Learning is not about memorizing lots of information, it is about transforming how we think and act. Accelerated learning is not a concept I read about in a book one day. Learning is experiential and involves moving through different paradigms which shift how we see the world.
I believe that when learning is done well it engages the mind, body and spirit. When the mind, body and spirit are engaged a balanced and continuous learning journey begins to unfold.
How does Accelerated Learning Feel?
My first glimpse of accelerated learning came after becoming proficient at French. I had a desire to learn Spanish and Italian but I didn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of time learning them. I wanted to enjoy being a polyglot before I was an old man.
Accelerated learning became more evident to me when I went to learn my second and third languages. It probably helped that the languages I learned were all from the same language family.
Among other things, I began to notice the disproportionate weight the mastery of 4 verb tenses- Past, Present, Imperfect and Future carry over the numerous other verb tenses.
What follows are 5 quick tips you can use to accelerate your learning today.
#1 — Unlearn to move Forward
When I began to learn in the real world I started to notice how many of my concepts and beliefs were being challenged. A simple example of this was that I thought there was a certain level I needed to reach before I could allow myself to speak in a foreign language. In truth you get to the next level largely from deliberate practice.
Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis was the first book that challenged my mental model for language acquisition. In the book he proposes the idea of speaking a foreign language from day 1. Reading his book was both liberating and challenging at the same time. My mental model couldn’t comprehend his methodology and this lead to feelings of cynicism and frustration emerging for me.
In order to move forward in a productive manner I had to be willing to leave my concepts at the door and open my mind to a new methodology. I also had to become more self-reflective. All of these combine to create transformational learning.
In hindsight I can see that my mental models of how I think that the world works come from my linear thinking but the world doesn’t actually align very well with a linear way of thinking. Linear thinking doesn’t take into account the exponential manner in which the world behaves. Consider this quote from inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil about how technology behaves in the real world:
Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.
#2— Slow Down to Get a Feel for the Fundamentals
Show me a person who spends the majority of their learning curve mastering and refining the fundamentals and I will show you someone who will have a firm grounding in the field and therefore become more adaptable and resilient to change.
Yet time and time again I have noticed in myself and in others the tendency to race past grasping the basics in what feels to me like a quest to obtaining that gold star. Almost paradoxically I have noticed that it is often those who are prepared to ask the ‘dumbest’ questions and stay with something until they fully grasp it who make the best progress in the long term.
The awareness that it isn’t just big actions that count but the thousands of seemingly inconsequential actions can be observed in the below quote from Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect:
It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.
#3 — Read Across Multiple Disciplines
I get it, you might not have the time to study multiple field in depth, neither do I. Time is a finite resource and there comes a point where priorities have to be made as distraction can lead to lack of focus and a lack of progress.
Nevertheless, I believe that it is also important to have your own unique way of looking at the world, especially when it could be of immense value to the marketplace. Not only will reading across multiple fields allow you to converse with more people and make you a more well rounded and interesting human being it will also help you avoid becoming a commodity. When you become a commodity, your skillets are replaceable and you face increased competition from people and AI alike.
It is much better to embrace your own quirks and unique insights that only you can bring to the table. Initially it will be difficult as you might feel a sense of ‘me against the world’ but it will help cultivate the independent and creative thinking that the world needs.
The magic of accelerated learning can be found in its subtly. If you take the time to read a little across different fields from the arts and sciences you will be amazed to see how you begin to notice inter disciplinary patterns relatively quickly.
#4- Look for Principles
I started to intentionally read across multiple fields from my own curiosity. I wanted to understand the world and myself better. As started reading across multiple fields I began to see the outline of the semantic tree of knowledge that Elon Musk talks about:
It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.
Discovering fundamental principles is where accelerated learning begins. When there are principles the details no longer matter as much because you begin to realise that a group of trees all start with the same basic attributes.
Your brain is a pattern making machine and looking at the constants in order to group things together is how our brains are wired. Our brain is very good at pattern recognition and because of this it saves us a lot of time and effort from needing to figure things out from scratch every time. This aspect of the brain can be witnessed in computer programming in the concept of classes that are a fundamental concept of Object Oriented Programming (OOP).
#5- Community Building
A social support system in the form of like minded students and good quality mentors are invaluable in the accelerated learning. Throughout history many of the great minds had mentors and participated in Mastermind groups including Napoleon Hill, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
A large part of the learning process is navigating the unavoidable ups and downs in the process. A good community will act like a support system so that you don’t give up when you are in the midst of a dip in progress.
By surrounding yourself in a community of like minded people you will begin to uncover blindspots a lot quicker than if you were to do it through self-reflection alone.
A community doesn’t form over night but by intentionally seeking out groups and mentors you will begin to notice over time how you have created your own environment for success.
In Will Power Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy the importance of environment is undeerlined. Benjamin points to the fact that will power is finite, a much more viable alternative is to consciously begin to create and shape the environment that surrounds us. When you set up your environment for success your default actions and behaviors become more productive. The ability to shape our environment is a unique human superpower, don’t let it go to waste.
Over to You
Have you experienced accelerated learning in your life without being aware of it? If so leave a comment and let me know what you took away from this article.