Learn Better

Learn Better

Summarize, Argue, and Connect to learn faster.

3 Points:

  • Debate what you just learned. It illuminates gaps in understanding.
  • Expertise Automates. Things initially difficult become second nature.
  • Riff on everything. Try it out, ask about it, answer questions on it, play with the concept you’re learning like it’s a jazz piece.


Favourite Quotes:

From the time Ötzi left the Alpine Valley [5000 years ago] until just a few years ago, information was both highly static — and very expensive [p. xix] Students in traditional lecture-based courses are 50 percent more likely to fail [p. xxiii]
They [Wrzesniewski & colleagues] called the approach “Job Crafting”…Shift your job to fit your interests. If you’re an extrovert working at a library, craft your job so that you’re a part-time tour guide for the library. [p. 9]
…Mayer has shown in study after study that we gain expertise by actively producing what we know. As he told me flatly, “Learning is a generative activity.” [p. 24]
The best feedback mixes an observation with a structured way to produce the proper outcome. [p. 83]
The learning activity [Summarizing] pushes us to ask ourselves a series of questions: What’s important? How can we rephrase this idea? …by summarizing the most valuable idea, we’re extending our grasp of that particular idea, we’re making it meaningful… [p. 113]
Hypotheticals help us grapple with systems. [p. 150]
People gain a lot by seeing a visual representation of a system of mastery. [p. 156 — Shoutout to @visualizevalue on Twitter.]
At the heart of an analogy is a comparison. More exactly, analogies help us find similarities and differences. [p. 160]

Would I re-read this?

Yes! I would buy this book for anyone just starting a job. I would consider combining it with UltraLearning by Scott Young for a double dose. Learn Better is a 3 hour read that has instant application. In the week that I read it, I started applying as I read and saw results.

What did I implement?

  • More spaced recall. I already was practicing this, but he really drove the usefulness of spaced recall home. For example…
  • Reflection: When I read Jack Kennedy — An Elusive Hero, there was a paragraph about his reading habits. When he finished a chapter, he would reflect backwards on it, from the last page he read to the beginning of the chapter. Ulrich also told several stories in the final chapter about the high impact of reflection on learning. Kennedy’s approach has been stunningly effective for me.
  • Thinking about Thinking: What did you just read? How would you summarize it? When can you apply that summary? Who do you know that would like to hear about it? He wrote about the meta-cognition aspect of learning in such a wonderful way that I couldn’t help but apply it. Asking questions like these have sped up my grasp of new information.
  • Argue About Things: Urlich made a point I’d never considered…By debating and arguing about things, we learn to think better & connect information. We’re forced to hone our speech…Thereby honing our thinking. I started picking topics to argue about with some of my friends, like a debate. We can’t use the internet, and start after a minute, here are some of the recent ones: How would you pick a leader if you can only administer an online quiz? Can ecodiversity be created in a lab? Should AI-created art be labeled as such?

To Summarize...This book takes skill acquisition from months to weeks. I recommend it for anyone in a dynamic environment.