Rapid Fire Learning

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

— Benjamin Franklin

Learning happens instantaneously. Feeling and knowing that we learned something takes time.

Nature is a Volume rather than something strung out in a line. The process of thought is much slower than the process of seeing and using our consciousness and our mind as a whole.

The Vehicle of Words is a very clumsy one. What is complicated is not the processes of nature, but trying to put them into words.

It’s as complicated as trying to drink up the ocean with a fork. It takes forever.

Our brains can handle an enormous number of variables that are not accessible to the process of conscious attention.

Alan Watts

You must not be afraid to play wrong notes. Just forget it. Play it wrong. And eventually go over it again and you’ll eventually get it right.

Alan Watts

The Most Important Question

How can I understand this?

But more importantly, how do I have fun with this?

I usually follow that question up with this approach:

Learning to Draw

Should you focus on drawing one thing really well until it’s perfect or should you draw tens of thousands of things?

Repeating the First Grade

If you repeated the first grade do you think you would do OK? Early exposure to material is key. Give your mind a chance to bathe in it. Allow the information in the media / page to be given a chance to stick in your mind. This usually requires many passes, so don’t expect to get it on the first try. Think of your mind as a 3d printer and you are 3d printing the information onto your brain cells. It takes time and many many many many iterations.

Focus on What Interests You at the Moment

Switch it up. Study one thing for 15 minutes and if you start getting bored, switch to something else. You’ll retain the material much better when it’s of interest and fun. But for any complex subject you have to give your mind a chance to bathe in the terminology and concepts first and that phase is usually pretty dry.

Create the Simplet Possible Example With with Real Context

For example when I wrote this article I did not provide a real context for the numbers used to calculate the median:

It’s better if we have real relatable context.

Ten Second Concept Capture

Read the material at 4X — 8X speed the first time.

Think of of this as laying out a canvas and spraying glue all over it. Later on when you start throwing knowledge at this canvas it will stick.

What you just did was plant a bunch of seeds at the same time. They are now growing and their roots are connecting and they will begin to communicate.

On the flip side if you are slowly planting one seed by reading slowly at 1X it will take a lot longer for the above described process to gain momentum.

Personally I always found that going through material slowly is frustrating because my mind understands that there is so much context missing from the material I’m currently looking at and I can’t understand it without having the full context. In order to get full context I need to move through everything with a lot of speed on the first pass.

In 3rd grade I moved from Norway to San Diego. No one ever explained or taught me English, but within 2 months I was fluent and reading. I try to apply the same “Bathe in it” approach to everything I’m learning.

Goal

Full command over and the ability to think creatively with the subject material.

Background

Most of our learning is focused on cramming in material and getting through the next test. After the it all evaporates. It’s hard to think creatively using what we have learned with this type of approach.

Introduction

Ever racked your brain trying to understand something and then taken a break, come back half an hour later, and understood it perfectly.

Sometimes we just need to give our selves time to absorb a few details.

Ever cram everything in a the least minute right before a test, only to have all the knowledge evaporate right after?

Experiment

Create 10 squares with shades of color going from light to dark. Put a number on each shade. The goal will be to memorize which shade has which number and to sequence the numbers from lightest to darkest.

Only look at the squares for 5 seconds. Put them away. Do it again later (Like in a few hours or days) and only look for 5 seconds. How long until you have associated the numbers with the shades and you can sequence the squares from lightest to darkest?

The idea is to allow you brain to commit the shades and associated numbers to memory, while working on other things. Rather than trying to shoe horn them in, we are simply letting our brain perform the job in the background while our we consciously pursue something else.

Whenever we feel like we are getting we are starting to get a shoe horn effect, we switch to a different topic that is more stimulating.

Approach / Creativity in Learning / Motivation

The best approach to learning is to pick subjects that are constantly peaking your interests and align with your goals.

Lets say that your goal is to be able to speak to anyone from anywhere in the world, and a few other planets.

If you start with French, and stick with it for 10 years, you’ll see that after ten years you’ll be almost fluent and can speak with 80% of the people in France without a glitch, but some people from Quebec and a few small French cities are still throwing you off. Anyways you need to cover the other languages and it will only take you 900 more years.

On the flip side if you are constantly altering every 10 minutes say, as you please, languages, after 20 years you’ll be close to covering most of the languages of the planet.

Your brain will wire itself up a lot faster when you expose it to all your subjects of interests at high frequency intervals as you please. You’ll not only have learned a lot, but your decision making, design agility, creativity and ability to execute will be off the hook. You can have the the “Light bulb” idea and also deliver the product. Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.

Also consider the rate at which you are consuming information. For example install the youtube playback speed control plugin and play the content at 5X or 10X to quickly get what you need out of it or just to get an overview.

Different Angle

Looking at it from a more simplistic view point, suppose the task was to memory how to make 10 different cakes, such that if we get woken up in the middle of the night we could make any of the cakes without ever looking at the recipe.

Study the cakes recipes intermittently. Mix it it up with some Mediterranean food or whatever else you want to look at. In the end you’ll find that you’re a master chef that’s an expert in all sorts of wordly cuisine, in the same amount of time that it would have taken to brute force 10 cake recipes into memory.

A Visual Example

Take this excellent Inkscape tutorial on drawing a Lotus Flower:

Watch that at 10X speed the first time. Drop it. Watch a bunch of other tutorial on Inkscape or whatevva, read, play a game of soccer LIVE!!!. Come back and watch it at 4X. Keep doing it until you have distilled all the little techniques applied in the video into simple little example like this:

When you know that you know every single technique and detail applied to create the drawing go ahead and draw it. You could also try to draw it soon, if you enjoy that, but I think you’ll get maximum efficiency out of your learning process if you just focus on getting down the details without actually doing any drawing initially.

A Nerdy Data Science Example

Say you’ve picked up Javascript, Monte Carlo Simulation, and you’re also in the need of touching up of a few statistical concepts. Take the central limit theorem for example. We could code the programmatic addition of throwing a dice three times and show that the distribution of the sum tends towards the normal distribution.

We are using three different knowledge domains to make ourselves conceptually stronger in all three areas.

We are creating a Resonance Learning Effect.

Summary

In school we learn in a linear fashion moving from subject to subject and rarely looking back. Instead we should be taking a circular approach moving through all the subjects first at high speed and then looping back and slower and slower speeds until we have mastered the material.

By doing this we’re using our brains resources much more efficiently and being rewarded for it.

Related Concepts

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Ole Ersoy

Ole Ersoy

Founder of Firefly Semantics Corporation