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Think Like a Cat

Think Like a Cat

So a friend of mine is building a robot. Most things that get called robots are really nothing more than remote control cars with a few smarts, or telepresence vehicles. But this guy is all about the soul of the machine, the way the robot will consider things. And his model? He plans for his robot to think like a cat. (Disclosure: I’m not a “cat person”. I appreciate them, though.)

  • Cats Don’t Care About Details– When a cat enters a room, it looks around for: threats, creatures, food, places to sleep. There’s probably a process in their minds to determine how bad a threat is, who the creatures are (are they in my pride?), what type of food, but I think the details get fuzzy beyond that. (Any cat shrinks in the house?). How would you apply this to your life? Are the details of every little thing important? Or can you abstract things to the point of: “what do I need to survive, connect, eat, and sleep?”
  • Cats Don’t Need Maps– Programming a robot to move around is a pain, but cats just know the basic laws of physics (insofar as those apply to them). They know that up is often safer than ground-level, but that ground-level is more often where the food is. Everything else is just a navigation path, but not a map. Maps are too static. They don’t account for dynamics. Google Maps doesn’t tell you (yet) that a truck rolled over (is there a mashup for this that’s really good?). How would your day change if you threw away rigid schedules in exchange for a path that got you through to what you need?
  • Cats Exert Little Energy– Why search over and over for food? Find a source that seems easy to reach, easy to consume, and reasonable in taste, and call it good. A lot of what we do in life ends up drawing more energy out of us than necessary. Sure, we don’t have to be slugs and sleep 70% of the day, but maybe cats offer a great model for exertion with regards to reward. Make sure you’re not working too hard to get what you need. (We’ll cover this in an interview I plan to post).
  • Cats Don’t Deduce- They Just Take What’s There– Sometimes, we get into a habit of over-thinking things. We over-clock our ideas. This leads to double-guessing, reworking, and all other kinds of non-catlike behavior. One interpretation of Occam’s Razor is this: if it looks that way, it probably *is* that way. (WAY oversimplified, I admit). That’s similar to the power of Google. You know why Google works for most of the “weird” requests we give it? Because it’s “good enough.” And that’s often all we need to complete our task. Ditto for cats. How about you?
  • Cats Network Well– When a cat comes into the room, they “own” the room. They make an effort to move around, see who’s there, maybe rub legs with a few folks. They spend just enough love and attention with everyone (maybe not little folks) to give everyone a chance to connect with the cat. When you go to events, do you remember to own the room? Do you try to network and meet all the people in the room? What if everything you did in that room were an assessment of threat, ally, food, or recreation? Would that change your view?

You guys are great for letting me launch so many metaphor posts at you (analogy? – help me, grammarians!). I like them because they help me think about things in a different way. I am fond of saying: If I want to learn about new ways to do business, the last thing I’d do is read a business book. I hope you concur.

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–Chris Brogan writes about self improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s helping to organize Podcamp Boston.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

Here are some study tips to help get you started:

1. Use Flashcards

Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

As Tony Robbins says,

“Repetition is the mother of skill”.

2. Create the Right Environment

Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

4. Listen to Music

Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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5. Rewrite Your Notes

This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

6. Engage Your Emotions

Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

7. Make Associations

One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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