Today, more than ever, learning
is a basic necessity to survive. You need to learn how to get around a place, you need to learn how to prepare food without killing yourself or your loved ones, and you need to know how to learn all about that new fancy television show
/trading card game
/whatever, or you have no hopes of making acceptable conversation
, proper socializing
and eventually mating
. However, the best known formal
necessity for learning
, aimed at getting a career
and becoming filthy rich
The following has therefore been studied and compiled for one simple purpose: To learn how to learn anything faster. Using the technique
s and dirty trick
s gives you a fighting chance to attain knowledge
a lot faster than through conventional education
To get even more on the stuff, just use the links. This is only a small bag of tricks; a compact version of a big field. Note, that examples use fairly basic knowledge from different topic
s. The more advanced examples are up to you (or nobody would understand the text).
First off, your brain
needs to be prepped for learning. To do this, watch people using the target skill (like economist
s talking about financial figures
), or find examples of its use (like big mathematical equation
s in a textbook
). This makes your brain
do two important things: A) Ready itself for something entirely new, and B) make some basic observation
s about what this new thing is. Without A, new information
will be mixed with other knowledge
and be hard to retrieve
later on. Without B, your brain will not know quite where to put this new information, because our brains are built to handle sensory input, not abstract descriptions taken from a textbook
. With B, your brain can say 'hey, I've seen this before, I know what it is', even if it does not quite understand the implications of it.
This step is closely related to observational intelligence
, and a well-trained person will get far better results.
Step 2: Imitate
Act as if you know what it is all about. Don't do this to impress anyone; you won't, since you're still somewhat clueless. But try to guess how it is done (this works especially well when learning languages). This first of all gives you a feel of how to work with the topic
. But most of all, it is a mind trick
! Acting like you're cool at something makes your brain
confident, giving you an advantage later on. And it can be fun, too.
An advanced version of this is archetyping
Step 3: Basic Definitions
At this point, you have (with little time and effort) acquired a basic 'feel' for the topic. This lets you identify a handful of concept
s already, even if you don't know exactly what they are; you've noticed them popping up, but never caught their meaning. Now you make learning card
A learning card
is a small paper card with a simple text written on it, describing a single concept. Old business cards
with blank backs are great for this purpose. Take a concept, component
or something else from your topic and write its name on the card. Now ask someone for a quick explanation, or look it up in something without
pages and pages of explanations for each entry. In fact, E2
is pretty good for this. A textbook with a glossary
is also great, as is a pocket encyclopedia
; all describe entries in a short and precise way. Make sure it is simple and precise enough for you to understand without too great difficulty. If you cannot find a good description anywhere, pick another concept/component/whatever and try again. You'll get back to the first one later.
A stack of learning cards is a great tool, because your brain works like this
. It does not like long-winded explanations like those in textbooks. Short and clear and non-linear
is far better. Your brain likes to have a bunch of little things to play with, and learning cards give it just that. Continue to make learning cards for as many concepts/components/whatevers as you like. 20 tends to cover an academic
topic quite well at introductory level
This technique is directly derived from object-based learning
. The same goes for Extended Definitions, below.
Step 4: Extended Definitions
Step 3 involved defining stuff that you could observe directly, like 'fuel injector
' or 'stock exchange
'. If you made a serious effort, you may even have gotten some details on it, like 'stock value
' and its function ('stock value: The price
at which a stock
is sold or bought'). For academic topics, it would be clearly defined concepts like 'atom
' or 'political party
Now that you have named and defined the obvious, you go for the less obvious. 9 out of 10 times, weird and obscure
concepts are just concepts related to something you don't know yet. Keep making new learning cards, doing whichever concepts etc. make sense to you. If something does not, put it on hold till later; you may find some other concept that makes it all easier to understand. This way, you quickly dig deeper and deeper into the topic. Take a break now and then and just go through the learning cards you already have, just to keep them fresh.
The trick is to work in layers
, just like painting a wall. In its most basic form, layered learning
involves flipping through a textbook once, reading a few things here and there. Then you flip through it again to see what else you can catch. With the method outlined in step 3 and 4 (basic object-based learning
), it becomes a hunt for more and more easily defined concepts and components; every added piece makes further work easier. Again, a glossary
is a treasure, but a good index
can do a lot, too. Or you can just start from one end of a chapter and take whatever presents itself (then flip back and take another round, etc., for as long as you like).
For details, check layered learning
or matrix learning
Two bonuses from learning topics this way: You can always see
your progress, simply by flipping through your learning cards
. AND... You can swap
cards with others. This makes group learning
much more effective (like having a friend really good at explaining stuff handy, in fact). The drawback is, that the details of this practice vary greatly from person to person, and you'll just have to find your own way to make the most of it; I can only show you the door...
Oh yeah: You're not expected to keep producing tons of little cards the rest of your life. After a short while, it gets to be a way of thinking, and you can 'keep them in your head', so to say. The physical cards
are just for getting used to the idea
. They may also be helpful later, if confronted with really tough topics.