Have you ever tried to learn a difficult concept, yet were unable to because it seemed too hard?
As children, we were voracious learners, where it seemed as though we learned something new daily. This is because we did. As children, we had fun learning. So, what happened?
As children, we were lateral thinkers. We didn’t rely on traditional logic, neither did we follow the rules. In fact, we completely ignored the rule book. We possessed the ability to think outside-the-box. Essentially, we were much better at learning.
However, as adults we can become better learners and thinkers. We can become better by adopting the creative mind of a child combined with a formula for how to learn and acquire new knowledge – The Learning Formula (TLR).
Here is how we can use TLR and learn anything with ease.
1. Learning = Download + Process + Apply
The first thing we need to do is understand the formula. The writers at Agileleanlife.com show us three steps in TLR. We start with learning something new, followed by actively processing the knowledge, then applying it as soon as possible, thus demonstrating that learning updates in your brain use the following formula: Learning = Download + Process + Apply.
We can compare our biological Neural Network (NN) in our brain to that of an Artificial Neural Network (ANN). Inside of our brain exists a biological NN, which is a series of dense interconnected neurons where sensory information is transmitted by synapses. Learning and memory formation are sparked by strengthening the neural connections in our brain.
ANNs are neural networks that attempt to model the human brain. In its simplest form, ANNs use the equation Y=F(X). Meaning, your output (Y) is equal to the function of your inputs (X). Where multiple X’s feed a summing junction, further feeding an activation function, which then produces the output (Y). Compare this with a biological NN. Think of your dendrites receiving a signal (inputs), sending it to the neuron (summing junction), then sending a signal to the axon (activation function), allowing the learning or memory to take place (the output).
2. Download Knowledge
First, we have to receive the signal to start the process. Similar to a computer downloading information, we must first download knowledge. Here, you are receiving new information; information you did not possess before. We receive this through different inputs, such as:
- Reading a book.
- Listening to an audiobook.
- Listening to a lecture.
- Watching an instructional video online.
- Listening to a podcast.
Once we receive this information, the first thing we should do is break the new idea or knowledge into chunks. One such way to do this is by using a semantic tree. Elon Musk has mastered this concept and found that knowledge has a logical structure. Drake Baer writes, “Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle said that a first principle is the first basis from which a thing is known and that pursuing first principles is the key to doing any sort of systemic inquiry.” Discussing the semantic tree, Drake posits, “In other words, you have to get to know the tree’s trunk, then branch out from there.”
Here is how to use a semantic tree:
- Trunk (starting point) is the abstract idea.
- Branches. The first set of branches will consist of the first set of chunks branching from your abstract idea.
- Each subsequent branch will continue the chunking concept, leading to a clear understanding of each chunk.
3. Process Knowledge
When we are able to connect new information to that we already know, we are able to learn at a rapid pace. Hebbian Rules is one of the oldest learning rules. The basic concept of Hebbian Learning is the following: when neuron A activates, it causes neuron B to activate, which strengthens the connection between the two. It is then easier for neuron A to activate neuron B for all future connections. Thus, neurons that fire together wire together.
Processing knowledge happens when we are able to connect the dots between new and old concepts. Here, we are connecting a new chunk we download to something already known. There are two powerful ways to process knowledge.
- Use an Analogy. An analogy is simply a comparison between two concepts for the purpose of explanation. Analogies are like a raft to get across the river; a raft you leave behind once crossed (for which this is an analogy for an analogy!). For example, if you were trying to explain mitochondria to someone, you might use the following analogy: Mitochondria supplies all sources of energy for the cell to use, just like power plants create energy for the country to use.
- Use a Diagram. Writers at Betterexplained.com explain that academic progress on imaginary numbers took off once diagrams were used. They provide a visual interpretation of imaginary numbers (see diagram above), which is a great way to visualize this abstract concept.
4. Apply Knowledge
Lastly, we must apply our knowledge to secure it in our long-term memory. One of the best ways to apply our knowledge is to teach it. Teaching forces us to dive into the concept and really start to understand it. However, the best way is to start applying it in your line of work and immediately use it. Once you gain practical experience with this new concept, try to explain the technical information to someone.
Now that you know the formula for learning, start to embrace it. Embrace it just as you did as a child. Just remember, you have to choose to want to learn.
“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert