Posted 3 months ago

How to Learn: Always be a student

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"Learning is connecting the unknown, with the known"  - Tony Robbins

This means when you want to learn something new you have to find a way to make a connection to something you already know very well. If you can do this effectively the new information will stick. This is the reason great teachers are the ones who have great stories, and make great comparisons that lead you to make the connections that make new lessons stick.

Think of some of the biggest tragic stories from the past year.. Can you remember where you were?

How about the happiest time you can remember? Why does that memory stick?

This is because we will link memories with emotions. And if your emotion isn’t anything unusual like most days of your life, you will not remember anything from most days. But when a very emotional event happens we can remember specific details about the day. Where we were, what we were doing..

So if you want to learn something, don’t do what you have been forced to do your whole life in school. Do not sit in a chair not talking, probably slouching down, yawning and trying to memorize something. This pattern is anything but memorable.

You need to get up! Have some energy, practice creative ways to learn with some emotion, drawing interesting connections to what you already know so the information sticks. (See Tony Robbins for some visual reference on how to do it right!)

How I use this.

- First, I believe strongly that you are what you practice, and you need to properly feed and train your mind. This is the reason I don’t watch the news ever, and I am cautious not to play or listen to anything that I feel is toxic and counter-productive to my learning. Trust me I don’t pretend bad stuff never happens or act like everything is fine. In fact I do the opposite which I will explain in the future, using stoic practices like memento mori.

But as I said, you need to be in control of what you feed your mind. Because what you think and believe is your life.

"Stand guard at the door of your mind." - Jim Rohn

- Second, especially if I am trying to learn something new, unless I am required to be sitting I’ll be standing/ walking around, thinking of how the new material relates to what I know, making it into a song, thinking of crazy images in my head, drawing pictures and more. This allows me to one make connections by either drawing pictures, thinking of images, or making songs, and two practices changing my energy and emotion by walking around doing whatever to keep myself from sinking into a dull state, forgettable state.

- Next, I understand we can’t always control or predict how or when we will make the connections that make us memorize new information. This is why when I find something I want to learn I am obsessive about how often I take in this information. I really do have some podcast episodes I have listened to more than a dozen times, their really are about five different youtube videos I listen to roughly once a month, a youtube playlist I will listen to daily, and books I re-read and review notes from a few times a year. (Audio is great because you can easily listen while doing anything, this is how I can consume over 20 hours of content per week without changing my schedule or sitting down to read a book each time)

- Last, new studies continue to surface showing major links between exercise and memory. Don't get too hung up on the debate over what's best, exercise before studying, after studying, long endurance sessions or strength training... no matter the specific method, all signs point to exercise done close to any learning session massively increases patients ability to retain new information.

So I listen to content regularly, over and over, because sometimes I’m listening while driving, sometimes while cleaning, sometimes while working, sometimes while working out, or grocery shopping and I might listen to the same thing and take away a new lesson when I listened while driving than I did when I listened while cooking… so I keep listening.

Never knowing exactly what I will take away, or when I will make the new connection. But always working to encourage it.


- To learn you need to make a connection between what you want to learn, and what you already know.

- Use stories, songs, draw pictures, think of images to help link the information.

- We link memories with our emotions, and our emotions can be encouraged by our actions. So the state you are in when you learn something will determine how you feel about that information. If your middle school history teacher always yelled at you there is a chance you don't love history that much. On the other hand if music was a fun and exciting class, and you got up and danced in class.. I bet you remember some fun lessons from music, even if you don't otherwise care about music. This doesn't change as we age. You just need to learn how to apply it to your life today.

- What you feed your mind will determine how you live. If you watch the news and murder documentaries every day it's not surprising that you might not feel super great, or you are a bit paranoid about the future.. Feed your mind with information that excites you, empowers you and helps you be optimistic and motivated.

- While you need to always work on making connections, you can't always force a connection to happen. So when you find information you love or something you want to learn be sure to practice it and listen to it repeatedly. And most importantly listen while doing different things. Practice changing your state, and changing your scenery.. Sometimes we will make the strongest connections when we don't expect to.

- Take advantage of the growing evidence showing we have the ability to learn better and retain new information if we incorporate and exercise session close to a learning session. So get moving!

How do you learn?

Learn more on this:

Article: The Guardian: Exercise & Memory

Article: Memento Mori

Video: Ted: Learning to learn

Video: ASAP Science How to learn faster