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You know how sometimes we put so much effort into learning something new,

and yet get NO results...

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By Tan Yew Wei

....what I'm going to tell you in this 30 page guide purely about learning, is how
to embrace certain methods and mindsets that will allow ANYONE to improve
their mastery of any knowledge or skill set.

What makes me a Professional in Learning? Well, Everyone is! But only to the
extent of your own learning.

As a result, you will see examples that may not pertain to you, and will need to
adjust accordingly.

It is merely a guide, offering some suggestions. The decision is on you to follow

and implement the suggestions in this guide. Let's get started!

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In this guide, I will cover:

• The Problem in Learning: Time invested vs Measured Outcome

• The 2 Diffcult Decisions Everyone must make: Admitting You can do Better and
Experimenting with Yourself
• The 2 Principles of Experimentation:
◦ Quantifying/Qualifying Progress
◦ Run Multiple Experiments, Throw Away what's broken but give things time
to work
• The 2 Principles of Optimized Learning
◦ Learning in Your Most Optimal State
◦ Exploiting the Subconscious Mind
• Retrieving & Using the Right Resources
• Learning Broadly from First Principles
• End Notes + DO IT NOW

All in 30 pages...(including this page and those before it)

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For many people, learning is like facing a brick wall. It's too high an
obstacle to climb, and too solid to break through.

Or perhaps it is a steep slope, leaving you wondering how to climb

and not knowing what to expect. Other times, it is a slope complete
with spiked pit and famethrower.

We are faced with 4 options:

• Give up
• Just Try Harder using the same methods
• Consult a Teacher
• Use New Methods

You're not going to just give up, and trying harder just hurts too much. Let's
try the other two options. I Personally love a good teacher, and will vouch for
the effectiveness of having one.

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There is one problem though: People learn differently.

Some people are visual learners, others are auditory (hearing) or even
kinesthetic (touch). A good example is with piano playing. Some players 'feel'
the keys, others can read off a score very well. Yet others 'hear' the music in
their heads before playing it. More often than not we use all our senses, but are
biased towards 1 or 2.

However, most teachers teach based upon 1 or 2 senses, and these may not
be those which you strongly grasp. Hence, sub-optimal learning is the result.

There are 3 take home points:

1. Good Teachers are those who can teach in a way congruent with the way their
student interacts with the world
2. You cannot count on a teacher who is good at teaching one type of student
being always good at teaching another
3. You are hence your own best teacher, especially since at the end of it all, you
are the one who needs to make sense of the knowledge/skill

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My job is to get you to DECIDE. To decide to do two very diffcult things.

The frst thing is to decide to change the way you learn.

The second thing is to decide to invest the time to try different things, to
experiment, and fnd out what works best for you.

To do the above isn't hard work. It takes less than a second to actually make
the decision.

It is diffcult, because it means forsaking something that worked for us in the

past, that isn't working now. To break the comfort of falling back on old
strategies and trying something new, something that won't guarantee results,
but has the possibility of rewarding generously, is diffcult work.

If you think you can commit to those 2 decisions, read on...

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✔ Something which you want to get better at
✔ A regular time period which you can invest into it
✔ The discipline to follow through with your efforts and to work hard
✔ The willingness to keep a log of your activities – this can be paper, notebook, or
a even a text fle on your computer. The purpose is to have a feedback
mechanism for you to look back upon and adjust your future actions based on
the knowledge of your past
✔ The willingness to act upon that feedback

Now that everything is in check, let's offcially begin.

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We all know who's to blame for the
current economic slump.....and are quick
to point fngers

We all know that calling for mom isn't

going to get the fower pot fxed....and
instead we pity the meek little girl

But something is broken and needs fxing. Making excuses

isn't going to fx things.

So Here's the Take Home Message:

If you are not getting the results you want from your efforts in an endeavor,
admit that it is your sole responsibility, and take action to change, starting
from the process.

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And that's where we need to experiment...

The fundamental question we need to answer is: What needs to be fxed and
how do we go about fxing it?

Very often, we don't know what needs to be fxed and thus cannot say how to
fx it.

We may know that we lack the motivation to study, and don't know why, but can
sense the dip in energy before it comes.

We may know that our golf swing is wrong, we're not sure why, but we can 'feel' the
awkward follow-through.

We may know that our guitar technique lacks synchronicity, we don't know why, but
can tell the awkwardness in the finger positioning.

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But you know yourself. You know how you think and feel, and should use that
to your advantage.

You know that after lunch you feel sluggish and don't feel like studying, but can
more easily muster the willpower just before meals...

You know that you worry too much about the follow-through, so you focus on
the ground, visualize, and not worry too much about the stroke at all...

You know that your fngers seem stiff when fretting the guitar. Your right hand
picking speed is fne, but the left hand can't seem to catch up, you then try
curling your fngers more and trying again...

The one thing all these have in common, is that the learner tries out multiple
approaches to the subject, based upon prior knowledge of ones capabilities and
nuances in learning, to further progress until feedback becomes negative.

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Any Experiment Has:

• An Aim

The Purpose of the entire experiment.

• A Hypothesis

The results you expect to achieve from the experiment

• Variables + Results

The tweaks to make and the consequences that result

• Evaluation + Discussion of Results

What do the results tell you? Was it a success? How could it be better?

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AIM: To score better in math (insert any task/skill/endeavor)

HYPOTHESIS: By increasing math practice to 2 hours a session, and practicing

every other day from 5am-7am, it will be possible to increase math test grades
from a B to an A+ (Based upon self-assessment of your habits, energy levels,
personality, etc)

VARIABLES: Time of day, length of session, time between sessions (or any
other thing you want to test)

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Play with variables. However, one Principle has always seemed to work:
Search for the extremes...

Try studying in the morning...then at


Try cramming your work...then try a

relaxed schedule

Try 20 minute work sessions...then try

4 hour sessions

Before you fnally settle on a happy medium...

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From These principles, 2 Actions Should be Taken....

The frst and most crucial step, Is to measure your progress.

An experiment will always have an responding variable, and the onus is on you
to Quantify or Qualify it.

The Fundamental Question is: Have I gotten better? If so, how did this
practically manifest itself?

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Progress in some skills is inherently hard to measure with others being easy.

For example, if you're lifting weights, progress is measured by lifting 105kg

when previously you could lift only 100kg. Similarly, an increase in Math scores
should tell you that you're improving (assuming the tests are pretty fair) These
skills can be QUANTIFIED, and progress tracking is straightforward.

On the opposite spectrum, playing a piano piece has no specifc unit of

measure, especially when trying to bring a piece from 'great' to 'outstanding'.
In many art forms, there is that “special something” which top artists possess.
Assessment is a hassle.

In these cases, the best method to track progress is to record your

performances (video, audio or other) and then review them. Ideally, show them
to an experienced artist in your feld. Very often, we don't see our mistakes,
especially because there's a mental 'performance' going on in our own head.

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Though progress in some skills is easy to quantify, we
can't rush progress.

Also realize that progress is often not linear. You may see
sudden bursts of improvement, while at times progress
simply stagnates. The key is of course to track the overall
trend. You may experience weekly dips, but overall
progress should be measured on the time scale of months.

Different skills have different time scales when it comes to progress tracking.
Improvements in weightlifting may show up on the order of every fortnight,
while piano playing may only see noticeable progress after 1-2 months.

In any case, beyond the beginner stage, where rapid improvements are the
norm, the minimum period before progress shows up will be 2 WEEKS, not 2
DAYS. However, the best method by far is.....

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This isn't a new concept and has been around for
awhile. However, it is one of the tried and tested
methodologies in almost any feld.

Three reasons to do a 30 day trial.

1. Things take time to work.

2. If something does work, it will be easy to follow up
with since after 30 days, you would have built up
some habits that are conducive to learning
3. The duration is long enough to know if something is working, and short enough
to discard it before bad habits form if it is not working

So set up an experiment, set the calendar for 30 days, and take it from there.

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Despite progress being slow, that's no reason for you
not to multitask.

I'm sure you have multiple skills that you want to

learn, and as such, each skill can warrant it's own

The Great thing is that your experiments on one skill, say Learning German, can
tell you a lot about a related skill, say getting better at

From there, try to fx what didn't go well. Look to the opposite side of the
spectrum and then feel your way through. This is not a precise science.

However, the law of averages and experience says that once you try enough
things (20 things, not 2 things), you should know where to go next.

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Optimized Learning is achieved when more learning takes place in a shorter

period of time as compared to before.

This leverages two factors:

- making use of subconscious learning

- fnding your best working state

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This leverages the frst principle. Your conscious mind may not be able to work
on many different things, but a part of your brain is constantly ticking, and thus
constantly rehearsing certain mental patterns.

The trick to leverage this is to give your brain consistent reminders. The great
thing is that this works for all types of skills.

You could carry a card around with your literature notes, taking a quick glance
every hour, or visualize shooting free throws while on the bus home, or run
through piano scales on your desk during a boring class.

In any case, you want a trigger, one that can lead on to a complete mental
rehearsal of the skill at hand.

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However, cognitive skills, especially those related to the memorization of data,
tend to beneft from another side effect called the spacing effect.

What this basically means is that for a fxed

period of practice, say 3 hours, splitting this 3
hours into 3 one hour sessions over 1 week is
going to lead to better retention of knowledge
than doing those 3 hours all at once.

For many, this can mean improving certain

skills like language profciency on very frequent
bouts of 20 minute practice sessions instead
of weekly lessons.

For more information, view my post on the spacing effect.

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However, our subconscious mind can also lead us astray. It wanders, and stops
us from focusing (and enjoying) the current task at hand.

I will emphasize the need to completely FOCUS for a period of time solely on
the subject of interest. This requires self discipline.

One method is to set a stopwatch for 15 minutes, and then for those 15
minutes, you do nothing but the task at hand. Slowly increase this time to
however much you want. However, this is much easier when you are....

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Individual energy and motivational
levels vary. Even the most
energetic people have their peaks
and slumps.

In any event, the factors that affect

this arbitrary level of 'energy' are
many and diverse. Fortunately, they
are regular and periodic.

Hence, by constant observation and self-feedback, you should know when you
simply feel best and can learn/perform best. That isn't the diffcult part.

What is diffcult is to acknowledge these peaks and slumps, and consistently

perform during your peak times, and NOT try to do the same during your
slumps. So if you write best at 3am in the morning, write at 3am, not at 3pm!

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Despite all the aforementioned techniques, there still is the issue of learning
from the right body of knowledge.

In most cases, these principles apply:

• Let other people make the mistakes for you.

• Start learning from consolidated bodies of knowledge.
• Participate in the relevant community.

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Some Questions that can follow are:

➔ What is the nature of the skill I'm trying to learn? Is it a cognitive or

psychomotor skill or something else? What is the impact of this on the time
frame necessary for tangible progress to be observed?
➔ Will a personal coach/mentor be necessary? Will one accelerate the learning to
a great degree to be worth the cost/compromise/time?
➔ What are the barriers to learning this skill? What are the necessary costs?
➔ How steep is the learning curve? What pre-requisite knowledge is required?
What specifc areas need to be grasped to progress rapidly?
➔ Are the resources available? Internet texts? Books? Internet
lessons? Forums?
➔ What in my current body of skill/knowledge can I tap on to
enhance this learning?
➔ What methods have other people tried and failed, or tried and
worked? How applicable are these to me?

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Play Music, Paint Pictures, Solve Equations, Find out Universal Physical Truths,
Write Programs, Choreograph Stage Plays, Play Golf, Join a Football Club, and
the list goes on....

Why do this though?

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By experiencing the learning path of different
kinds of activities and skills, we learn to think
and interact with the world in various ways.

These experiences form overlaps in our brain,

and we can use complementary concepts (like
approaching a chemical reaction as a math
equation) to aid in our understanding of the

However, we should always learn from frst principles. If you are a guitarist,
never stop practicing those scales. With chemistry, learn to think in terms of
the periodic table.

All abilities should branch out from the fundamental concepts of the skill. These
fundamentals should be rigorously practiced regardless of skill level.

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Think of the great new things that you will learn.

Think of the new creative insights you will gain.

Think of the time you will save that can be used for other pursuits.

Think of the positive aura you give to those around you, motivating them
to do better as well.

Think of the new business opportunities now available to you with your
new skills

Think of how you could potentially CHANGE THE WORLD

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Think of the stuff you now don't need to worry about.

Think of the task you can clear without having to put in extra creative

Think of the extra time you didn't have to waste.

Think of the fact that you now don't have to look bad in front of your

Think of the lagging competition and how easy it is to race ahead of them.

Think of how safe you will be.

Just keep thinking...

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You don't have to apply every single one of these principles (though I hope you
do), but can certainly benefit from applying some...

But when In Doubt...

SHOUT this phrase at yourself until you get so fed up with yourself that you
decide to TAKE ACTION in your learning right away:

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