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How to Learn from Other People’s Experiences

How to Learn from Other People’s Experiences

When we’re children, we learn (and fail) all the time. We fall off bikes, scrape knees, add sums incorrectly, and tell someone we have a crush on them when they’re clearly not interested (*cringe*). That’s just what kids do.

As adults, we tend to move into areas of core competency, sigh a breath of relief (Hooray! No more feeling like I’m constantly failing at everything!), and then promptly stagnate. This, of course, is the quickest route towards the kind of career and life experiences that feel just kind of, well, “meh.” In order to keep yourself engaged and motivated, it’s important to continually form new and unexpected neural connections.

Fortunately, in the internet age, it’s not just easy to learn, but also to learn from other people, so you’ll have a model to go from and you won’t feel so alone in your endeavors. Here are 4 tips for doing just that.

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1. Try a new healthy habit for 30 days

If you’re like most people, you set lofty, unachievable goals for improving your health. Maybe you decide you’re going to shed 40 pounds before Memorial Day, or maybe you’re all about that unachievable New Years’ resolution. The problem is, big goals are hard to maintain, and you’ll feel discouraged and overwhelmed when you don’t meet them, which will up your chances of quitting.

Instead, trying giving a 30-day project a try and blogging about your experience. The idea of 30-day projects is to focus on nurturing one (and only one) habit intensely for that time period, so you can really commit and try the new habit on for size. You could, for example, try eating local for 30 days, or not watch TV for 30 days. Who knows? Maybe some of those healthy habits will stick around.

Google “30-day project” and you’ll see a number of fellow bloggers with inspiring ideas. Even if you already have a few in mind, seeing what other people try can help you reach outside of your box and really challenge yourself. Even better: Invite your own friends to participate so you can learn from and support each other and swap stories about your experiences.

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2. Learn about the world

Come on, be honest: how much global news do you really consume? Reading a summary site like The Week can be a great way to a get glimpse into the stories making headlines around the world, as can any number of news publications.

That said, the best way to really learn about the world is from its many people. Doing so doesn’t have to mean stuffing all of your possessions into a backpack and hitting the road (though that’s nice if you can do it, too!). Instead, make full use of the internet and social media. Read articles and add comments to travel blogs like Gadling. Narrow in on a region of interest, start doing your research on WikiTravel, and post questions on the Lonely Planet Travel Forums or even on Quora. Or, for a social network and travel blog site all in one, head to Matador Travel, where you can connect with people worldwide and learn about new communities while also doing a little teaching about your own region.

3. Learn how to be more entrepreneurial

From the corporate workspace to the home office, just about all of us can use entrepreneurial skills these days. After all, in a tough economy, bosses reward go-getters, and “innovator” is the buzzword of the day. But how can you learn these skills without enrolling in an MBA program or throwing your hat into a risky startup’s ring?

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The best course of action is to find a thought leader within a niche that interests you and learn from them. Thankfully, with the popularity of corporate blogs and social media feeds, this is easier to do than ever. Let’s say, for example, that you love Stonyfield Yogurt—both the brand itself and its online presence. Just a browse through the corporate blog will tell you all you need to know, as long as you look closely. Want to learn how to draw readers more deeply into your site? Look at the “Recent Posts” sidebar. Want to tempt readers into reading your full post? Study the wording of the Stonyfield blog’s headlines, the kinds of photos they choose for the top of the post, and how they break up text throughout the page.

Even more helpful is when a brand commissions white papers and case studies and posts them online. Take a peek, for example, at Amazon’s Website Case Studies; an exhaustive look into just how real customers have benefited from Amazon’s products. Here, you’ll learn how to make the most of online tools that can help you launch or maintain your businesses or side projects from one of the most successful businesses around. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t it work for you?
When a thought leader provides insight into their business, grab it!

4. Learn how to make something new

Last but certainly not least, there’s much to be learned from the tinkerers of the world. Step entirely out of your everyday comfort zone by making something totally new. Learn how to hack your Ikea furniture. Turn everyday objects into a robotic arm. Follow lifestyle blogs, or just head to Pinterest for a little creative inspiration. With so many bloggers posting their experiments online and even how-tos, there’s no excuse not to give DIY a try!

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Search for a Maker group to find even more in person support.

The Takeaway

So much of our everyday work lives rely on repetitive skills. Learning something new, no matter how seemingly minor, will refresh your brain and give you a sense of renewal and inspiration.
Make sure to check out the new daily articles on LifeHack for even more tips!

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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