A lover of learning in Greek would be called a Philomath. Philo meaning “loving” and math as in “to learn.” Yes, I just Wikipedia’d that. Full disclosure. Although I don’t think I’d ever call myself that–a Philomath. It sounds a little pervy. Actually, I wouldn’t care anyway.
What about Learning-Jedi, or Ninja? Wait, that’s been overdone now too. I blame cool people. Screw it. I love learning. The acquisition process. I’m more intrigued by the journey of learning something than by whatever skill or knowledge I intended to learn in the first place.
But I also love knowledge, so–if I continue with the Greek thing–that makes me a philosopher too. (Philos again used for “loving” but with soph meaning “wisdom” or “knowledge.”)
Well that was a tangent.
Point? Again, I love learning.
Over the course of my short existence on this Earth I’ve developed a few repeatable ways that enable me to attain a reasonable knowledge base on chosen subjects and acquired skills to an adequate degree of use.
Basically, I’ve developed certain ways of learning stuff to a level that makes any difference. Some of these tips may be more common sense, but for being so common, I haven’t noticed many implementing them. So allow me to share.
1. Inundate yourself without the intention of learning anything–just be interested.
If it’s not interesting to you, you’re probably not going to retain it or care to find out more about your subject. Allow your interest to flow to other topics if it guides you. Immersion in a subject tends to repeat information. Recognizing these patterns of information is helpful for reinforcing knowledge.
And as boring as it may seem to go over information more than once, repetition and reinforcement are basic building blocks to mastery. Even if you have no intention of mastering anything, allowing information to be ingrained in your mind makes it much easier when you finally get down to the work of actively learning.
2. Break it down.
I believe this should be a life skill on its own. It sounds simple and easy but you wouldn’t believe the amount of people that have a hard time doing this. What I witness more often when people want to learn new things is they start with the details–the stuff that doesn’t make much of a difference. What font color works best on the cover of a magazine? How many notes make a chord sound interesting? What kind of wood is best for a dinner table?
Breaking things down allows you to understand all the parts that make up the whole and how they all work together. In order to do this you may have to do some initial research. Information-heavy learning (such as kinesiology) may need an outline of all sub-topics. Physical skills-based learning (such as gymnastics) may need an understanding of the basic physical tasks required to perform one main outcome.[For the visual folks out there, like me, I find drawing a map helps to see how all the parts relate to each other. For some reason, mind maps tend to be the easiest to make and understand.]
Which leads to my next tip…
3. Foundations first.
Like I said before, I find most people tend to go to the details first when learning something new. For instance, in learning how to play guitar, people will first want to learn how to play their favorite song–memorizing chord positions and simple strumming patterns. I think that’s great if all you want to do is play that song and play in a very basic fashion (without finger picking dexterity or quick chord changes). Although, it may also lead to excitement in learning other songs. Eventually, memorization with no understanding will get boring and difficult.
Foundational skills are basic skills. Which equals to… it’s important. A martial arts master will rarely use no more than two to three different attacks while a student will love the flourishing techniques, have less impactful primary attacks and use unnecessary energy. An accomplished pianist will have an innate sense of music theory with the ability to create complex chords on the fly and an ear to recognize and harmonize on any scale–well, that’s my goal at least.
Knowing what foundational skills you’ll need is pretty simple. They are the skills that will be utilized in every outcome and every exercise and are required to build more skill off of. This is your ground floor. What’s on that floor?
4. Know your best method of learning.
There are tons of ways to learn things. There are tons of books, articles and videos that help through their own lesson plans. Each of those lesson plans have a certain method of teaching.
If each person responds differently to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic stimuli, then it makes sense to learn in a way that we respond to better. Case in point, I remember trying to learn breakdancing from a book. And even though the book contained pictures, deciphering the text was a chore in itself. When the DVD format started getting popular and content became cheaper to produce, Bboys started making their own lesson plans. Learning from these videos become much easier–especially with physical movements–in figuring out how a move was performed.
Knowing the best way you learn something can help you figure out what to look for in learning material. Of course, if the method you prefer doesn’t seem to exist, then it’s up to you to create that method of learning for your particular subject. How’s that saying go? If there’s a book you want to read but it doesn’t exist, then write it?
I love learning. This is how I do it. Still looking for faster ways to assimilate stuff. Do you have anything else? Let me know in the comments section.