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10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most successful and impactful investors, scientists, and innovators don’t think the way most of us do about learning – and there’s a reason.

Most conventional wisdom about learning, studying, and education is either mis-guided or wrong.

Here are 10 quotes that will have you reconsidering everything you thought you knew about school.

1. “I have never let schooling interfere with my education” – Mark Twain

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    This popular Twain-ism refers to “education” more as your lifelong process of figuring out how to navigate the world. School is a small part of that, and in many ways can interfere with learning: imposing strict boundaries, oversimplifying otherwise interesting and complex topics, and more generally making “education” into regimented work rather than creative discovery.

    Action: Think about your coursework in the context of your life’s learning arc: how does it fit in and how can you take control and select what you want or need to learn along the way?

    2. “The one real object of education is to leave a person in the condition of continually asking questions.” – Bishop Mandell Creighton

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      The point isn’t to get the answer, the point is to develop understanding. Unlike what most formal learning institutions preach, the best way to do that is – you guessed it – to find the right questions to ask. (This is what Socrates knew 2,000+ years ago.) Only then should you pursue an answer.

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      Action: Stop thinking, “How do I find the answer?” and start thinking “What questions should I be asking?”

      3. “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” – Charlie Munger

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        Munger attributes much of his (and Berkshire Hathaway’s) investing success to accumulating as many “mental models” as possible in diverse fields, by reading widely and continuously. And like Twain believed, he thoroughly embodies learning as a life-long journey. The classroom is just society’s overly-formalized attempt at capturing that process.

        Action: Don’t limit yourself to what you’re learning in class. Read widely and often, and it will pay off across the board.

        4. “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.” – Galileo

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          No one can insert knowledge into your brain, they can only guide and point you in the right direction. In this sense, teachers aren’t really “teaching” you anything, they’re only there to attempt to facilitate your own self-discovery.

          Action: Don’t rely on someone else to spoon-feed you the answer and put the knowledge in your head; only you can do that. Side benefit: most teachers actually have no clue what they’re doing, so the more you take control of your own learning future, the further ahead you’ll jump.

          5. “Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of mental laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss

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            Your textbook is only important if it gives you insights that help you score well on the test.

            Your homework is only important if it solidifies your knowledge.

            Highlighting printouts of lecture slides is never important.

            So take it from the master of effective learning, and stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re being productive, when really you’re just filling your time with “studying” because that’s what everyone says you should do.

            Action: Question what you spend your study time on – and make sure it lines up with what will get you to understand the material and maximize your grade in the course. Hint: past exams and the grading breakdown on the syllabus should be the first place to start.

            6. “I’m skeptical of a lot of what falls under the rubric of education…. People are on these tracks. They are getting these credentials and it’s very unclear how viable they are in many cases.” – Peter Thiel

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              Thiel, famous for funding promising high-schoolers and early college students not to go to college with his Thiel Fellowship program, invites you to step back and think about why you’re in school. Despite your parents’ insistence, don’t get a degree just because you think you like the subject or think you need it to “get a job.”

              Action: Consider the usefulness and applicability of your degree program. And, after careful reflection, if it doesn’t make sense, don’t be afraid to get out or switch to something better.

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              7. “Some people will never learn anything for this reason: because they understood everything too soon.” – Alexander Pope

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                It’s uncomfortable to hold an un-answered question in your head for too long, but it’s a critical skill for learning.

                A typical student will try to grab onto whatever they can grasp early, and then pat themselves on the back and move on.

                A smart student will allow themselves to be confused, and work over-time to integrate a new concept with their previous knowledge, eventually developing a much deeper and nuanced understanding of the topic.

                Action: When you hear something new, wait 24 hours to form an opinion about it – let it simmer and mix with everything else you know first.

                8. “If something makes logical sense, if it’s connected to what you already know, you’ll rarely have to memorize it…” – Adam Robinson

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                  By continually building a framework for understanding the material and consolidating your notes, the information becomes cemented in your long-term memory, with the added benefit of being able to handle novel or complex test questions.

                  How much better does that sound than slogging through a 1,000+ page textbook trying to re-read the same explanation, hoping it sinks in?

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                  Action: Put away the flash cards, and start making connections to the mental frameworks you already have by practicing active learning and solving problems from scratch.

                  9. “The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion – these are the most valuable coin of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is somehow associated with laziness.” – Jerome Seymour Bruner

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                    Guessing is actually a sophisticated art that activates your brain and helps to solidify new information. It provides the initial point for a feedback loop that allows you to see if your final solution makes sense, and adjust your intuition to better fit the answer if your guess was off.

                    Action: On your next homework assignment, go through and write down a guess for each question before you go through and try to solve it – then check that guess against your final answers.

                    10. “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” – Richard P. Feynman

                    Photo credit: Tamiko Thiel

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                      If you have passion for something, and make time to focus on it, you’ll find it almost effortless to learn it deeply. Learning in your own unique way also personalizes the information, and makes it easier to pull it out of your memory when you really need it.

                      Action: Ask yourself “what am I most interested in” and write down 10 different ways you could learn about it more deeply.

                      Featured photo credit: Heisenberg Media via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on November 15, 2018

                      Success In Reaching Goals Is Determined By Mindset

                      Success In Reaching Goals Is Determined By Mindset

                      What do you think it takes to achieve your goals? Hard work? Lots of actions? While these are paramount to becoming successful in reaching our goals, neither of these are possible without a positive mindset.

                      As humans, we naturally tend to lean towards a negative outlook when it comes to our hopes and dreams. We are prone to believing that we have limitations either from within ourselves or from external forces keeping us from truly getting to where we want to be in life. Our tendency to think that we’ll “believe it when we see it” suggests that our mindsets are focused on our goals not really being attainable until they’ve been achieved. The problem with this is that this common mindset fuels our limiting beliefs and shows a lack of faith in ourselves.

                      The Success Mindset

                      Success in achieving our goals comes down to a ‘success mindset’. Successful mindsets are those focused on victory, based on positive mental attitudes, empowering inclinations and good habits. Acquiring a success mindset is the sure-fire way to dramatically increase your chance to achieve your goals.

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                      The idea that achieving our goals comes down to our habits and actions is actually a typical type of mindset that misses a crucial point; that our mindset is, in fact, the determiner of our energy and what actions we take. A negative mindset will tend to create negative actions and similarly if we have a mindset that will only set into action once we see ‘proof’ that our goals are achievable, then the road will be much longer and arduous. This is why, instead of thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it”, a success mindset will think “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

                      The Placebo Effect and What It Shows Us About The Power of Mindset

                      The placebo effect is a perfect example of how mindset really can be powerful. In scientific trials, a group of participants were told they received medication that will heal an ailment but were actually given a sugar pill that does nothing (the placebo). Yet after the trial the participants believed it’s had a positive effect – sometimes even cured their ailment even though nothing has changed. This is the power of mindset.

                      How do we apply this to our goals? Well, when we set goals and dreams how often do we really believe they’ll come to fruition? Have absolute faith that they can be achieved? Have a complete unwavering expectation? Most of us don’t because we hold on to negative mindsets and limiting beliefs about ourselves that stop us from fully believing we are capable or that it’s at all possible. We tend to listen to the opinions of others despite them misaligning with our own or bow to societal pressures that make us believe we should think and act a certain way. There are many reasons why we possess these types of mindsets but a success mindset can be achieved.

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                      How To Create a Success Mindset

                      People with success mindsets have a particular way of perceiving things. They have positive outlooks and are able to put faith fully in their ability to succeed. With that in mind, here are a few ways that can turn a negative mindset into a successful one.

                      1. A Success Mindset Comes From a Growth Mindset

                      How does a mindset even manifest itself? It comes from the way you talk to yourself in the privacy of your own head. Realising this will go a long way towards noticing how you speak to yourself and others around you. If it’s mainly negative language you use when you talk about your goals and aspirations then this is an example of a fixed mindset.

                      A negative mindset brings with it a huge number of limiting beliefs. It creates a fixed mindset – one that can’t see beyond it’s own limitations. A growth mindset sees these limitations and looks beyond them – it finds ways to overcome obstacles and believes that this will result in success. When you think of your goal, a fixed mindset may think “what if I fail?” A growth mindset would look at the same goal and think “failures happen but that doesn’t mean I won’t be successful.”

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                      There’s a lot of power in changing your perspective.

                      2. Look For The Successes

                      It’s really important to get your mind focused on positive aspects of your goal. Finding inspiration through others can be really uplifting and keep you on track with developing your success mindset; reinforcing your belief that your dreams can be achieved. Find people that you can talk with about how they achieved their goals and seek out and surround yourself with positive people. This is crucial if you’re learning to develop a positive mindset.

                      3. Eliminate Negativity

                      You can come up against a lot of negativity sometimes either through other people or within yourself. Understanding that other people’s negative opinions are created through their own fears and limiting beliefs will go a long way in sustaining your success mindset. But for a lot of us, negative chatter can come from within and these usually manifest as negative words such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t. Sometimes, when we think of how we’re going to achieve our goals, statements in our minds come out as negative absolutes: ‘It never works out for me’ or ‘I always fail.’

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                      When you notice these coming up you need to turn them around with ‘It always works out for me!’ and ‘I never fail!’ The trick is to believe it no matter what’s happened in the past. Remember that every new day is a clean slate and for you to adjust your mindset.

                      4. Create a Vision

                      Envisioning your end goal and seeing it in your mind is an important trait of a success mindset. Allowing ourselves to imagine our success creates a powerful excitement that shouldn’t be underestimated. When our brain becomes excited at the thought of achieving our goals, we become more committed, work harder towards achieving it and more likely to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

                      If this involves creating a vision board that you can look at to remind yourself every day then go for it. Small techniques like this go a long way in sustaining your success mindset and shouldn’t be dismissed.

                      An Inspirational Story…

                      For centuries experts said that running a mile in under 4 minutes was humanly impossible. On the 6th May 1954, Rodger Bannister did just that. As part of his training, Bannister relentlessly visualised the achievement, believing he could accomplish what everyone said wasn’t possible…and he did it.

                      What’s more amazing is that, as soon as Bannister achieved the 4-minute mile, more and more people also achieved it. How was this possible after so many years of no one achieving it? Because in people’s minds it was suddenly possible – once people knew that it was achievable it created a mindset of success and now, after over fifty years since Bannister did the ‘impossible’, his record has been lowered by 17 seconds – the power of the success mindset!

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