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10 Ways to Be a Quick Learner Like Leonardo Da Vinci

10 Ways to Be a Quick Learner Like Leonardo Da Vinci

Never before has there been so much information readily available at our fingertips. Never before has there been so many free resources to learn new skills and expand our minds. But with this unprecedented access to knowledge, never before has there been so much confusion about what advice one ought to follow.

More often than not, what separates the people who seem to pick things up fast and excel at everything they try isn’t that they’ve stumbled on the best insights out there. Rather, it’s that they’ve learned how to learn well.

Here are 10 things quick learners do differently to pick up anything.

1. Use the 80/20 rule

In 1906 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Taking the observation further he noticed that 80% of the peas in his garden were produced from 20% of the pods. Years later, economist Joseph M. Juran called this 80/20 rule the Pareto principle.

Productivity experts like NYT bestselling author Tim Ferriss have popularised this approach as a means to learning quickly. For instance, when it comes to learning a language a good question to begin with is: what are the 20% of the words that are used 80% of the time?

Find the 80/20 rule in the subject of your studies. What are the main ideas? What are the most important elements that yield the biggest return on investment? Start with these questions.

2. View failure as feedback

We often try to avoid failure at all costs. We typically engage in pastimes we feel competent in and try not to venture out of our comfort pits for fear of looking like a dork. We play it safe.

This isn’t the way we’ve always been. When learning how to talk, we would mumble and sing and talk gobbledegook for hours on end to anyone who would listen. When first learning to walk, we would crawl and stand and fall hundreds of times, sometimes hurting ourselves, and try again a few minutes later.

Think about all of the hobbies you had growing up–yo-yo, skateboarding, drawing, instruments, sports–every month there was a new fad every kid had to try. We were excited to learn, to improve, whether that meant failing along the way or not.

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The greatest minds in history keep this childlike curiosity their entire lives. Thomas Edison, arguably the greatest creative scientist of all time, was racing to invent the light bulb before anyone else. He failed over 10,000 times.

When asked in an interview how he felt about his failures, without a missing a beat he replied:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

There can be no learning without failure. Embrace it.

3. Simplify

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

The idea of the superhuman learner who reads 15 books on different subjects at once, while learning 10 different languages and writing 3 novels, is a myth. Multitasking leads to poor performance.

study conducted by the University of London found that people who had their email on while doing work that required concentration lost 10 IQ points. If you haven’t slept for 36 hours, you lose 10 IQ points. If you smoke marijuana, you lose four IQ points. Too many distractions make us dumb.⁠

Super learners, like Leonardo da Vinci, went through periods of intense immersion. Although he is famous for being a scientist and an artist, da Vinci didn’t take an interest in maths until he was 40. Then he spent five years learning everything he could about it.

With learning, we must simplify. We must give all of our attention to one topic at a time. Taking on too many tasks at once weakens our ability to learn.

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4. Ask “why” five times to dig deeper

When we see someone perform a magic trick, we’re usually presented with three acts: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. An ABC if you like. To the magician, however, there are rarely just three acts, but dozens. In between A and B there is a further A1, A2 and A3 which the audience never sees.

Good learners look deeper than what is merely presented on the surface. Quick learners ask why multiple times, even when they think they know the answer. They probe further. Knowing is not enough, we must understand.

The next time you are presented with a subject you want to learn, ask “why” five times to dig deeper.

5. Keep a positive attitude

Positive psychologist Martin Seligman has done lots of research on learned optimism. While everyone has a range, everyone can improve their level of optimism. If you want to be a quick learner, optimism should be one of the first things you learn.

Optimists don’t feel happy all the time. Optimists feel the same amount of negative emotions as pessimists. The difference is that optimists bounce back quicker. If you’re faced with a setback, a rejection, or a failure–all of which are inevitable in the learning process–the more likely you’ll be to interpret it as helpful feedback.

We can learn to become more optimistic by simply challenging our instinctive thought processes. The next time we get an F on an exam instead of instinctively thinking, “I’m terrible, and will never improve,” we should challenge this assertion: “Did I study as hard as I could have? I’ll never ever improve? Not even if I spend 1000 hours more practicing?”

6. Practice what has been learned

Daniel Coyle, in his book The Talent Code, explains the three essential components of skill acquisition as: passion, deep practice and master coaching.

Theory without application is a huge waste of time. Benny Lewis, author of a popular language learning blog, said that he lived in Spain for six months and attended Spanish courses, yet still had terrible Spanish. He made the simple decision to start speaking it every day even if he looked like an idiot. In less than three months he was fluent.

We are physical beings. In order to internalize lessons we have to physically go through the motions. Imagine trying to learn how to play piano by reading about musical notation, or entering a boxing match after reading up on how to throw a punch. It will never work.

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There’s a reason there’s the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Nobody ever says, “Reading theory makes perfect.”

7. Ask experts for advice

Most of the greatest learners in their field had mentors. In Robert Greene’s book, Mastery, which is all about quick learners, he dedicates a third of the book to what he calls “The Ideal Apprenticeship.” Greene believes that having experts and mentors is invaluable when it comes to learning:

“In the stories of the greatest Masters, past and present, we can inevitably detect a phase in their lives in which all of their future powers were in development, like the chrysalis of a butterfly. This part of their lives–a largely self-directed apprenticeship that lasts some five to ten years–receives little attention because it does not contain stories of great achievement or discovery. Often in their Apprenticeship Phase, these types are not yet much different from anyone else. Under the surface, however, their minds are transforming in ways we cannot see but contain all of the seeds of their future success.”

The great thing about living in the information age is that there are plenty of experts to learn from. While having one-to-one tuition from a master is useful, it’s not essential. We can find mentors on YouTube, or in books that we can learn from by imitation. As an aspiring artist I often copy the works of Leonardo da Vinci. Green sums up the apprenticeship phase as follows:

The principle is simple and must be engraved deeply in your mind: the goal of an apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title, or a diploma, but rather the transformation of your mind and character — the first transformation on the way to mastery.

8. Do not pretend to understand when you don’t

I made this mistake when I went scuba diving in Cyprus. I daydreamed throughout the seminar expecting to learn while I was in the water. That was a big mistake. When you have heavy equipment on your back, being just a few feet underwater feels like you’re on the bottom of the ocean. It was terrifying.

On a ship, when an order is given it’s always repeated back to the captain. The captain needs to know that you understood his instruction. This rule came about because people were nodding along compliantly without really understanding what the captain wanted them to do. How many accidents happened because of this?

We learn so well as children because we have no self-image. We’re not trying to be seen as clever. If a young child doesn’t understand something, he will usually ask a million questions until he does. By pretending to understand something, you’re falling prey to an egotistic need to appear smart. Quick learners appreciate how little they know, then go about learning it.

9. Balance scepticism with open mindedness

Leonardo da Vinci said:

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“Study the science of art and the art of science.”

Einstein said:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

Both of these masters were scientific and creative in equal doses. They knew how to be scientific, but they also knew the limits of logic when compared to imagination. To be a quick learner you have to treat every past idea, no matter how it first appears, with a pinch of salt, while at the same time respecting it enough to test it out.

If you dismiss an idea too quickly, you are being too skeptical. If you get sucked into an idea too quickly and let it start dominating your life, you’re being too suggestible and open-minded. A quick learner takes what works, discards what doesn’t, and moves on.

10. Small rewards

From the outside video games seem illogical. We choose to spend hundreds of hours carrying out tasks that don’t need to be done, don’t improve our lives outside of the game, and we pay to do it. The secret video games have is the balance between reward and challenge. When you’re playing a video game you don’t need to wait until the end of the month to get your reward. You get it immediately. There’s an ongoing feedback loop throughout the task, sort of like having a mentor offering their feedback as you go.

We need to balance our learning with rewards if we’re going to stay motivated long enough to learn what we need to learn. Everyone’s reward may be slightly different. For some it will be having a cup of coffee after an hour of practice. For others it will be showing off what they’ve learnt in a performance of some kind.

Find out what your reward might be and implement it into your learning schedule. All work and no play…

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How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

How often do you think about your brain? Do you ever stop to marvel at its incredible power and supreme cleverness? Or at least check in and give it a little spring clean and a recharge it from time to time?

If you’re like the majority, then your answer will likely be “no”.

Astoundingly, we only use around 10% of our brains yet we seldom think to invest in a little training every now and then.

For a long time, scientists believed that we were stuck with the brain we were born with! Luckily for us, that hypothesis has gone out the window!

Enter neuroplasticity – a new theory that has proven one very incredible fact: Our brains can change.

This means, if you’re not very intelligent in one area – that’s OK! You have the option to literally ‘change that area of your brain’ through some little trainings.

Your brain is a muscle. You need to exercise it regularly.

The exciting thing is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to increase your brain capacity. All you need to do is invest some time to regularly train your brain.

So how to increase brain power?

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Here are 10 simple ways to increase your brain power and improve your intelligence!

1. Do something new

When you experience something ‘new’, that actually ‘stimulate’ your brain!

Don’t get stuck in a rut doing the same old things – the only way to change the structure of your brain is to do something new. This creates new neural pathways, increasing your intelligence level.

You could take a new route to work, try a new recipe for dinner, or even a new form of exercise – mix them up!

2. Ditch the GPS

Gone are the days of map reading! Sat Nav may have made our lives easier, it has also made our brains lazier and less efficient at the same time!

Go back to the old school and use a map to navigate every now and then. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for understanding spatial relationships.

3. Ban the calculator

Remember back at school when we were taught to use our brains to do simple sums like times tables? It’s incredible how we now rely on devices like smart-phones and laptops to calculate really simple equations.

Resist the urge to work things out using an external device and use the device you were born with – your brain!

4. Be curious

Instead of taking everything at face value, get into the habit of questioning everyday things/products, services that you come into contact with.

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By being ‘curious’ and questioning everything, you force your brain to innovate and create new ideas.

Curiosity may have killed that cat but it created super important things like electricity and computers!

5. Think positive

Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and also stop new neurons from being created.

Research has shown that positive thinking, especially in the future tense, speeds up the creation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

Try and get a handle on negative thoughts and make an effort to replace them with positive ones.

Not sure how to do it? Take a look at this article:

How to Turn Off Negative Thoughts in Your Mind

6. Exercise regularly

It’s been proven that regular exercise helps to increase brain function and enhances neurogenesis. This means that every time you exercise, you are creating new brain cells!

Here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise, get off the couch and get moving!

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Your brain will thank you for it.

7. Train your memory

How often do you hear people say “I wish I had a better memory!’ Yet no-one does anything about this!

If you discipline yourself to memorize phone numbers and other important numbers (passport, credit card, insurance, driving license) you will start to see a marked improvement in your memory.

8. Eat healthy

Our diets have a HUGE impact on brain function. Our brains consume over 20% of all nutrients & oxygen that we consumed – so remember to feed your brain with the good stuff! (i.e. fresh fruit and veg & plenty of OMEGA 3 oils found in oily fish)

Here’re more healthy foods that will boost your brain power:

10 Healthy Foods That Make You Smarter

9. Read a book

Reading relieves tension and stress, which is brain-cell killers because it’s a form of escapism.

Research has also shown that using your imagination is a great way to train your brain because you force your mind to ‘picture’ what you are imagining. Reading is a great way to trigger your imagination!

Reading every day helps your thinking and imagination, learn more about it here:

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10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

10. Get enough sleep

Sleep is like a mini detox for the brain. This is when your body regenerates cells and removes all the toxins that have built up during the day.

Get to bed between the hours of 9pm and midnight to benefit from the most effective hours of sleep!

If you have difficulty sleeping, you should read this guide:

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

An intelligent brain comes from hard work

If you do take my suggestion and do these things consistently, you’ll soon realize your brain is sharper and you can remember more stuff.

You don’t need to do everything all at once, pick one to two and start making them your daily habit.

Intelligence comes from hard work. Make effort to train your brain and you’ll become smarter.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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