Aristotle told that human memory is like wax; it starts out hot and flexible but later cools down to something hard and challenging to mold. This is entirely related to the ability to learning as well; when you are young, your brain is in the primary learning stage and can process information quickly. But when time passes, you will find it increasingly difficult to learn and acquire new skills. Have you heard the quote that you can’t teach old dog new tricks – it’s 100% true.
Recent research has shown other factors such as confidence has an impact on their ability to learn even when they are old. So if you stop thinking that your brain stops learning on age, you can actually learn something. In today’s world, knowledge is the most valuable factor, and if you have the ability to pick up new skills, you are the most valuable asset. Entrepreneurs should focus on growing knowledge of their team and themselves.
As an entrepreneur, I read lots of blogs, publications, and books daily. From my experience of talking to entrepreneurs, people who are keeping their employees up to date with the latest tools and strategies are the ones who are tremendously successful. However, dedication to learning something new is the first step to learn.
Here are a few research-backed techniques that can make you a student for life long.
1. Start with spaced repetition
Whether you want to learn to play a keyboard or study a foreign language, practice is the only path that can make you a master. Practice makes a man perfect – and there is a scientific explanation behind this quote. When you repeatedly do something, myelin around the axions which connects our brain’s neurons increases. When myelin increases our neuron works faster, the more the myelin, the more we learn.
Also, it is found that spacing out the repetition process rather than doing everything in one session is found effective. To support this statement, Author of In Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It – Gabriel Wyner said, “If you practice 30 minutes a day for 4-months, you can learn over 3600 flashcards with 90-95% accuracy. These flashcards can teach alphabets, grammar, pronunciation, etc. And, these can be done with a tedious process because they will remain interesting, fun and challenging.” We are not only focusing on retention; we are also ensuring that we don’t fall into the trap of boredom.
To start using this learning technique plan on a study schedule that can be manageable. Then, chose a method of storing and organizing the information which you are consuming. You can either go old school by taking it in a note, or you can use modern tools like Evernote. And, track your progress regularly, and test yourself at regular intervals, this can boost your motivation to push further.
2. Take time for reflection
Reflection is an important asset to learn and improve your performance. A research by Harvard University’s professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues found that employees who spend at least 15 minutes at the end of their day to reflect back on the lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who didn’t take time to reflect.
Do you know reflection also helps in generating new ideas? You might have experienced that some of the best ideas on your work might have come when you are actually not working. There might be some issue which is bothering you for a quite long time, and you will come up with a perfect solution which you are in the shower, or your morning work.
Scott Barry Kaufman, a renowned psychologist, explains, “Most creative ideas don’t come when we are focused on a problem consciously. Some great insights come when you are interacting with people, and when you are free from thoughts.” Also, Scott Barry found that 72% of people get new ideas from the shower. Shower Ideas is a thing, and these happen because of reflection – our brain tries to connect information which is already consumed, and as a result, we get new ideas.
This is also a reason why modern companies encourage employees to take a vacation. After taking a time out, people generally come back recharged and with new fresh thoughts.
3. Break it down
If you ask a teacher what is the best way to learn something new, they would say – explain it to someone. Richard Feynman quotes, “If you can’t explain something in a simple term, then it simply means you didn’t understand it”. His learning formula was to teach it to a child – or at least map out how would you explain something to a child.
When you start breaking down a concept into a simple term, you will quickly understand whether you understood the concept completely or you have any knowledge gaps. And, if you found there is a gap, go back to learning source and relearn the things that are missing.
A friend of mine shared his experience that, when he was expecting his child, he decided to take 3 months of parental leave. And before taking a long leave, his main responsibility was to delegate his responsibilities to his colleagues. He started allocating each task to each one step-by-step. And, he found that teaching someone on how to do to his job actually helped him in strengthening his skills and identify areas which he needs to brush up.
4. Transfer what you learn
Elon Mush is someone with amazing learning aptitude – he conquered from software and energy to automobile and outer space. He is truly polymath and expert in various domains. Elon Musk’s wide range of knowledge is associated with his learning capability – taking what we studied and applying it to the real problem helps us to understand the concept deeply. Musk has shared the two-step process on learning transfer,
Firstly, he decodes the knowledge into fundamental principles. Then, he reconstructs the learnings into a new field. For example, you are studying French, and you also want to become a chef – you can either take up a cooking class, or you can take up a cooking class in Italian.
Being a polymath can also lead to new innovations – for example, a burr stuck in a dog’s fur was the inspiration that created Velcro.
To conclude, if you have confidence and practice hard, you can teach an old dog a new trick.
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