I walked up to my Mom, book in hand and said “all finished.” My mom replied “what was it about?” I said “well, a girl who had worked all her life to bring good was given one wish: before she died. She wished for a million more wishes and got everything she wanted. And that’s what it was about. And the the moral of the story is to always work smarter. Not harder.” (Side note: I heard work smarter not harder from a episode of Sesame Street.) My Mom smiled and signed my weekly homework reading. This was proof that I was reading and I got an A.
The truth is… I never really read. I lied time and time again. This only hurt me later on in life. Especially, now- when I’m devoting my whole life to helping people grow by telling less then totally effed up inspirational stories.
So reading and learning are like meatballs and spaghetti. They just work together. But what if you’re not remembering what you read.
Don’t worry, though- because I’m about to share with you some super dope tricks fox this.
Admit it. You’ve done it. Everybody has. Pretended that they knew exactly everything there was to know about a topic, but only filling in false facts in order to make your facts true.
So you’ve lied? Everyone has.
Learning is like a kick in the shin when you’re growing up. It isn’t always fun. It’s boring, especially when you’re young and my main Mission of Operation as a kid was having fun.
And in all honesty every time tried reading I didn’t get any better.
I mean, everybody hates that feeling when you spend three weeks reading a book, and a month later somebody asks you about it and you can’t remember a damn thing you read. Not only does it make you feel stupid, but it also makes you wonder “why the hell did I waste a couple dozen hours of my life on a bunch of words that didn’t stick?”
There are better and worse ways to learn. And interestingly, despite all of the babbling that goes on in school when you’re a kid about what you need to learn, not much is said about how to learn effectively. So I blame my lack of reading to the school system. (sticking it to the man!)
Most of what you did in school was not learning. It was temporary exercises in memorization. By this definition, classes and books and conferences people spend money on is not learning either.
I believe something is not truly learned until it changes you in some way, no matter how subtle or simple.
This is why I’m giving you something that is going to change you forever.
The super sick antidote to learning.
1. MEMORY IS BASED ON MEANING
If you want to remember information, then you need to stop and take a second to ask yourself, “How is this MEANINGFUL to me?” or “How can I apply this in my life?” You basically have to get personal with it. And if you’re not willing to get personal or think about your own life critically in that way, then most of the information you consume will just wash away.
Basically, you need to approach whatever material you’re studying with a clear purpose in your mind. You can’t just read a book to say you read it. Go into everything you read with a clear purpose of what you want to get out of it, then do the extra mental steps to make sure that happens.
2. MEMORY FUNCTIONS BY RELATIONSHIPS, NOT BY BLIND RECALL.
We’ve all had that experience of watching a documentary or something, and then when we try to think back a couple days later, not remembering what was in it.
That’s because blindly recalling information out of the blue rarely works, and is not an efficient way for our brain to work.
Our memory works via relationships or associations. For instance, I saw a documentary about evolution. It was one of those things that I not only forgot what was in it, but forgot that I had even watched it.
Then, a couple months ago, I was talking to a guy who was writing a book about evolution. He mentioned something about homo erectus and the documentary immediately shot back into my head. I started describing it to him, and suddenly flashes of various scenes and interviews started returning to my conscious memory.
The info had been in my head, it just hadn’t been accessible because it wasn’t associated to anything I was discussing.
Understanding that memory works in this way is useful though because it means you can become more economical in what you choose to remember and what you don’t.
3. READING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE CONSTANT
A mistake a lot of people make is assuming that they have to read everything, word by word, line by line, one after another. This is not only false, but it’s often a waste of time and energy.
When you buy a book, you’re not buying the words, you’re buying the useful ideas. The job of the writer is simply to convey those ideas as effective as you can. If the writer is doing a less then optimal job of that, then take it upon yourself and act accordingly.
Straight up, I listen to podcasts over reading a book because the author often has a enhanced way of articulating his/ her ideas through the spoken word then they did when they wrote their book. Their book was kind of just part of their process in order to truly develop their ideas.
The point of a book (or article, or video, or podcast) is to glean the information that is relevant and important to you. Not to finish it or to understand every word. What matters at the end of the day is the principal. Once you’ve received that principle/idea, there’s no reason to feel obligated to sit there and read/watch/listen to the rest (unless you want to).
4. THINKING CRITICALLY AND ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Everything you read should be questioned. This separates the mean from the boys. You should question the author’s biases, whether they’re interpreting information correctly, whether they’re overlooking something.
One thing I try to force myself to do, especially when I’m reading something I agree with, is ask, “How could this potentially be wrong?”
Other useful questions to ask after everything you read include:
* “How does the author benefit from writing this?”
* “Is this something relevant to my own life and happiness? Is it worth remembering?”
* “What’s the underlying principle here? How could it be applied to other areas of life?”
The truth is, there’s little that we know with absolute certainty. Which sucks, I know. But that’s just how life goes. Certainty as esoteric.
Everything should be taken with a grain of salt (even this). And it’s the ability to navigate those uncertainties effectively that will determine the depth of your knowledge and understanding, NOT the simple ability to memorize a bunch of facts and numbers.
So… now that you’re on your way to learning better. Comment below and let me know what you’re doing with this new profound skill?