What Learning Is and Why You Should Care

15.08.2017 |

Episode #1 of the course Learning how to learn by Ace Eddleman


Why should you care about learning? The answer to this is simple: because learning is the most important skill in your arsenal—period.

Without learning, human life would be extremely basic. We’d only be capable of performing actions that we were hardwired by evolution to perform.

We never would have gone through the steps needed to create the modern world. Without learning, you wouldn’t know how to use the computer (or phone) that you’re using to read this. You wouldn’t know how to read. You wouldn’t know how to do 99% of what you do on a daily basis.

Fortunately, we’re all born with a certain baseline learning ability that allows us to do things that evolution never prepared us for. We can learn how to do math, launch rockets into outer space, and share pictures of cats on Facebook.

Most importantly, learning is what allows us to adapt. We’ve built our world into what it is now by learning, taking that learned knowledge, and then making adjustments to survive in our environment.

Here’s the problem: Because we have this baseline of learning ability, we often think that we’re well versed in the best ways to learn. That’s inaccurate, and people spend large blocks of time and energy trying to learn—only to come up short because they don’t know how.

The science of learning has now reached a point where we can make some objective conclusions about what is effective and what isn’t. While there are certainly many unanswered questions (this is true for anything brain related), this means we can come up with systems that pander to how our brains work and maximize our results purely through quality methods.

Many people have a hard time giving a rigorous definition of learning. It’s one of those concepts that we all seem to intuitively grasp, and we think of it on a “I know it when I see it” basis.

Usually, the definition is something along the lines of, “taking in information” or “receiving instruction.” These are part of the process, but they don’t actually describe learning.

A simple way to describe it accurately is to say that it’s the process of acquiring new knowledge, which is then used to modify future behavior.

But even that definition leaves out one of the most important aspects of learning: memory. In other words, learning is more accurately described by the ability to hold on to information you come across—not necessarily that you came across it.

There are a ton of factors that influence how this works, but as you move forward, I want you to remember this critical element.

This is why I’m always using the phrase, “learning and memory”—the two are mutually exclusive (one can’t occur without the other). You can’t have learning without memory.

What this means is that any learning method that doesn’t account for retention is at best, inefficient and at worst, completely useless.

I can’t help but laugh when I see supposed “gurus” talk about how effective their learning system is when there is zero talk about retention and how important it is. My favorites are the people who talk about taking detailed notes, drawing diagrams, or making mind maps.

Anyone who sells these as effective methods is lying to you.

From this point forward, I want you to think about how your memory is being utilized in any learning techniques you’re doing.

If you’re doing things in a one-and-done manner, there’s a good chance that you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t understand how your memory holds on to information and take advantage of those systems, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

There are many tools that can help you memorize things. For example, you may download Anki (or any other similar program) and rather than just reading the lessons and taking simple notes as you take this course, create flashcards. You’ll see that even using the most basic flashcard types will boost your ability to remember important concepts. You can thank me later.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how energy impacts your ability to learn and form new memories. See you then!


Recommended book

Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown


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