I am often asked how I seem to absorb new content so quickly and learn new things? I’ve thought about this a lot and I have learned a few simple steps that have helped me to learn things quickly. I hope by outlining what works for me, it will also help you develop similar habits for learning.
Learn From Experts
I always want to learn from someone who has already spent many hours of hard work to uncover some of the gotchas and best practices to follow so that it can save me some time making those same mistakes. I’m sure to make many of my own mistakes, so the more likely I am to skip some of the obvious mistakes, the quicker I can get to making mistakes at higher levels of that skill or task, which is a good thing. There are tons of ways of doing this and depends highly on what you are learning. If you read here regularly you know I am an obvious heavy reader so I think books are a great example of learning from an expert. Essentially any author on a subject is going to have much more experience than you if its a new topic or unfamiliar area you are learning. I would consider then the author is an expert you can learn from. For shoring up skills or knowledge from books at more advanced levels, you may have to be much more careful in your book selection to find the best of the best authors on a subject or authors with more years of experience than you that can still provide useful guidance.
In other skills, you might need to find and use a coach as an expert to learn something. A mentor might be a great way by using their expert wisdom to help you. You might find that taking a set of classes at trade schools or advancing some sport or hobby you love can easily be done by finding a great teacher or course where there are experts to learn from. Whatever it is you are learning, finding help from an expert is the first step so you do not have to learn by trial and error making every mistake that others have already made ahead of you.
Apply At Least One Thing
Knowledge can be powerful from learning but it is truly useful when you can apply something from that knowledge. I’ve made a habit of always looking to apply at least one thing to my work or life when I study something new like a book or article I was eager to learn from. Skill development for sports or activities I would say I apply a lot more of what I learn. Knowledge however really sets in as something known well when it is applied. So when you read a book, or perhaps this article, take one thing from it and really make a conscious effort to apply that repeatedly so you can form a habit of it. Habits only form when you take action so its the best way to develop that new skill by practice.
Learn More Advanced Levels
My next habit I’ve formed might not work for everyone, however its part of who I am and I enjoy it. I always always take on new skills or application of knowledge a couple steps further than most people expect of themselves or that they expect of me in the case of my job. Anytime I can learn more advanced levels of something I strive for that as I have experience that making something a habit is so much easier when you push yourself beyond the limit of the habit, have the ability to go further than that when needed so the normal level that you can really use frequently then becomes very natural and always easy. If you highest level of a skill or application of knowledge is at your limit of skill or knowledge, then its always going to seem very difficult to achieve that and maintain the level, often having the risk of falling back out of that habit and being complacent with less.
My methods for this to some people seem a bit obsessive as I devote a large quantity of time to advanced my skills, often above what is expected or perhaps even sensible for what I want to achieve. The advantage of this however, is that I can then drop back a level or two and still have good habits formed where it is still needed and stretching back beyond that comfort zone is so much easier when you have already done that.
Teach That to Someone Else
Finally, what I consider to be the best way to lock in new learnings and application of knowledge is to teach it to someone else. Often, this alone forces you to also learn a bit beyond the expected level so you can answer questions, appear as a useful resource to that person and be able to handle what might be a surprise in someone else’s approach. Teaching someone else will not only give them that new knowledge, but it is a way for you to apply that knowledge yourself and be challenged to understand it from different perspectives.
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