How To Learn Anything Better

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

If you want to learn any subject well and to create ideas beyond those that have existed before, return to the basics repeatedly.

In the book, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird share a simple technique to learn anything better, by mastering the fundamentals and going deeper in your understanding.

The Basics Get Deeper, Simpler, and More Meaningful

Why learn the basics or master the fundamentals?

The key to learning things better is to learn the basics more deeply.

When you learn the basics you build a strong foundation to learn from.

This foundation will help you leapfrog forward.

Via The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking:

“When you look back after learning a complicated subject, the basics seem far simpler; however, those simple basics are a moving target.  As you learn more, the fundamentals become at once simpler but also subtler, deeper, more nuanced, and more meaningful.”

How Well Do You Know the Basics?

You can easily test yourself to see how well you know the basics and to expose gaps to work on.

Via The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking:
“Do you or don’t you truly know the basics?  Consider a subject you think you know or a subject you are trying to master.  Open up a blank document on your computer.  Without referring to any outside sources, write a detailed outline of the fundamentals of the subject. 

Can you write a coherent, accurate, and comprehensive description of the foundation of the subject, or does your knowledge have gaps?  Do you struggle to think of core examples?  Do you fail to see the overall big picture that puts the pieces together? 

Now compare your effort to external sources (texts, Internet, experts, your boss).  When you discover weaknesses in your own understanding of the basics, take action.  Methodically learn the fundamentals. Thoroughly understand any gap you fill in as well as its surrounding territory. 

Make these new insights part of your base knowledge and connect them with the parts that you already understood. 

Repeat this exercise regularly  as you learn more advanced aspects of the subject (and save your eelier attempts so that you can look back and see how far you’ve traveled).  Every return to the basics will deepen your understanding of the entire subject.”

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