How I Learn

This is a little insight into how I approach learning new things. I hope it’s helpful for anyone taking on a new challenge in 2021. I’ll be starting with memory, speed cubing, and trying to chip away at my 1 kilometre run time.

For every discipline I take on in my One Day Like This challenge, a combination of the following approaches will be required:

  • The correct preparation to ensure learning is as efficient as possible – an analogy – you need running shoes before you start running. You don’t need Vaporflys and a Salomon hydration system – doing preparation is key – the RIGHT preparation
    • This includes preparing for both of the key types of learning. So, getting a sense of key questions and what the standard literature is in any particular area and what other areas constitute the expected context and what knowledge I have of those/identifying and acquiring skills I will need; and preparatory work for the muscles involved in practice, such as building core strength, or developing a level of fitness
  • Learning about the subject – theoretical learning about history and technique, how others have handled problems etc, done in such a way as to be useful-in-practice rather than useful-for-rote-recall
  • Learning of the subject through deep practice of the parts of whatever things are at the edge of my ability. This has to go at the same time and feed into/be fed into by the subject learning – too easy to spend all the time doing one or the other rather than the much better one AND the other

I have a set of questions I use for any topic I try learning about. In order to fit with the above approach to tackling the challenges, I will need to differentiate these into questions to ask

  • Before starting
  • As I go – these may be directional
    • Things I ask to help you decide what to study (what are the unsolved problems?)
    • Things I ask as a result of what you are studying (how does this fit with something else?)
  • After you have finished an initial pass
  • Combinations of the above

The questions I ask of any subject include (but may not be limited to):

  • What are the main unsolved problems in this area?
  • What is the classification this field uses?
  • What one other field does it intersect with?
  • What one other field does it absolutely not intersect with? Now make a link
  • Where do I think it fits in my schema? Why? What is one preconception I’m going to bring to it as a result of this?
  • What’s one thing about my schema I’ll change as a result?
  • Who are the most famous people in the field? What else did they do? Who talks about them and why and are there fandoms or factions?
  • What are the controversies or arguments? What do they boil down to? What are the presuppositions behind each side?
  • What are the questions no one is asking about this?

There’s more about how to learn in my book , Our Dreams Make Different Shapes

our dreams make different shapes

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