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How to effortlessly learn online 

How to effortlessly learn online 

Learning can be hard, especially in today’s world where we are constantly bombarded with distractions and entertainment. It can be especially difficult to overcome the urge for instant gratification in favour of something that has a more long-term benefit, like learning. But what if there was a way to make learning feel more effortless?

Here are a few techniques that can help you hack your learning process and make it feel less painful:

  1. Customize your social media feed: One way to effortlessly incorporate learning into your daily routine is to customize your social media feed. Follow accounts that post about topics you are interested in learning more about. This will populate your feed with educational content related to your interests, and you can even watch short videos about these topics on platforms like TikTok and Reels.
  2. Set aside dedicated learning time: Another effective technique is to set aside dedicated time for learning. This could be a specific time each day or week, or it could be a longer block of time where you focus solely on learning. By setting aside dedicated learning time, you can give yourself the space and focus you need to really absorb and retain new information.
  3. Take breaks: While it’s important to set aside dedicated learning time, it’s also important to take breaks. Research has shown that taking breaks can actually improve your learning and retention. So make sure to give yourself regular breaks to rest and recharge.
  4. Find a learning partner: Another great way to make learning feel more effortless is to find a learning partner. Whether it’s a friend, colleague, or family member, having someone to learn with can make the process feel more enjoyable and rewarding. You can discuss what you’re learning, share resources, and hold each other accountable for making progress.
  5. Mix it up: Finally, try to mix up the way you learn. If you’re always reading, try listening to an audio version of the material. If you’re always listening, try writing out notes or creating a mind map. By switching up your learning method, you can keep things interesting and prevent boredom.

By using these techniques, you can make the learning process feel more effortless and enjoyable. Remember, learning is a journey, and it’s okay to take it one step at a time. The key is to find what works best for you and stick with it.

How to effortlessly learn online 

Overcoming that initial painful resistance when starting to learn something new

You know that if you learn a new skill or take a new training your life could change for the best, but you are not doing that. Something is holding you back. You know what to do, but somehow you are unable to do it. You know the cure to your problem, but you resist the treatment. I want us to discuss what holds people back from being habitual learners. Probably this thing is the biggest thief of individual success. 

There is this feeling inside that overwhelms you when you think about or start learning something tough. That feeling floods your head when you try solving a math problem or when writing an essay on a complicated topic. If you have felt this opposing force, you are not alone. It is a universal experience and even the brightest of minds have felt it. How you make sense of this feeling is very important because if you can find ways to deal with it, you will change how you learn forever. In this article, I will show you something you likely have not thought about and it will be one of the most fascinating things you will ever learn. If you can persevere till the end, you will never regret reading this article.

What I describe as a feeling is formally called “Resistance” in psychology. This resistance is the same internal force that you battle each time you encounter situations. The more strange and difficult the change, the higher the resistance. This is an obstacle that you will inevitably face throughout life, and so you better be equipped to face it fiercely and upfront. Unless you unmask this resistance, it will hide beneath your subconsciousness and you will foolishly play along with it. For many people, this resistance can feel like an internal struggle between two parts of themselves — one that overtly wants to change and one that covertly fights it.

Where does this resistance come from and why do we experience it?

This is one of those existential questions that have baffled me for a long time and have equally crossed the greatest of minds across history. Let’s take a close look at this thing! 

From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, we evolved to survive.

The limbic system of our brain is the primitive part of our brain that drives our emotions and impulses. This is where that resistance arises. We did not evolve to think hard, because natural selection in evolution theory favours survival above all. Our foremost ancestors needed just enough knowledge and understanding to hunt, reproduce and avoid life-threatening situations in the wild. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors experienced little or no innovation. Most of the innovation and development in human history only started not long ago as humans started engaging in deep thinking. From philosophy to science, we have pushed against this resistance of the mind to uncover life-changing innovations such as the steam engine that powered the industrial revolution and penicillin that cut death rates from bacterial infections drastically worldwide. 

Learning hard things involves a lot of energy expenditure. 

Learning is a gym for the mind! If you have ever studied hard, you must have noticed the huge mental exhaustion that comes with cognitively engaging the brain. Learning is a laborious process for the body. When I was in high school and medical school, I use to lose weight during exam periods. Learning induces a high state of metabolism and requires a lot of energy and oxygen to power your mental processing. So your body burns energy like crazy when you learn tough things. Since the change or learning process requires extra effort, energy, and brain power, resistance can provoke physical feelings of discomfort like tiredness, lethargy, and slowed movement patterns. These are common experiences when you start learning something tough. I once told a friend that “learning is not natural” and he was shocked and still debates this point to date. I hope he reads this article, *smiles*. When someone says “I no like book”, what they often mean is that they can’t withstand the resistance from their mind.

Why is it important to know all of this?

Knowing this is very important because it can improve your attitude when facing this naturally inbuilt resistance. Once you notice that your body is getting into that default resistance mode, you can observe the tricks your mind plays on you to disengage. If you observe your mental state at that moment, you will start gaining more control as you no more identify automatically with this inbuilt tendency. By accepting that this resistance is normal, it will be easier for you to endure and persist. All learning boils down to persistence and passion. As you continuously observe and catch the resistance in real-time, it begins to weaken. This is quite similar to how meditation solves overthinking and worrying. Be able to mindfully identify and catch that resistance in you. Recognize the thing inside you that is resisting change and the learning process. That resistance is not you, it won’t kill you – push against it. You can overcome it. Do not identify with it. 

Where schools failed you

Unfortunately, schools don’t teach students how to learn. Somehow most people learned how to learn by themselves and so they learned terrible self-limiting ways to learn. Schools don’t make enough effort to help students see beneath the curtain (the inner workings of the mind). The student that is mindful of the fact that mental resistance is normal and that if given sufficient time any concept can be understood, is a student who is set up for success in life. That student will benefit from the experiential transformation that comes with making learning a habit. Learning is a lifelong skill, a meta-skill that seats at the top of the pyramid of skills. Schools should teach students how to learn and how to think over how to memorize facts. To be able to make the most out of your life, you have to own your learning. You have to take full responsibility for your learning. To shift your mindset to a place where you enjoy learning things and they make you happy. That place is possible for all. First, start learning more about what you already love and then leverage that enthusiasm to new areas and then expand as your curiosity sparks brighter. 

Factors that influence learning resistance and how you can hack them for your self-growth

a. Your environment and social setting influence how you acquire and sustain learning habits.

Who you surround yourself with is very important. Surround yourself with people who are fascinated by learning and self-development. Spend time in places where learning is happening and put yourself in situations that facilitate learning. Learn in groups and have learning accountability partners. We have been organizing the “4 am-daily program” that has enrolled more than 700 people so far since 2018, this is one of such learning environment. Thank God for the internet, you can quickly build these networks today more than ever. 

b. Your previous learning habits and experiences might be what is holding you back.

Schools do such a bad job at making students understand how to learn and the purpose of learning. If pupils in primary school were made to see the purpose of learning and were taught what happens inside the mind when they learn, we will have more adults who love to learn. If to you, learning is about memorising facts and sitting for tests and exams, you might never look at it as deep as we are discussing here. You learn to think and not to regurgitate facts. Generally, students tend to be quite rigid and believe that the goal of education is to learn “the right facts” and so they have a propensity to be less focused on skill development and critical thinking and rather mostly on memorization and acquisition of factual knowledge.

c. Having a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset is a big driver for learning.

People who acknowledge that they are “work in progress” are more likely to embrace the resistance to learning and be persistent and enduring as they develop lifelong skills. People with a fixed mindset on the other hand, easily draw an upper limit to their learning abilities and live their lives believing they are of average intelligence. Develop for yourself a strong positive self-image as a learner. Convince yourself that you are someone who can acquire new skills, knowledge, behaviours, and insights. This is the goal of this post. To help you see your true potential. You have a huge potential that you must unlock to enjoy the wonders that a learning habit brings into your life. 

d. Fear of the unknown or uncertainty inhibits change and the learning process.

To evolve, you must be ready to leap into the unknown. You should never be stuck in your comfort zone. Dare to take new learning adventures. Try new ideas and skills, and do things outside your regular field of expertise or training. Get comfortable going out of your comfort zone.

In a nutshell, to break free from the limitations of your mind, you should be aware of how your own mind tricks you into avoiding learning. It does this because learning is mentally exhausting. However, the good news is that you can override this by being aware that you can pull the switch progressively as you intentionally transform yourself. The mind is a loud and lousy deceiver, it’s your best friend and your worst enemy. So you must face it and negotiate for what you want fiercely. Calm yourself down, speak to your mind, tell it – “Dear mind, I know you don’t want to be overwhelmed by learning – I understand. But I want you to do me a favour, just drop the resistance by 50% and I can live with that and won’t bother you”. Strike this deal with your mind. What happens is that you get more comfortable learning hard things amid that resistance and as time goes on you keep negotiating till you have curbed this resistance substantially. This seems like a crazy idea but it works like magic! Being this aware of your own mind is the singular way of taking over control. You are a moving genius sleeping on him/herself. Don’t betray you! 

If you are interested in learning hard things, don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list. What is the one thing about learning that has always baffled you? I have shared mine, now it’s your turn. Drop a comment below.  

How to make your social media use very valuable

Do you spend most of your time on social media? Do you feel like you are unable to put down your phone and do something more valuable with your time? If Yes, what I’m about to discuss will help you find ways to turn your social media use into something positive.

Instead of only mindlessly scrolling through pictures of people you don’t know and reading opinions that make you anxious and angry, you could also identify the things you love and find accounts, pages, and groups that talk about those things. 

For example, let’s say you are a lawyer, you could follow the best lawyers (top minds)  or organisations sharing emerging trends in law worldwide, join groups and follow pages that share content that could transform your career. Go ahead and search for those accounts, pages, and hashtags using popular keywords. Through the accounts you find in your search, discover other relevant accounts connected to them. The goal is to populate your feed with at least 40% content that puts you in a situation of constant learning as this content becomes a remarkable part of your feed. You can do this for multiple skills or interests. 

After you do this, your feed will become a mix of fun, education, and entertainment. For example, when you finish arguing under a 237 Showbiz post, the next post can be how to solve A or B in your industry. This is a big system for learning without sweating. You will not notice the transformation but with time this will be life-transforming. The internet is our best bet to becoming anything. 

Start doing this today!

What are your individual guiding principles?

Every individual has a set of underlying principles that drive their worldview and how they face life on a daily basis. The following are mine:

Rational Optimism 

We struggle a lot to predict the future but we are so bad at it. When most people think of the future they fear it and unnecessarily worry too much about things that won’t happen. Both from an individual and global perspective, life gets better on average. This means that the future will often be better on average than most predictions. In the words of steve jobs:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”

– Steve Jobs commencement speech delivered at Stanford in 2005.

It’s always great to believe that the best is yet to come. This does not only give you peace of mind today but also makes you face the future with more hope and positivity.

Anti-fragility

Life is hard, stop complaining! You have to face life with the understanding that suffering is inevitable and that adversity will knock at your door back to back. So life is actually like a game of navigating through a range of challenging life events and circumstances. Once you assimilate this mentality, you learn from each adversity and become more and more mentally and emotionally resilient for the next tougher challenge. Don’t be a snowflake, you can’t be fragile each time you face a challenge. You have to become tougher and tougher as you consume each difficulty in life. It’s a life-transforming mindset. 

Polymathy 

One annoying and stupid thing that is common is how people draw a rigid upper limit to their level of intelligence and potential. Intelligence seen as something we are purely born with is false. What is more important for achieving anything, and I mean anything is – passion and perseverance. Psychologist Angela Duckworth describes this as Grit. Find the things that you are curious and motivated about and go slow and steady in learning them. One interesting thing is that curiosity and motivation can be fabricated mentally. It’s similar to how people fall in love with someone they did not initially love. You can become anything and you can learn anything thing given enough time and persistence. You should know at least 2-3 skills that can be individual careers and then creatively combine them to produce specific knowledge and skill set that sets you apart. Over-specialization is for insects. 

Why You Should Write Something Everyday

Writing is one of those skills that are highly underrated. To move information from your thoughts to written words is quite a challenging task because you want to ensure that your thoughts are passed across precisely. To effectively communicate an idea in person or through speech, we usually engage body language and vary our voice tone accordingly. All these get lost when the communication is written. So you have to be highly skilled to write in such a way that you fill the gap of what is lost in body language and voice tone.

Everyone is aware of how written posts on social media easily get misunderstood and taken out of context. To write an idea down so that you effectively communicate, the idea you intended is a very hard skill.

To be able to become better at communication in all forms, you have to push yourself to improve your writing skills. This does not only help improve good writing skills but also proper talking skills and other forms of communication. Unlike speech, writing is a more active process that forces you to rethink and reframe the idea until it’s simple and concise.

The only way to improve your writing skills is to write. Interestingly, you can make writing fun by picking to write about the things you are already passionate about. This quote says it nicely:

“Writing is like sex. First, you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”
–Virginia Woolf

Everyone should write. I write as a way to learn. I write because it forces me to think more clearly about the thoughts in my head and to realise what I don’t know and what I need to learn next. Writing has become play for me over time.

The 4 am Daily Program

Season 4 of the 4 am Daily is ongoing. Basically, it is all about waking up every day at 4 am for 6 weeks and learn something. Participants are evicted when they miss thrice. This program is built on the psychological fact that, if you do something consistently for >21 days you will build a new habit and doing it with a peer support system enforces that habit.

In this edition, the theme is building sustainable habits for career and personal development. Learners are expected to wake up every 4 am for the next 6 weeks and use that time to learn something of their choice. The program will run from the 31st of May to 11th July 2021.

Also, there have several sessions either weekly or bi-weekly involving panel discussions via Zoom Teleconferencing around learning hard subjects, building positive habits such as positive social media use, and how to explore your ideas and ventures.

Post Updated: 31/05/2021

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How to Learn Hard Things

A few weeks ago I was discussing with a friend who shared a brilliant idea with me. He was confused and not confident enough to make it work. Our conversation was fascinating for me because, for the past couple of years, I had fought strongly inside me to build the mental power to bet on myself and learn the seemingly hard stuff. Anyways! 

After self-learning a wide range of skills; including graphic and web design, programming, business and complex clinical research methods,  I’m more than convinced that self-learning is the only way to attain self-actualisation. Everything you need to be anything in today’s world is available on the internet. In the words of Naval Ravikant, one of my favourite present-day thinkers:  “Free education is abundant, all over the internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce”. With that said! 

How therefore can one develop oneself to yearn for knowledge and to build hard skills. Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. You must come to terms with yourself that learning is hard. That is why the reward for knowing hard things is usually correspondingly huge. You should normalise the fact that if you are encountering a new skill or body of knowledge for the first time, it is obvious that it will be strange and tough. Of course, you have poor prior knowledge about it. You must acknowledge that there is a very tall wall that you must bring down to proceed. 
  2. Once you have internalized that difficulty is inevitable, you should try to get an overview of the topic or subject. I usually do this by watching short YouTube videos that explain the outcomes or how it all works in just a few minutes. At this point don’t try to understand the details, just connect the dots and visualize the steps. 
  3. Once I’m able to understand the little parts and steps, I focus on building the fundamentals (roots) upon which the rest of the knowledge will stand. Never skip the fundamentals. 
  4. Once you grasp the underlying principles,  move fast to learning the 20% of skills/knowledge that you need to start getting 80% of results (Pareto Principle). From this point, it’s practice, practice and practice. Go back to notes and tutorials each time you are stuck. 

You want to be nice to yourself. Quit the urge to want to know everything in one short learning sprint. Learn, practice and take long breaks in which you focus on other things. In learning neuroscience this is called inter-leaving, which is very good for chunking the knowledge into your brain. Focus on the process and not the results and in short time you will be overwhelmed with your results. 

This is already longer than I anticipated, let me stop here. 

Learn how to learn

Schools don’t really teach people how to learn. Somehow you learn how to learn all by yourself. Some people become good at it and excel and those who are bad at it end up considering themselves less intelligent.

Teaching students how to learn would significantly improve school performance and success in life. There are many adults moving around feeling less intelligent just because they did not get it right from the outset.

If there is a skill that is worth your attention today, it’s learning how to learn. I took this McMaster Online Course on Coursera that really helped me understand how learning works. Just by understanding how learning works, you will change how you view learning. I strongly recommend the course. You can apply for financial aid if you cannot pay for it.

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects | McMaster University and University of California San Diego

The Principal-Agent Problem

This video is so inspirational I have watched it at least 10 times. It’s one of those pieces of advice that can change your life. Watch the video.