Before you Learn, Learn How to Learn

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Background

There aren’t a lot of long-form readers today in my network. If you are, hit me up on Twitter. You may be someone who does in fact read magazines and longer fiction, or non-fiction books; but, most are reading micro-content around the Internet. Where and how you put your attention has transformed over the last decade and I’m no different. I had just stopped reading long form content the way I used to.

Last year I had the good fortune of watching the Warren Buffett – HBO Documentary and after a few conversations with friends learned that the best advice he has for people (which he acknowledges most people will never follow) is to “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

 

A number of things culminated toward the end of last year that caused me to sit down and create a plan for increasing my power of knowledge in key areas of importance in my life. Then, last October my good friend Nate Ver Berg dropped Gary Hoover’s The Lifetime Learner’s Guide to Reading and Learning on my desk. I want to share what I learned.

The objective is simple: Increase my power of knowledge in key areas of importance in my life.

The purpose is absolutely clear:

  • I believe it will help me get smarter, faster
  • I can incorporate upgraded beliefs through my practice of reading
  • It is another fast way for me to obtain knowledge
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Will reduce stress
  • Keep brain sharp
  • Slower memory decline
  • Improve sleep
  • Expand vocabulary
  • Improve memory
  • Improve analytical skills
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Improve writing skill

My Key Takeaways for reading non-fiction books

  1. It was important to me to have a very specific objective around why I wanted to read.
  2. I now spend less than five minutes gathering key data from the cover flaps, bio, charts/graphs, publisher, edition. I am surprised as how much context I build before I read the first page. Additionally, I will flow through the Table of Contents and ask questions like: what do they mean? is this surprising? does this resonate? If I’m intrigued I’ll even dive into a chapter that stands out to me. I’ll then read the first several pages to get the gist of the book.
  3. Within the first 15-60 minutes I have a good sense of the author’s POV, background and basic take. I’ll also understand the author’s message, key points for me to understand, subject areas within the broader topi area s/he focuses on.
  4. Now it’s time to head to the index (this part is much easier in physical books, but doable on Kindle books as well). I’ll peruse through the index and flip to pages to understand how certain topics relate to the book flipping around the the specific pages the topic leads me to. I’m often surprised to see people, places, words in the index which I didn’t/couldn’t appreciate were related to a subject matter. This expands the knowledge tree.

The Five Ways We Learn

Hoover’s take some time in the book the outline the five ways we learn: study (making notes, asking questions, arguing), conversation (talk to everyone, ask deep questions, probe, LISTEN), observation (pay attention, watch people), experimentation (learn by doing, creative tests) and thinking (make time for thinking – draw, make outlines, sketch, play with ideas, dream up opposite ideas and assumptions, ask “why” about everything, put myself in their shoes).

The biggest takeaway from it all is that we are strongest when we do the combination of reading and learning AND allow information to flow. The latter involved emailing insights and discoveries to friends; explore with others. For me, the writing started almost immediately (in a notebook). I’m not using this blog to allow for the flow of information.

The biggest takeaway from it all is that we are strongest when we do the combination of reading and learning AND allow information to flow.

Conclusion

The most important part of reading is selection. How actively you read matters, but what you choose in the first place matters more. Two people in my network who are voracious readers are Kesav Mohan and Sutha Kamal. They will also openly admit that they are currently going through more books than they should be. I believe they have a good pulse on great books in particular categories and I’m grateful for their support on my journey to increase knowledge.

There are two ways I see to approaching reading: to try to understand the author’s intent, or to attempt to gleam what’s important to to me. I choose the latter.

I’ve now built a solid list of books in the areas of biography, love relationship, parenting, and finance. That’s what important right now and I’m excited to share what I read.

This time of year I often hear people sharing how much they will read in the coming year. Whether you are, or are not someone will read a lot in 2018 I hope you will take some time to think about how you will learn. Wishing you all the best in your quest for knowledge!