You done goofed. Something, whatever, is coming up and you have all this material that you have yet to truly understand and it’s just a little too complex for you to go off the dome. Maybe you’re a student and the stuff you’re being taught aren’t quite sticking. It’s like you know the individual words but you don’t quite understand. Well I’m here to help you out. But first, you need to understand a little about me so that you understand where I dug this methodology out of.
I have a very limited attention span. It’s not that I’m incapable of focusing. In fact I’m quite hyper-focused. The problem is I flit and share that focus with many things. Now I’m not part of that small percentage that’s physiologically capable of truly multitasking. I’m like the 95% of the population that’s incapable of perfectly doing so. It’s sequential with me; One thing at a time, for a limited time, at a high rate. This makes me an interesting mental freak but absolutely useless in an academic setting where our minds are hammered into a plodding pace. I’d be forced to learn new things on my own, in a fraction of the time, without the guidance of those who know better, just a bunch of information strewn around for me to sort. Read on for my tips.
So I’m going to share with you two powerful systems for learning and internalizing a lesson when all you have is the raw information without the true understanding to apply it. My uses were for extreme cases, but a good student with notes and access to a textbook will be able to use these techniques to far greater effect than I was ever capable of. Now if you want a good way to cover your studies and use textbooks efficiently, you can check my old article here. In fact, I advise you to review it because it will help you greatly. These two things together can be powerful.
LETTER TO MY 5-YEAR OLD SELF
Have you ever tried explaining something to a child? Maybe you haven’t tried with a 5 year old, maybe an 8 or 10 year old. They say the best way to learn a subject is to teach it. The reason that works wonders is that you are forced to twist and manipulate the information, swish it in your mouth if you will. You are forced to confront things that the listener doesn’t understand and this makes you reframe the information.
Well this is even more powerful and you don’t need another person (though you can, you’ll find real children are far more frustrating than you realize). What you’ll be using is a mental simulation of yourself at a very young age. I use 5 years, but others I’ve taught this to, they prefer older versions of themself. The reason it’s you you’re imagining and not some random construct is that you understand your own limits better.
Now, take that information and, whether out loud or in your mind, try to hold this imaginary child’s attention and explain it to them. What you’ll quickly discover is that, baby-you, is a moron. The words are words and they mean nothing. You need to dig into your imagination and really role-play this. Imagine the imaginary-baby-you’s mannerisms, responses, annoyingly cute follow-up questions, the adorable way kids completely miss the point, the endless restlessness and complaining. Though, in the interest of time, I’d advise you to imagine a more patient you.
You’ll find that, in order to explain this concept, you need to break it down into smaller more understandable parts for the kid. You’ll see the child still doesn’t fully understand and you’ll find yourself redefining words, or finding different words to use. You’ll find yourself simplifying it to its most basic point. You’ll find yourself reframing the information and problem with analogies and metaphors, but we’ll get to that later. The point is the more you reframe the issue to explain to 5 year old you the more sense the material begins to make. You eventually have it down to a very elementary level that you can instinctively build on. You find you can now teach the information to just about anyone and that’s the key moment when you’ve internalized it. The most profound lessons I’ve learned have come from my internal dialog with lil’ Agrippa.
Now you might be thinking to yourself that this makes no sense. How can I explain it when I don’t understand it? That’s the beauty of this. You don’t have to understand it yet. You just have to want to. You will be breaking it down into elementary parts you can more easily swallow. You will be digging into analogies and metaphors that express it in a more useful way. You will be translating it into your own language and the effort will build something remarkable in your head. Clearly, you will need foundations. Clearly, I cannot teach you discreet mathematics, if you don’t already understand numbers or how to count, or at least basic arithmetic that I can build up from. (I’m aware that is a huge mathematical gap, but the point is the same.)
THIS PART IS LIKE FRESH WATER FOR YOUR BRAIN
This next technique is the one thing that can link everything from the old article to the preceding paragraphs into something fierce. I told you, you would need your imagination. The truth is, even if you’re not particularly creative, this will sharpen that and utilize it. Here is a two cent lesson on the way your brain works.
There is nothing linear in that gorgeous noggin of yours. Things link in crazy, amusing, bonkers ways and the signal only actually gets to its destination when your synapses fire about 60% of the time. Your brain is a random, error-prone, wonderful mosaic of uncontrollable chaos (but not randomness. There’s always a pattern). You know what I mean. You’ve been in a room and caught the scent of a meal that triggered the memory of a sound, which triggers the memory of a specific joke from a specific episode of a specific show, which in turn makes you remember that you were supposed to go pick up your prescriptions, and that line of thinking reminds you about the stats of your, etc.
Your brain works in links and connections. That’s why mind-mapping is so powerful when it comes to learning and creating. You can look into that yourself, here’s a place to start. The key to this technique is to use analogies, metaphors, and similes to explain everything. It can be slow at first, but over time you begin to create them on the fly. Learn to use your imagination to visualize it. “This equation uses this part to pull in this value like a horse draws a cart” while visualizing the pieces of the equation playing each part.
It can be used with just about any kind of information. You just need to be creative. Use my studying tips from the old article, encode it with this mental linking technique, and internalize it by teaching your younger self. You’ll even find that teaching little you, is made easier by using this particular technique.