How to Learn Anything By Avoiding These Mistakes

The most empowering belief you can have is that given enough time, you can learn anything. If you can’t see an event objectively, there’s no way to learn from it. This the most important step of the process.

You can’t take anything you observe personally. It’s all part of the cosmic game of the universe. Whether you like it or not, you’re playing so you might as well learn the rules.

For most things that matter, memorization of facts is useless. For everything else, there’s technology. If you can take a picture of it or look it up on your smartphone, it’s a waste of precious time and energythat can be used for real learning.

Obviously, memory is important. You have to retain some information about the world. You want to avoid rote memorization.. Unless the universe configures itself in the exact way that you remembered a thing, then you’ll find yourself frustrated when you try to recall the information.

How can you tell the difference between rote memorization and real learning? Can you create an analogy to something completely unrelated? Can you explain the idea in such a way that a 4th grader can get it? Can you tell a story that communicates the idea in an interesting manner? If you can’t do at least 1 of these, you probably have fragile knowledge.

Fragile knowledge is what Richard Feynman referred to as “textbook knowledge”. When confronted with a problem that doesn’t look like something you’d see in a textbook, those with frail knowledge—just an ability to solve textbook problems—break down. The truly intelligent shine through. This is why a lot of smart people have a hard time dealing with people. People aren’t textbooks. People expose all the ways your worldview and knowledge are fragile.

A person is predictably unpredictable. This is a poetic way of saying that people don’t come as neat little textbook problems, but the knowledge gained from solving one is useful for understanding all the other ones.

This knowledge is only useful if you can look objectively at your past and present. This is not to say that you become emotionless and see the world through a state of constant detachment. Rather, you merely remember that the universe is playing a game and to learn the rules of the process you can’t take the outcome personally.

It’s natural to feel angry and betrayed if we’re deceived. However, the only way to prevent deception again is to learn how it happened and what the signs were. The only way to accurately assess the situation is to see it without getting angry. This may take time but remember: emotions only show you want to see, and often times that is not what will help you learn.

You can’t rely on a script or formula for dealing with people. The words say one thing, but what does the tone of the speech and body language communicate? What is the environment the words are spoken in? What is really be said without being said and vice versa?

You can’t get this kind of education in a book. Even if you could, it would quickly be exposed to an unpredictable range of variables. Attachment to feelings about your experience can taint your perspective of a new experience, leading you to make the wrong conclusions. This attachment is dangerous.

The only way to learn—to make your knowledge strong instead of fragile—is to actively use it in unregulated scenarios. Anyone can learn the textbook version of an equation and solve safe and easy problems. It’s a different ballgame when you have to figure out where the bullet holes aren’t.

Anyone can memorize the list of common poker tells or signs a woman is flirting. Can you recognize a situation where a player genuinely misjudges the strength of his hand so his face misrepresents the strength of his cards? Can you read the environment and discern that a woman is just being friendly or trying to make someone jealous rather than being genuinely interested?

Learning requires two things: detachment from the outcome and exposure to real world scenarios. The less intelligent have difficulty with the former and highly intelligent have difficulty with the later. If you can emotionally detach from the lesson and firmly possess the knowledge so that it’s not fragile, then you can learn anything. The belief that you can do this is one that will make you great at anything.

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