Have you ever felt that you are consuming a lot of concepts, new models and worldly knowledge but you haven’t gained much wisdom? Having spent six months with this feeling, I decided to change something so as to get a better outcome and become wise.
The first step of learning anything new is discovery. You read about it in a meme, hear it from a friend or observe something strange that you cannot explain (ex: why is marriage a regular topic of conversation in every social interaction?). This new thing has caught your eyes & captivated your brain.
You don’t know anything about this new concept, phenomenon, fact or process. You want to understand what it is. Hold on! What does one mean by the word understanding? Can be “understood” as:
- If you can explain it in another language, you have understood something. Or
- If you can explain it in simple terms, you have understood that.
This is applicable to concepts. What about facts? A honey bee creates her house in the shape of a hexagon. How much good does it do to explain this line in your mother tongue? Fine, I admit it. We haven’t really understood the meaning of understanding something. Let’s try the dictionary definition:
Understand: to know or realise the meaning of something.
Knowing is covered in discovery. (Phew)
Let’s focus on the word realise.
What does it mean when we say we realise something?
Does it mean you have an epiphany about the concept?
Or is it something that you suddenly see?
It has been in front of your eyes all this time. But only now are you seeing it. Clearly. For what it is. (Sidebar: I realise that the T-shirt is right in front of me when my mom enters the room. But I can never realise this if she doesn’t show up)
Can you realise the theory of relativity? I don’t know about you guys, but I sure would be perplexed if E=mc2 is the only thing written everywhere and I was the last one to notice.
Let’s try to understand it via food because can anything ever be done without having Chole Bhatoore. Man, I need to go to Gulati’s… Wait, did I suddenly realise I was hungry? 😂😂😂
Starting again, when you get good-good sensations(re-read it in Hindi) in your stomach, you know you are hungry. You grab a packet of chips & savour every single one of them. Unless you have really kind coworkers who never let you eat alone. Anywho, you know that it does make you fat. You continue ravishing the packet of chips anyway. Same story. Every time.
You observe those chips around your belly. Queue to munch more and kill the guilty feeling. Until one day you decide to win the battle and not pick up the packet of chips. And instead go for grapes, because aren’t moms the best? Surprisingly, you do it the next day too, because you are working from home and even if you are an occasional fruits eater, your parents are not.
Over the next few weeks, you have a good sleep with less surface area around the belly. The grapes are too prude to claim their space around your belly.
Then, the office starts and you eat chips. And the cycle of junk food begins again. But this time, you don’t feel so good.
On the fourth day, you pack a fruit. And you eat it when you crave the snack because you *realised* that fruits are healthy. But hold on, you knew it all along. One day, you just woke up & realised it.
That’s understanding. Not just knowing the fact. It’s about knowing what to do with that information. When to follow it, and when to not. It’s about eating nachos on dinner dates but also taking care of your body with fruits every single day.
To understand is to know what to do.
Step 2 of learning completed. We know what understanding is.
Have we realised it though?
Let’s continue with fruits. Moms knew the fact and brought the fruits. But you didn’t (only you did know). You choose to eat Pringles. Over time, you observe you are getting fat & you don’t like it. You start eating healthy and exercise… and give up after a while.
Then you notice your sleep is bad. It was better when you were exercising. A good night means an energetic day which means you can finish work faster with more creative ideas & have a lot more time to watch the next TV series. Or dance. Whatever floats your boat. But if you don’t have a good night's sleep, you are not able to do so in the long run. Thus, you start exercising again even though, sometimes it kills you to just do one push-up. And you prioritise it over everything else. That means being an hour late to a meeting sometimes.
Did you realise the importance of exercise by reading a book or watching a video? No. Did you realise the importance of exercise by forcing yourself? No. You simply tried. And then you didn’t. And then there it was. Right in front of your eyes. The difference.
Wow, that was a long process and the title of the blog is learning faster. What’s this click-baiting you might ask? If you want an answer to the question, it means you are assuming that it’s the same for other important things.
What I do know is that just consuming something is the first step toward learning. Step two is understanding what the words really mean. Once you understand something, you can explain it after 5 years of even thinking about it.
Step 3: Internal Fight
You knew the importance of exercise and knew the next steps. Yet the world knows you have failed. Not you Deepika. You slay. But the rest of us have.
You know the action points which means you have understood something. But there isn’t much clarity. Because you do exercise for a while and then you go back to not exercising. Back to your old patterns.
Learning new things is about breaking the existing patterns in your life. And it’s difficult. You know exactly how difficult it is to resist a packet of chips. Or for the other half, it’s eating more that is difficult.
But how do you break from patterns? By failing.
Failure is the step towards clarity.
When you fail, you accomplish three things:
- You have implemented the theory.
- Converted a bookish fact into an experience.
- You have a reason why you shouldn’t implement it the way you just did. (The reason can be strong if you failed miserably.)
The next step is to analyse the experience. Why did you fail?
Why did you fail to exercise?
- Is it boring?
- Is it tiring?
- Is it hard?
- Is it because you don’t have enough open space in your house?
- Is it because you wake up late and don’t have enough time?
- Is it because you didn’t like the trainer?
- Is it because you have a crush on your trainer and are embarrassed to expose your miserable stamina?
- Is it because you felt that you don’t need it anymore?
Once you identify that, you have to find a solution for the problems.
- Is it boring? -> Listen to songs or podcasts. Workout in the park etc.
- Is it tiring? -> Fewer reps. More rest.
- Is it because you don’t have enough open space in your house? -> Gym or Park.
- Is it because you wake up late and don’t have enough time? -> Sleep early. Don’t watch that last episode.
- Is it because you didn’t like the trainer? -> Change her.
- Is it because you have a crush on your trainer and are embarrassed to expose your miserable stamina? -> Change the gym.
- Is it because you felt that you don’t need it anymore? -> Really?
It’s about really understanding the situation when you failed. And now that we know what understanding is, you will automatically dig deeper into your responses. “Is it hard?” -> “Why?”
As you dig deeper, you identify the real reasons why you held to that pattern for so long.
Awareness is the prerequisite for choice.
If you are aware that I’ll pay for our meal if you call me up & say “Let’s discuss this over a meal!”, then you have a choice to either call me or not call me. But if you don’t know, you don’t really have a choice. You will just keep wondering why does everyone else get a free meal but me?
If you know why exercise is hard for you, only then can you break the pattern of not exercising?
If you know why you used class components in React, only then you will know whether you should use functional components.
If you don’t, you aren’t making a choice. You’re gambling.
Here’s an interesting fact: you are not always right. Even after analysing the experience & understanding the why, you will fail. You repeat the process. And you fail again. And again. And again.
And one day, you don’t. You have learnt how to ride a bicycle. Now will never ever forget it.
Learning is a process.
There are two ways to boil the tea. One is to sleep on a slow flame and let it diffuse gradually. The other is to keep it on a high flame.
Which one should you choose?
The one that works for you.
If you want a quick tea, you have to use a high flame. That means putting in more energy and getting the vessel burnt. Being quick in the input of ingredients and fast to strain the tea.
But that does not mean this tea is better or worse than the tea with other methods. Low flame over a long duration also burns the vessel.
Can this process be accelerated? Well, it’s for you to discover.