Whether it’s a new technology, a foreign language, or an advanced skill, staying competitive and efficient often means learning new things. Being a quick learner can give you an even greater edge. Before learning anything else, we need to understand how to learn.
1. Desire to Learn: The stronger the desire, the better the learning. Don’t work simply to complete something, doing so will never allow you to understand the concepts. Expand your desire to learn.
2. Observe: Observe successful people – their skills, abilities, and habits. If they can do something, so can you. You only need to clone their mindset and routines.
3. Find a Mentor: It’s always better to find a mentor when trying to master a new skill.
- Choose your mentors carefully. You want experts in the skills you are trying to master.
- Ask any number of questions you want. A famous Chinese proverb says, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”. If you don’t understand, then ask. You may feel foolish at the moment, but you will learn the concept.
4. Break it Down: Divide the skill into as many parts or components as possible and master each one separately. For example, to master public speaking, some of the parts or components that need to be mastered are:
- Body Language
-Walking style and speed
-Sequence and speed
-Tone and style
5. Study/Learn: Learn the most important skill first. Use the Pareto Principle (80-20) to focus on that 20% part or sub-skill which will give maximum results (80%).
6. Implement/Practice: Theory is important, but practicality is more important. Thus, learning is incomplete without practice. It’s important that you solve the problem yourself. Practice each sub-skill separately and then practice the complete skill by combining all the parts and components.
7. Teach others: Help others understand the skill, for when you teach something, the concept becomes clearer in your head.
Challenges/roadblocks in learning:
- Procrastination: Learning something new thing or doing something you would rather not do can be stressful. This can initially cause some anxiety, which activates the area of the brain associated with pain. Your brain looks for a way to stop the pain by switching your attention to something more pleasant.
Solution: The trick is just to get started. Researchers discovered that shortly after people started fixing what they didn’t like, their neuro discomfort disappeared. And just keep in mind that the better you get at something, the more enjoyable it can become.
- Lack of Resources: An absence of practice materials can cause you to become bored. You can’t learn anything when you are just listening, reading or watching.
- Skipped Step: After dividing the skill into its various parts or components, you may face difficulty in learning one or more of them. This can be attributed to skipping a previous concept or skill. If you become confused after reading a chapter, it’s possible it’s because you didn’t understand the previous chapter very well so go back and review your understanding of those previous chapters.
- Misunderstood Concept: If you read a chapter or a section on a particular concept and you are left feeling blank, it’s likely that you misunderstood a word or idea within that chapter. Therefore, you first need to go back and clarify the meaning of that word or idea before proceeding.
- Initial Failures: Most of us stop learning because we are subconsciously afraid of failing; however, persistence is the key. If you can persist despite your initial failures by learning from those failures and adapting your strategies, then no one can stop you.
Some more Learning tips:
- Turn off distractions: Refrain from using your phone and use the Pomodoro Technique, if possible.
- Mental Recall: Recall mentally without looking at the material after learning each skill. This has proven to be more effective than simply rereading the material. You should only reread when you want to audit for any information you may have missed.
- Spaced Repetition: Revisiting and practicing that which you have learned is important. Research shows that spaced repetition (i.e. continually repeating things after several days) is the best way to build and strengthen synaptic connections. Just don’t forget to rest between sessions.
- Interweaving: Combine the problems from different chapters. This is where you leave the worlds of practice and repetition and begin thinking more independently.
- Modes of thinking:
Focused mode: Concentrating on things that are usually familiar.
Diffused mode: A relaxed mode of thinking “your thoughts are free to wander”. Useful for innovation.
- Learning enhancers: Exercise and social circles boost the learning process. Also, a good night’s sleep after understanding a complex concept is very helpful.
- Enjoy the learning process but put your ego on the line (compete and perform publicly)
- Stay true to your original style (example: happy, optimistic, aggressive)