You know that thing that you’ve been doing all your life? Yeah, learning. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’ve been doing it wrong. Throughout your years of formal education, rote memorization is probably the technique you have been using as a basis for learning and revision for many years. Rote memorization, by the way, is based on the theory that if you look at information enough times, you will eventually remember it. This method might even work fairly well for you, but the fact of the matter is that your brain, despite being a fairly advanced computer, does not work like a computer (that made sense in my head (pun intended).
Rapid learning is essentially life hacking your brain, exploiting the unique nature of a truly remarkable organ. The basis for rapid learning is the way in which new information is stored. Instead of processing the new information in a linear fashion, rapid learners remember new information by linking ideas together, whether it be images, stories or even different tastes/smells. Think of the film Limitless – people around the world have used rapid learning techniques to learn languages in a couple of months as well as other amazing achievements.
Not too long ago it was Pi day 3.14.15, but if you wanted to remember π to say 67,890 places ( the world record) this is how you would do it. First you’ll need a cheat sheet which is a list of the digits 0-9 which each correspond to a constant. (e.g. 0 = k, 1 = g, 2 = l, 3 = t, 4 = r) The crucial step here is to memorize each corresponding consonant and number pairing which shouldn’t be any harder than memorizing a phone number. From there you can effectively translate any series of number into a series of letters. All you need to do is make groups of letters into nouns by adding vowels in between the consonants. So 314 becomes t-g-r which becomes tiger. Once you have a string of nouns, you can create a story that combines each of the nouns in a sequence.
A metaphor is a connection between two ideas that aren’t related. Good metaphors allow you to fully examine the idea, but interestingly, it is the act of forming the connection between two unrelated concepts that solidifies the primary concept in your head. An important factor when using metaphors is to focus on the visualisation of your chosen metaphor. Irish polygot Benny Lewis and author of Fluent in 3 months illustrates an example of this. When learning a new language, he first comes up with a picture of the definition of the foreign word, then he comes up with picture of the foreign language word by what it “sounds like”. Finally, he blends them together to plant them into his long term memory. The French word gare (train station) becomes GARfield running to the train station for a lasagne eating contest.
The 5-year-old method
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein
With rote memorization in-depth understanding is taken out of the equation. When the aim is simply regurgitation, one does not necessarily need an in-depth understanding. Rapid learners, however, will often try to reduce recently learned ideas to their core concepts, and doing so makes it easier to understand. When one tries to explain a complicated concept to a 5-year-old, one also becomes a teacher. And if you can teach an idea, you can learn that idea.
Here Timothy Ferris, world renowned author of the 4-hour work week shares how to master any skill: