Absolutely. To increase this challenge, like a tree branch that transforms into three new branches, each learning experience multiplies into an infinite number of possible pathways.
Is there anything simpler than running? Just lace up your shoes and run, right?
In short order, you’ll start to notice differences in running shoes. Then you’ll examine your stride and running form. Should you track your heart rate? How do you properly fuel yourself for different environments? What about the mental side of running? As your knowledge increases, so too do your questions.
To guide my learning, I try to follow these three principles:
1. Keep my future self in mind. The present self is selfish, short-sighted, and always under attack. The power of the modern media machines is their algorithms designed to manipulate our present self. One misclick and we’ve lost hours of our life.
In David Perell’s Rules for Life, he stated he only reads content in Kindle or Instapaper. That means rather than reading in the spur of the moment, the information is saved for an appropriate time. I’ve tried to emulate this because:
It prevents getting distracted from my initial task when I came across this new information.
When I’m actually ready to learn, I can decide whether that topic is still relevant and discard or ignore most of the articles that were set aside.
By reading in Kindle or Instapaper, I capture the best parts and automatically add them to Evernote for future reference.
2. Keep my 12 favorite problems top of mind. Formulating these questions was part of the process of building my second brain and they’ve evolved over time. These questions serve as nets in the information streams of everyday life. They filter information relevant to the topics I’ve already identified as learning goals.
For example, two of my questions are:
“How can I better retain and synthesize information to solve problems?”
“How do I overcome my personal bottlenecks (ie. fear, anxiety, time) to be authentic, vulnerable, and willing to risk failure?”
3. Is there a need or use for this information? Learning is an active process. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neuroscience, identifies a sense of urgency and rest as two keys to making learning stick. Most reading is a surface level activity with little immediate need. For long-term retention, we need to do something.
When we have a purpose, we’re motivated to learn. The closer the learning occurs to the activity, the better. Tiago Forte calls this just-in-time learning.
Through active engagement, we internalize our understanding of a topic. This engagement doesn’t need to be a major endeavor. Just discussing a topic with a friend or writing a blog post can significantly improve learning gains. The more frequently we engage this information, the greater the learning. The ultimate irony here is that often the person learning the most in a classroom is the teacher. That’s why they try to have students teach other students.
There are too many interesting things in the world I want to learn. By following these three rules, I try to protect my time, keep learning relevant, and improve long-term results.