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The Purpose of Learning 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the purpose of learning?”

To open play possibilities.

New playgrounds.
New ways to play.”

On Learning and Ideas

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is the relationship between learning and ideas?

Let’s say you read an article. The article has a number of Ideas Of Interest (IOIs) for you. Reading is the process of discovering the IOIs.

Some ideas have immediate value.
It can be temporary value. (eg inspiration)
It can be permanent value. (eg insight – restructures your model of reality)

Some ideas (if not most) have potential value. You need to do something with them to actualize their value. If you read an idea that has potential value without doing anything with it, the net value you get is zero. In this case, what you get is the illusion of learning.

Learning is the process of actualizing the potential value of ideas.

What if you do learn something but then forget it?

Good point.

Learning is the process of actualizing the potential value of ideas by converting them into persistent structures.

The structures can be external or internal.

Some ideas have value in storage. Their value is actualized by storing them externally, to have as references, or because they can potentially give birth to new ideas.

Some ideas have value in use. Their value is actualized by turning them into internal structures: principles, habits, and skills.

Two Fundamental Principles of Learning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What are the two principles?

I call them Beautiful Mindset and Beautiful State.

Beautiful Mindset

Beautiful Mindset is about how you think. Learning is profoundly influenced by your mindset.

I’m thinking of two mindsets in particular:

Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck) 

Has to do with belief:
– the belief that you can learn 
– the belief that, with persistence and consistency, you can learn anything you set your mind to

Learning Mindset 

Has to do with how you approach learning.  The optimal way to approach learning is playfully, by connecting with your inner child. We might call it the Playful Mindset.

Beautiful State

Beautiful State is about how you feel. Learning is profoundly influenced by your mental/emotional state. 

A beautiful state is one in which you’re relaxed and experiencing one or more of the (what I call) transcendental feelings: Joy, Curiosity, Wonder, Love, Gratitude, Playfulness, having Fun.

When you’re in a beautiful state, you’re most open-minded and receptive to learning. 

To optimize learning, you need to optimize both your mindset and your state.

Reminds me of Piotr Wozniak’s Fundamental Law of Learning:

Good learning is fundamentally pleasurable. Without pleasure, there is no good learning.

You can think of pleasure as feedback. It’s the sign that you’re doing it right.

Random Reading

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I’m reading over 50 books at the same time. (Parallel Reading [<link; short read])

Really? How?

I have them in PDF format and I use a little program I found on GitHub called RandomFile [<link] to randomize them.

I have the books in two folders called ’20’ and ’80’. The program allows you to pick multiple folders and select a weight for them – that is, the probability of extracting a random file from each folder.

What weights did you set?

80% probability of extracting a book from the 20 folder. 
20% probability of extracting a book from the 80 folder.

A little aesthetic touch.

I’m most likely to get books from the 20 folder, but once in a while, I get a book from the 80 folder which is a nice surprise.

You mean on top of the surprise of not knowing what you’ll be reading from next?

Indeed.


P.S. If you want to download the RandomFile program from GitHub, click on the green button labeled ‘Code’. (I had to look it up.)

The Joy of Learning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

How engaging is your learning?

Pretty engaging.

Don’t settle for mildly warm, my dear.

Burn!

Is your learning deeply joyful? Are you having fun? Are you rapt in wonder? Are you having mental orgasms?

If not, there’s room for optimization.

Learning Optimization 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I optimize Learning?”

Gain optimal feedback on the quality of your learning immediate feedback after every learning session and daily feedback at the end of every day.

How effective was your learning? (Strategy)

Did you learn the highest-leverage things you could be learning? (Leverage)

Did you learn them in optimal order (so that they optimally build upon one another)? (Sequencing)

How efficient was your learning? (Tactics)

Did you challenge yourself?

How active was your information absorption process? (Understanding Efficiency)
Did you process – that is, deeply reflect on – the information immediately, or just lazily saved it for later?

Did you practice deliberately? (Practice Efficiency)
Did you actually have deliberate practice time?

Always keep in mind the central tenet of Essentialism:

Less, but better. (Greg McKeown)

The most important life skills

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is the most important life skill?

Thinking because it creates your reality.”

What is the second most important life skill?

Emotional management because it enables and amplifies thinking.”

Parallel Reading

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is parallel reading?”

“By parallel reading, I mean reading from multiple books at the same time during a reading session. By contrast, sequential reading is reading from one book at a time.”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“There are two benefits: variety and creative serendipity – it increases the likelihood of connecting ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“Can you give more details on how it works?”

“Let’s take the idea as the information unit. You’re basically reading from idea to idea. If you read optimally, you skim through unuseful ideas and read only the useful ones. So in optimal reading, you proceed from one useful idea to another.

In sequential reading, you proceed from one useful idea to another within the same book. In parallel reading, you likewise proceed from one useful idea to another, but across different books. You read from one book until you find a useful idea. You process the idea, and then you change to a different book, repeating the process until a pomodoro passes.”

“So if, say, during a pomodoro of sequential reading you go through 10 ideas, during a pomodoro of parallel reading you go through 10 ideas from 10 different books.”

“Precisely.”

Natural Pauses

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Appreciate natural pauses.”

What are natural pauses?

Pausing is an essential (and subtle) life skill. By pausing, you’re creating space for awareness and connecting with yourself, for love and play and gratitude and beauty, for reflection and accessing your resources. You can think of it as a micro-meditation.

Think of an impulse, for instance. Much of the time, they are invisible. An impulse arises and we immediately act on it. Sometimes it works for us, other times against us. Pausing after the impulse arises creates a space between stimulus and response to ask yourself:

Do I want to act on this impulse?

Every impulse is an opportunity to practice the skill of pausing.

Natural pauses are pauses that arise naturally when engaged in an activity or when transitioning between activities.

Let’s say you’re browsing the Internet and a page takes too long to load. By default, we tend to think of it as an annoyance. Instead, learn to see and appreciate the opportunity, and make the most of it.

Breathe, connect with yourself, smile, and, for a moment, contemplate all the gifts and miracles that you’re taking for granted: technological wonders like the Internet and your computer and language, the biological wonders that are your BodyMind and all life forms, the beautiful interconnectedness of the world, the cosmic ocean and the universe of the very small, etc. Take a moment to find your way back to wonder.

By creating pauses and taking advantage of natural pauses, you’re creating space to take in the beauty of the world.

Artful Learning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is Artful Learning?”

“The phrase The Art of Learning has become so ubiquitous that people tune it out – it has become (or maybe it has always been) a what I call verbal empty [<link; short read], a string of words that sound good but don’t change behavior in any way.

The Art of Learning means thinking of learning as an art.
Artful Learning means doing learning as an art.