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

                2. The Feynman Technique

                “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” –Albert Einstein

                What Einstein said above is what the Feynman technique is all about. This is a learning technique that Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman developed and used himself.

                Using the Feynman Technique is easy:

                Pretend that you are explaining a concept that you’re learning to a child. You can either write it down or say it out loud. Identify the parts of your explanation that you’re struggling with communicating clearly, and take note of gaps in your understanding of the concept.

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                Then, read up on the concept again and try to simplify the explanation one more time. Repeat this until you can confidently explain the concept in simple terms.

                Why is the Feynman Technique so effective? Shane Parrish from Farnam Street puts it well:

                “Sometimes we use jargon and complicated language to hide what we don’t understand. The Feynman Technique lays bare the true extent of our knowledge.”[4]

                To explain something in your own words, you are forced to really think about it. This is exactly why teaching is one of the best learning techniques, even in remote learning. If you want to learn something really well, teach it to somebody.

                3. Spaced Repetition

                Spaced repetition is the single most effective technique for solidifying something in your long term memory.

                Spaced repetition is a memorization technique based on progressively increasing the time between each time you review the material you are learning. Repetition is essential if you expect to remember something long term, and spaced repetition is one of the most successful structured repetition systems for this purpose.

                Spaced repetition has been tested by psychologists and has proven to be more successful than repeating previously learned material at random intervals. This is because you take advantage of your brain’s psychological spacing effect, which involves reviewing the material at the point when you are about to forget it.[5]

                This technique stems from the work of the psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. He developed something we call the forgetting curve. This is a graph that shows that each time we actively recall the same information, it takes longer for it to decay from our memory[6].

                Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve and review cycle.

                  In my opinion, the best way to start taking advantage of spaced repetition is with an app such as Anki. This app will automatically space out the time intervals for you, based on how well you remember the information you are reviewing.

                  Learn more about spaced repetition here: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

                  Summing Up

                  Once you set up your environment, prime yourself for learning, and use accelerated learning techniques, you’re ready to get moving with remote learning.

                  Now it’s up to you to take action and apply the tips and techniques we went through above. Remember, the hardest part of doing something hard is starting it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be on a better path to learning and growing.

                  More Tips on Learning Efficiently

                  Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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