People often talk about learning being an advantage in the future, yet when hasn’t this been true?
The caveman that first learned to avoid the lion survived longer, and still today rapidly adapting is the key to thriving.
The faster we learn in school, the better grades we get, the better opportunities that are available to us.
In the workplace those who quickly learn the rules of the game and keep learning the fastest are most likely to accelerate.
It’s also true in our hobbies and sports. The faster we learn, the more fun we have, the more likely we are to keep playing.
Do You Know Why Reading Is So Boring?
Because nobody ever teaches us to read fast enough, our brains get bored.
It’s a Ferrari designed to suck in a massive amount of information, yet because we’ve never been trained to read beyond a fifth-grade level most of us read like driving Miss Daisy.
When you understand why, it’s no surprise that on average we read at the same rate we speak, some 250 words a minute.
The cause is subvocalizing, which means instead of taking in information with our eyes as you do in say reading a traffic sign, we repeat the words eveeeeerrr soooo sloooowly in our heads.
If I had trained Evelyn Wood in high school, I would have bought myself thousands of hours of wasted study and repetition, and the first secret to learning fast is to train yourself to more rapidly input information.
But, that’s just for starters, because we learn little from reading.
Reading Isn’t Learning
Sadly, even few smart highly successful people are continuously learning, and even many who pretend to be are merely listening to podcasts or reading books.
Often when I suggest to people great books like How To Win Friends and Influence People, they tell me something like, “Yep, I read that.”
I then ask questions like: How specifically are you using it? What is your process for reviewing what you learned? If you were tested on it, would you get a passing grade?
When I first began this journey, how we learn seemed pretty obvious.
Of course we know how we learn. We’re learning all of our lives, but I soon realized that us adults are conditioned to be terrible learners.
Knowledge Isn’t Developing
Over years of reading self-help books I guzzled thousands, and took thousands of pages of notes, but too busy hunting for the next best ideas I rarely went back to read, let alone practice what I had noted.
That seemed “normal” as an adult, given that near everything we consume is disposable information that goes in one moment and is mostly gone the next.
But when you think about anything you have ACTUALLY learned, you see we learn much more systematically.
In school we’re forced to learn by writing papers and sitting exams. We don’t “consume” information and call it learning. We write notes. Think about it. Discuss it. Go back and review it over and over again. Sit exams to test our learning.
We learn the same way in golf. And martials arts. And other sports. Whether a coach is drip feeding us or we’re training ourselves, we learn through incremental knowledge and practice.
The System of Learning
When I talk about the System of Learning that I built for myself and I now use with others, it seems laughably obvious…
That’s because it is…
We learn in these three steps:
Now, of course, while it is simple and obvious, the secret to fast learning is how effectively you can put to work each step.
1. Accumulate Knowledge
The secret to fast learning is knowing what knowledge to accumulate now, and how to sequence more learning over time.
I once heard a top self-help expert suggest to an audience member that the best way for him to learn copywriting was to read every book on the topic…
Such boneheaded advice can keep us forever in the books, when we need very little knowledge to actually learn.
Quantity is often the inverse of quality learning, and what matters most to rapid learning is getting clear on your 80/20.
An 80/20 approach to learning is again quite obvious, and the secret is of course figuring out what 20% of knowledge drives 80% of your learning.
In training leaders to raise capital we know that we can’t turn them into masters of influence overnight, but we can easily train them in the 20% that enables you to crush every meeting!
A buddy decided that within a week he was going deep on AI.
Now, he was already deep by most standards, and because he knew what really mattered to taking his knowledge deeper, he could focus his learning.
It is said that every book ever printed contains the same letters, only in a different order…
And in most arenas most books are most the same. Read the top three and you get the point, but if you’re lucky you’ll find the one book that you truly need.
It’s rare that you come across books like Never Split The Difference that offer much better human tech, or books like I write which are designed for actually putting the best ideas to work, and if you can find the right source, use it exclusively.
The incremental learning you get from accumulating more knowledge is next to worthless relative to taking the best knowledge you have and learning it backwards and forwards. Then you can seek out more knowledge and step up a grade.
This is how we learned in school. We didn’t read every book on every shelf, we merely drilled and re-drilled a small number of textbooks that contained the knowledge we needed.
You can spend your life reading books seeking the next best idea, or you can rapidly learn by harnessing the best knowledge you now have and putting it to work.
2. Knowledge Review
If you think back to school, how did we really learn?
Generally, by taking a lot of notes that we kept boiling down, over and over and over again into a much more refined summary, which we then memorized.
Unfortunately, because nobody ever taught us to read faster than five-year olds, nor how to use memory tools like the method of loci, learning was a horribly painful experience of pummeling knowledge into our head over and over again through repetition.
Although the learning tech was horse and carriage worthy, the method was right on—we best learn by summarizing knowledge and drilling it, repeatedly.
When I was first learning to shoot, although my trainers have expertly broken down the skill into what really matters, it was still a lot of things to focus on.
But, even with just a couple of days of live fire under my holster, I could see that I could rapidly learn to shoot by honing a small number of micro-skills.
Most of what you need to practice shooting can be done without a real gun in your hand—grip strength, walking with soft knees, looking down the sights of a dummy gun, pulling the trigger without shifting the muzzle, etc.
In summarizing the knowledge I had accumulated from my trainers, I easily created a short list of practices that I could do ATFT (All the fucking time) 🙂
I learned to transform humans with magic and influence the same way.
I traveled the world training with wizards, read perhaps hundreds of top books, consumed near every audio and video program, and that was only the mouth of my learning funnel.
I wrote detailed notes for every training, which I am constantly adding to, while also summarizing down to a short list of practices.
Fast or slow, we learn everything the same way. We begin by accumulating knowledge, but we only truly learn when we distill it down in ways that foster repetitive practice.
Print your knowledge review and put it on your desk. Write up cue cards you keep in your purse or wallet. Put notes on your walls. Sticky notes on your screen. Load up your summary into a memory castle so you can walk through it constantly.
No matter how you do it, when you have summarized your knowledge, you give yourself many ways to practice learning quickly.
Aristotle nailed it— “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
Whether it be training the mind, acquiring knowledge, skills, or any other pursuit, we learn through practice.
Consider teaching your kid to ride a bike the way that most of us adults fool ourselves that we are learning.
You might start by handing them a dozen great books on riding a bike. Once they read those and you’ve had an interesting discussion on riding, you might direct them to a handful of podcasts or a dozen more books so they can think they are learning more about riding…
Or, you could put them on a bike and get them pedaling. It takes near zero knowledge to ride a bike, but a lot of practice.
Most skills are the same.
When I learned to sing I was shocked to learn that I would spend 50 minutes doing scales, lip bubbles, tongue trills, and other weirdo exercises, before I would get my 10 minutes of straggling cats, um, singing.
As my shooting trainers say, the best do the basics better.
At the end of his ridiculous program a hypnosis teacher I love says now forget everything you’ve learned and go out and hypnotize 1,000 people.
Those who learn fast are never impressed with hacks. Nor the next best secret trick. They’re not reading yet another book. Or listening to a podcast. Or watching another talk. Or sitting in another seminar.
The best are too busy practicing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…
This doesn’t mean that practice makes perfect.
Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect, and you want to become as skilled as you can at deliberate practice.
In combatives we train suuuuupppppeeeeerrrr slow, far sloooooower than most people read, because we are focused on very specifically striking our targets. You can hit a man 50 times with your best backward jumping spinning kick and he may keep standing, but if with the precision of a surgeon and the force of a Mack truck you drive his testicles toward his throat he’ll go fetal 🙁
To learn fast, get clear on what you are practicing, how you best practice perfectly, and seek ways to practice ATFT.
How Rapidly Do You Want To Learn?
The faster and deeper you want to learn, the more extreme you want your System of Learning to be.
There is no limit I haven’t gone to learn faster, deeper, better.
In the things that I’m serious about training, I never stop accumulating and conditioning knowledge because I’m focused on the continuous pursuit of mastery.
In knowledge and skills I’m conditioning, I don’t only schedule practice once a week. Or once a day. Or on the hour. I train myself to practice ATFT.
Like someone who is serious about what they eat and therefore watches every calorie, I have trained myself to watch every single thought and change it “on the fly.”
I’m constantly surrounded by my training reminders.
Dozens of pages of Daily Exercises. Notes all over my walls. Reminders in my calendar. Tattoos on my body.
As often as I can, at home, in cars, at the gym, walking the street, and near everywhere else I’m jacked into recordings I’ve created to keep drilling my learnings.
Continuous NLP. Hours of daily hypnosis. Mental rehearsal. Constant programming.
Even while I sleep I’m plugged into audio programming my mind.
How far you take this is entirely up to you, but to be sure, the absolute best not-secret to rapid learning is full immersion.