I love learning, but I’m also kinda lazy.
So I’ve always preferred stuff packaged as simple as possible. I’ve trudged through dense stuff too – not for fun, but because I’ll be glad I did afterwards. I don’t want to forget it, so I furrow my brows extra hard. Sometimes I don’t grasp it though. ‘Shit maybe I am an idiot’ – It’s all very stressful.
I’ve realised much of this stress is optional.
The densest textbook is made up of squiggles. Some squiggles are harder to learn than others, but none contain inherent stress – we’re the one who makes it stressful. They stress us out because we’re scared we’ll forget them.
I know all about subconscious processing in theory – that the brain figures things about behind the scenes. In practice though, I’m consistently tricked by the voice in my head. It thinks itself the only component of learning. Unless it strains, it’ll all go out the other ear.
So I’ve tried something recently. I’ve made sure to use minimal effort when learning new concepts. I simply let the words touch my eyes or ears, letting them leave fingerprints on my mind. If something pops up in my head that’s fine. If I feel like pausing for some light thinking, that’s fine too – but no force allowed. I’ve accepted I won’t recall all of it.
The inner voice really does overrate itself. Days later, I can recall a surprising amount. Thoughts about it pop up in the shower. When I reopen the book it makes a lot more sense. I’m not saying the ‘stop and think’ doesn’t have value. I just thought I was using it for pure utility, when really I was just scared of forgetting.
By unfurrowing the brow it frames the book as more interesting, making it easier to pick up next time. It’s less taxing this way, and a taxed brain is a dumber brain. With less exertion it’s easier to read on longer. By making it less serious, it’s easier to daydream about too. Daydreaming is more fun than a forceful review and a better vehicle for creativity.
I used to think ideas were supposed to click instantly, but learning doesn’t end when the book closes. Zoom out on the timeframe of learning, and information continues to digest after consumption. This consumption/digestion period doesn’t last forever though, the subconscious will move onto something more recent.
From this birds eye view of learning, it’s better to snack frequently rather than the occasional binge. This way, ideas are continually percolating in the background.
Comprehension kind of resembles a tree. The trunk is the foundation – the basics. With this established, you can then branch out into more specific details. If it’s dense enough, it won’t all be grasped on first pass. But absent the fear of forgetting, who cares? Different branches can be explored later.
When you’ve got 8 things to carry into the house, sometimes it’s better to make a second trip, instead of dropping stuff along the way.
Your might’ve disagreed with many of the words above. But we probably agree, the most important part of learning is to actually open the book. This approach helps you do that.
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