Learning is a meta-skill – a higher-order skill that enables and empowers other skills. It’s surprising then that we very seldom learn how to learn.
Here are some thoughts on learning well.
- Learning new skills and getting good at difficult things takes time and perseverance. To get better you need to put in the hard work. This often requires breaking the learning process down into smaller micro-steps. Progress will often seem slow. Don’t give up too early. Mastery never comes fully formed.
- If your interests are piqued then swim away from the shallow waters and go deep. This is where the greatest treasures and rewards lie.
- Try to avoid learning in a vacuum. Every topic is connected to other topics in often highly complex ways. Siloing knowledge into subjects may be useful for school but the interesting and useful stuff is usually found in the interrelationships and connections between subjects.
- Most learning happens at the intersection of theory and practice. Get your hands dirty.
- To accelerate the learning process, surround yourself with people who excel in an area that you want to learn.
- Learn to properly listen and ask more questions. It’s a rare superpower.
- Read voraciously. Almost everything important has already been written down. Let books be your mentors, friends and guardians.
- The more you know the more you’ll realise the less you know. This is a humbling fact.
- If you’re learning to pass the test you are probably not learning. Tests are superficial, easily hacked and a poor indicator of the depth and quality of your education, intelligence and overall knowledge. Wherever possible ignore tests and instead go where your interests take you, seek out difficult problems and learn things where the probability of making mistakes and failing are high.
- To really evaluate your understanding of a topic try to teach it. If you can’t simply explain a subject to someone else you probably don’t fully understand the topic yet.
- To get closer to the core principles and concepts behind a topic ask the question, Why? This is brilliantly illustrated by the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman in this interview segment…