10 secrets to learning anything yourself

‘Flight-Mode Learning’ means learning anything you want, under your own guidance. You determine what you need to know, and learn it. It might involve resources written by others, but doesn’t have to. It scales from tiny to gigantic, in terms of what you can use it to achieve.

Here are ten guiding principles to ensure your learning is successful

Learn for Freedom

I have started with this one deliberately. It’s by far the most powerful thing that keeps me coming back for more. Every time you learn something, you create one less thing you need to ask someone. Every time you learn a new skill, you create one more thing you can do yourself. This is ultimately what learning is about. It’s not just about study, focus, dedication, or using the right methods. Learning is a path toward independence and freedom.

Have a problem to solve

Don’t just learn something for the sake of it. Start with a real problem that you need to solve. If you needed to build a raft in order to survive, you’d have a good reason to learn how to tie knots. However, if you just wanted to learn to tie knots, the priority is a bit different.

Have a why

Always embark on a learning exercise with a reminder of why you are doing it. A good why should contain lots of positive imagery about what will be better once you are able to use this new skill/knowledge you are about to acquire.

Stop giving a damn what others think

One of the best ways to ensure you focus on what you need is to stop caring what others think about your plans. If you want to learn something, chances are there will be people around you who make it sound difficult. They might even try to influence you. Stop caring. This is not about them, it’s about you and your future.

Realise you can

The phrase ‘believe you can’ implies there’s a chance you can’t. Realise you can (because you can) learn anything.

Not everyone is meant to do just one thing

Many people search their ‘one thing’ they do better than anything else. But this line of can trick us into believing we each have only one destiny. I used to think there were ‘mathematical people’ and ‘naturally good communicators’ in the world. But when you see someone skilled at one subject, all you’re seeing is the result of them focusing hard on one particular aspect for a long time. Learn to separate the person from what the person has achieved.

Focus on one thing when you’re learning

The best way to get the most value out of your time learning a new concept is to focus on it and only it. The education system usually hits us with lots of subjects to learn at once, which takes its toll on us. There’s no need to do it that way any more, and if you don’t, you get to divert all your senses into one new thing, which works out far better in the end.

You have five senses

In all likelihood, you will end up reading as a source of information. But remember to use your senses for something other than reading. For instance, if you’re learning to garden and notice you have a pest on your plants, don’t just head straight to Google. Instead, watch them and see what is attracting them. Where else have you noticed them? What does that have in common with your plants? Look for their eggs, and notice what happens once you remove those.

Your mind is more than a memory bank

The education system of the past rewarded those who had a near photographic memory, capable of storing complex formulae and facts. Lots of exams featured such questions. But true learning doesn’t happen until you engage with the content you have been taught. For instance, rather than simply learning which country uses which voltage on their domestic power outlets, why not explore the origins of the variation? What advantages and disadvantages are there of each?

Break everything down into manageable pieces

Open the lid on a complex machine, and you’ll likely be overwhelmed at what is inside. Yet, a complex machine is nothing more than dozens of very simple components, each with its own disparate purpose. Learning a subject is exactly the same. What seems like a daunting concept is, in reality, just a bunch of much simpler concepts strung together. If you can divide up a big subject into chunks, you can conquer it.

Which of these resonate with you? Let me know in the comments.


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