Tag: Daniel Coyle

The Most Effective Way to Retain What You Read

“Nothing so much assists learning
as writing down what we wish to remember.”
— Cicero

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One of the keys to getting smarter is to read a lot.

But that's not enough. How you read matters.

But reading is only one part of the equation. You need to remember what you read.

We're going to borrow tips from Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, to make our reading go deeper and stay with us longer.

Cialdini revealed a trick that he uses, to a reader of Farnam Street, who was kind enough to share it with me.

While on the flight to Omaha, he was reading. He took notes on the material itself, and every time he completed a chapter he pulled out a sheet of white paper and wrote a single page summary on what he had just read. He places the paper in another folder. This is how he gets his learning deeper and this also enables him to refer to summaries in the future.

This isn't the first time we've talked about this. In his book, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, Daniel Coyle writes:

Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them].

But is there something more we can do?

Nassim Taleb says “Don’t write [a] summary, write bullet points of what comes to mind that you can apply somewhere.”

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Still curious? Check out my system for remembering what you read. And read The Little Book of Talent and Influence. Also, if you want to learn to read better, see The Art of Reading: How to Read A Book.

How Brazil Increases the Velocity of Skill Development

how-brazil-develop-its-soccer-players

Not all skills are developed in the same way — developing soft-skills is different than developing hard skills.

It's impossible to directly teach someone to improvise their way to a brilliant goal in hockey or soccer. The world does not work that way.

Part of the problem is time-based.

It's hard to get the quantity of repetitions you need for feedback with the variety of situations you need to develop improvisation.

Traditionally coaches practice the most common situations. You can't practice every possible scenario that you might face in a game because time is limited. So it makes sense that coaches focus on the most common situations that a player will face. Players get feedback from coaches on these situations and generally get better. The pace of these practices means that players will only get feedback on their decisions in a limited number of situations.

There is another way.

You can tinker with the environment to force people to make faster decisions, increase the number of repetitions, and force a velocity that increases the variety or situations a player can practice.

This is what Brazil does differently.

In The Little Book of Talent, Daniel Coyle writes:

Soft skills are built by playing and exploring inside challenging, ever changing environments.

Brazil is the home of many of the world's most skilled soccer players. So you might wonder how it develops its players? They use a game called futebol de salão:

This insanely fast, tightly compressed five-on-five version of the game— played on a field the size of a basketball court— creates 600 percent more touches, demands instant pattern recognition and, in the words of Emilio Miranda, a professor of soccer at the University of São Paulo, serves as Brazil’s “laboratory of improvisation.”

Lionel Messi, an Argentine football star, can't plan where everyone on the field will be and how they will all react — he has to improvise by recognising patterns and responding.

When developing a soft skill you want three things: 1) variety; 2) reps; and 3) feedback.

Futebol de salão is designed to encourage skill development.

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Still curious? Discover how to practice; an effective way to learn new things and identify holes in your knowledge; and why some people are so much more effective at learning from their mistakes.

What’s the best way to begin to learn a new skill?

What's the best way to begin to learn a new skill? Is it listening to a lecture? Reading a book? Just doing it?

According to Daniel Coyle in The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, “Many hotbeds use an approach I call the engraving method. Basically, they watch the skill being performed, closely and with great intensity over and over, until they build a high-definition mental blueprint.”

The key, according to Coyle, is to create an intense connection. You need to be at the point where you can almost imagine the feeling of performing the skill you're trying to learn. For physical skills this is easier. Pay attention to the movements, the timing, the rhythm. But a lot of the skills we want to learn are mental.

For mental skills, simulate the skill by re-creating the expert's decision patterns. Chess players achieve this by replaying classic games, move by move; public speakers do it by regiving great speeches complete with original inflections; musicians cover their favorite songs; some writers I know achieve this effect by retyping passages verbatim from great works.

Still curious? Learn how to practice better.

Stretching yourself to learn new things

Carol Dweck, Daniel Coyle, and Noel Tichy all point out that you need to stretch to learn new things.

First, this from Carol Dweck …

My colleagues and I have conducted interventions with adolescents in which they learn that their brains and intellect are malleable. They discover that when they stretch themselves to learn new things, their neurons form new connections and they can, over time, enhance their intellectual skills. Compared to a control group that learned only study skills, these students showed marked improvements in motivation, and their declining grades were sharply reversed. Researchers Catherine Good and Joshua Aronson have found similar effects. In studies led by David Yeager, high school students who were taught a malleable view of their intellectual and social skills showed positive changes in their grades, stress level, conduct (including aggression), and health that lasted over the course of the school year.

Second, this passage from The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

There is a place, right on the edge of your ability, where you learn best and fastest. It’s called the sweet spot. … the underlying pattern is the same: Seek out ways to stretch yourself. Play on the edges of your competence. As Albert Einstein said, “One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.”

The key word is “barely.”

Finally, this passage from Deliberate Practice:

Noel Tichy, professor at the University of Michigan business school and the former chief of General Electric’s famous management development center at Crotonville, puts the concept of practice into three zones: the comfort zone, the learning zone, and the panic zone.

Most of the time we’re practicing we’re really doing activities in our comfort zone. This doesn’t help us improve because we can already do these activities easily. On the other hand, operating in the panic zone leaves us paralyzed as the activities are too difficult and we don’t know where to start. The only way to make progress is to operate in the learning zone, which are those activities that are just out of reach.

Update: This passage from The Art of Learning fits as well:

Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety. The hermit crab is a colorful example of a creature that lives by this aspect of the growth process (albeit without our psychological baggage). As the crab gets bigger, it needs to find a more spacious shell. So the slow, lumbering creature goes on a quest for a new home. If an appropriate new shell is not found quickly, a terribly delicate moment of truth arises. A soft creature that is used to the protection of built-in armor must now go out into the world, exposed to predators in all its mushy vulnerability. That learning phase in between shells is where our growth can come from.

A simple tool to help you learn better

You have to reach.

From The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them]. This is because of one of deep practice’s most fundamental rules: Learning is reaching. Passively reading a book—a relatively effortless process, letting the words wash over you like a warm bath—doesn’t put you in the sweet spot. Less reaching equals less learning.

On the other hand, closing the book and writing a summary forces you to figure out the key points (one set of reaches), process and organize those ideas so they make sense (more reaches), and write them on the page (still more reaches, along with repetition). The equation is always the same: More reaching equals more learning.

Update: A better idea by way of Nassim Taleb: “Don't write summary, write bullet points of what comes to mind that you can apply somewhere.”

Still curious? Discover how to practice; an effective way to learn new things and identify holes in your knowledge; and why some people are so much more effective at learning from their mistakes?