Three Essential Rules for Fast Learning


“Never believe on faith, see for yourself! What you yourself don’t learn you don’t know.” – Bertolt Brecht (The Mother, 1932)

If you want to learn a complicated subject quickly and completely, you need to follow three rules:

1. Learn less, but learn it. My big problem with learning is that I want to master every new subject I take on. Rather than being happy speaking basic travel Spanish by the time I leave for Madrid, I attempt to become Cervantes in six weeks. Spend some time before you learn anything determining exactly how much study time you have and understanding — realistically — how much you can learn (well) during that amount of time.

2. Learn slowly and precisely. If you have 10 minutes to memorize and learn to pronounce 10 French phrases, don’t run through the 10 quickly 100 times. Instead, say each one perfectly until you get it right. The secret here is to make it a habit never to practice being sloppy or imprecise. (See Message #179 about the Jazz Master’s Secret, “How to Speed Up the Learning Process and Achieve Perfection”)

3. Make it fun. The purpose of working and/or learning is not necessarily to have a good time, but I have found that I’m much more likely to stick with something if I consider it fun. LH knows this about teaching Jiu Jitsu — which is why he makes each private lesson end with a playful period of relaxed training. I’ve also found this to be true about training my “nose” to discern different aromas in wine. Were it not for the game I make of it, I doubt that I would still be “studying” this a year after I began.

Do less. Do it well. And make it fun. Practice these three very simple rules of learning and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make.