Pay-off: puts you in the driving seat to learn faster
Investment: 8 mins (4 mins if you’d learned to speed read)
Do you know what wastes most of your time, money and effort when it comes to learning?
Often it’s simply believing that learning should be done to you, rather than by you, and putting yourself at the mercy of the teacher, trainer, author or course designer of the material you are following (that’s me right now! But stay with me and you’ll learn how to shave hours off everything you learn from now on..)
Just how ill-fitting is it for you?
and how much of your time does that waste?
The problem is, even though the creator of the learning content should have tried to sequence the ideas that they think are useful in a way that makes sense, and make it as easy to learn as possible, it still might not hit the mark for you. Just like expensive, professionally made Hollywood movies don’t all hit the mark for you either.
The average learner who believes that learning should be done to them often ends up spending their precious time and energy learning things that they already know or things they don’t need to know, in an order or manner that doesn’t work for their own understanding.
We all start from different positions. We have all led different lives with different experiences. The order in which we best learn new ideas, the level of detail we need to go to, and our own end goals and specific reasons for learning something cannot be the same for all us.
can push you away from your end goal
And so this style of learning, being led by the content creator – what I sometimes call ‘push learning’ (the only learning there is for many people) – can be tiring, take up much more of your time and energy than necessary, and can diminish your drive and motivation to learn in future since learning becomes a chore.
It also teaches you that ‘push learning’ is apparently the only way to learn, and so you end up waiting to be spoon-fed in future. With all that pushing and shoving, you get pushed away from the idea that learning can free you, not hold you down.
pulls you closer to your end goal fast
The fast learner knows that learning can only be done by us. They focus on what I sometimes call ‘pull learning’ (or self-directed learning) where rather than looking just at the learning content in front of them, they zoom out, constantly checking their end objectives (usually a moment or opportunity where they want to demonstrate a new behaviour, skill or result for a specific reason) and working out what they must ‘pull’ from all their available resources to get them there effectively.
Then they ‘pull’ the right things (content, practices, discussions..) from the right resources in an order that works best for them, always checking their progress against their end objective, which they have one eye on constantly. (Metaphorically speaking, don’t physically try this in case the wind changes..)
So, if you’re learning something that requires confirming what your end goal looks like (say, a physical skill) do that first, and ensure you’re learning from a credible resource. Sometimes it pays to find 2 or 3 examples of what ‘success’ could look like.
Once you know that, you can start to pull yourself closer. But what learning should you ‘pull’?
What learning should you pull?
The fast learner knows that the fastest way to get to ‘the end’ is to bring ‘the end’ to them. They time travel. They go straight off the learning creator’s plan and begin right at the end.
They roll their sleeves up, grab the bowling ball, boldly stroll up to the line, and go for a ‘strike’ immediately!
Note that beginning at the end is not the same as Stephen Covey’s excellent advice of ‘begin with the end in mind’. This isn’t about our mind at this stage, it’s physical. The fast learner begins by having a stab at performing with their current capabilities before learning.
The fast learner starts by attempting to perform as best they can at the very thing they are learning to do.
Learning for an exam? Begin with a past exam paper.
Learning a new musical instrument? Attempt to play some clear notes or a song. Do the best you can. Don’t forget to laugh. Then move on.
Learning a new language? Proudly shout out what you do know that’s relevant to your end goal (e.g. if you want to get by on a ski holiday, try saying anything out loud related to that in your new language – if even random words.).
Studying an e-course? Sit the end test first (if they let you). If they don’t let you, you’re probably being pushed down a path by someone who possibly cares more about you sitting their course than they do about you arriving at your end objective in the most effective way…so ‘boo’ them out loud, and then do this…
Step back and look at your resources. Ask Google with the search term “free online test + [topic]” (or similar). Give us the tools, Google, and we’ll finish the job!
The fast learner
The fast learner ducks and dives continuously throughout their learning journey, avoiding getting knocked down by a sharp blow from the content creator, whilst seeking hard to get precisely what they need.
(Hey, the content creator isn’t bad, it’s just through your specs and relative to where you’re at, their content can occasionally be a bit clunky). So the fast learner accepts this and learns to become nimble.
Fast learners are the masters of their learning resources. They play the alpha role in this game!
Back to starting at the end
So, whatever you’re learning, begin by performing as you would at your end goal.
Now you’re clearer on where you’re at, and where you want to be. And you have an instant smidgen of experience of what it feels like to perform at your end goal. Your mind and nervous system will take note. And your mind has now become ‘sticky’ to learn whatever it is you need to.
So, now you can break down and list what you need to learn in order to hit your desired level of performance.
You could work straight from your end goal, or repeat this entire process on smaller sub-goals. If you’re learning an instrument you might just set the goal of holding the instrument correctly and in a relaxed manner. So, beginning at the end, you try to do it immediately. Got it? Done. Something not right? Now you know what to learn.
Now you know
Now you know what learning content to look for in order to pull yourself closer to your end goal.
Now you know what topics to study for your exam, and you can use any of your learning tools to go directly to the best content.
Now you know that you can at least get a sound out of your new musical instrument, but you really do need to know how to hold it correctly first, so you go straight to YouTube to find out.
Now you know that your new language vocab isn’t great in the area of skiing, so you list the top 20 things you’d love to be able to say related to skiing (e.g. “can I have more Schnapps please?”) and you use Google to find translations.
Meanwhile, someone else going on your skiing holiday is struggling through the next module on their language course on ‘vocabulary for going to the beach’.
Now you know where you struggled in the e-course test and where you were strong. (You also know what the entire course is about together with the most important points). So you don’t need to waste 3 hours watching the videos that you already know about and can go straight to the modules you need. And if the course doesn’t let you jump straight to that information, roll your eyes, and find different learning content from Google. Just don’t let anyone else slow you down. You’re the boss!
Keep bringing the end forwards
Don’t forget that bringing the end forwards is an excellent ‘accelerated learning’ technique in general, to manipulate learning content in a way that’s much easier to swallow.
For example, if you know what chapters of a book to read based on your last ‘performance’, you can begin at the end of those chapters by reading the summary. Doing this might give you what you need for your end goal performance. Or it might tell you that this book needs tossing out the window before finding a better one. Learning content contains sign posts!
Or if you’re reading an article, why not go straight to the conclusion or summary to see if it helps you get the point of the article. There might not be one, but you won’t know if you don’t check*. Intro’s are often slow and vague, designed to reel you in. Leap over that and get straight to what you need. Keep moving. Burn those calories. Get to your end goal.
Even final paragraphs in sections of text often give you what you need directly, or at least tell you if it’s worth going back and reading in full.
Keep starting at the end and you’ll get to the end faster.
Learn faster by continuously focusing on getting to that end goal, whilst bringing the ‘ends’ forwards constantly.
And that’s it.
Keep building upon and compounding your learning as you go. Keep repeating this process on your sub-goals as you become more focused, motivated and effective in heading towards your end goal. You’ll find it works for just about anything – academic learning, theory, or skills and behaviours.
Building the skill of learning in this way can easily have you learning almost anything up to 10 times faster. If you’d like your team at work to learn these skills, check out my site http://helppeoplelearn.com (I’m UK based have ways of reaching you wherever you are…!)
100 top learning tools for 2015
No excuses to not drive yourself forwards then.
And you’ve learned one way to learn up to 10 times faster (there are plenty more to come..) But perhaps next you’d like to learn “How to get 10 times more out of what you learn”.
OK, if you want to chat again, sign up to my weekly posts at the top of the screen and please share this article if you think it might help others.
And with that, I’m stepping out of your way…
*There isn’t one.