Self Improvement Skills

How To Teach Yourself And Learn Better

Teach yourself | Diy

1. Education is not about schooling.


When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’

- Quentin Tarantino, self-taught cult filmmaker


You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.

- Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), Good Will Hunting


Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.

- Beatrix Potter


A person who graduated yesterday and stops studying today is uneducated tomorrow.

- Anon.


I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt.

- Patrick White, Nobel Prizewinning Australian novelist


Let’s say you went to Harvard or Oxford or Cambridge, and you said, ‘I’ve come here because I’m in search of morality, guidance and consolation; I want to know how to live,’ — they would show you the way to the insane asylum.

- Alain de Botton


Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.

- Chinese Proverb


Let us reform our schools and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons.

- John Ruskin


Autodidact: A mostly self-taught person, as opposed to learning in a school setting or from a tutor.


Self-teaching and self-directed learning are not necessarily lonely processes. Autodidacts also use libraries, help from learned people/friends/family/colleagues, and now many chat with fellow students and teachers using the internet.


History is full of big names who taught themselves: Socrates, Descartes, Avicenna, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Alva Edison, and many others were autodidacts.


In the art field, autodidacts rule: For example, many of the best filmmakers taught themselves - Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Woody Allen and Steven Soderbergh.


2. Three ways we teach ourselves:


- Formal Education

- Self-Taught Education: In this age of DIY, the pre-dominant form of education.

- 'The School of Hard Knocks': Also known as Experience and that greatest teacher of all, Failure.


That was the general impression.


There are indeed three main style of adult learning:


Marcus Buckingham said that, 'although there are as many styles of learning as there are learners,' a review of adult-learning theory reveals three dominant styles of learning:


Analyzing: Looking at each component of a process, then putting hem all back together and seeing how they work. People who like analyzing, first seek to get comfortable with the subject.


Doing: learning from experience. Just going in and 'doing' it, and learn from a 'trials and erros.'


Watching: Aka 'imitation'. Seeing others do stuff. 'Shadowing' skilled people do their job is a good way how people elarn by watching.


3. Ben Franklin's System: Ben Franklin had a system where he chose thirteen subjects and focused on improving on each one for a week at a time. At the end of thirteen weeks, he would repeat the procedure, completing four 'sets' in a year.


4. 30 days. That’s all it takes to learn a skill that could change your career.

Pick a topic.

Break it down into parts.

Map out or randomize those parts.

Show up daily, at the same time, and get to work.

Review progress, and make sure you’re being challenged just enough, adjusting as you go.

Do it for 30 days.

- Matt Cutts, Google


5. Learn by doing it, making stuff.


In life, the best way to learn a skill, is to make a lot of pots.

- Anon


6. Learn the basic skills


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!

- Robert Anson Heinlein


I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

- John Adams


7. Using the internet to learn a new stuff daily


- Wikipedia

- Wikiversity

- Free Online Courses

- Chapter a day

- Word a day

- Take quizzes

- Art a day

- Podcasts

- Free ebooks

- Learn languages for free online

- Or, just Google whatever new thing you want to learn


8. If you want to learn better, learn how people think first.


We think in two modes: Focused (working on something with full concentration) and Diffuse (thinking behind the scene - e.g. we take a problem and have a break, and our subconscious brain keeps working at it, while we do otehr things.)


9. Understand complex things by breaking it down into smaller chunks.

Understanding one component at a time. This is how our teachers taught us grammar. Chunking also helps memorize stuff better.


Once you have broken down the complex subject, look at each chunk closely - ask questions, understand the rationale, see things in action, discuss it, etc.


10. Use 'Spaced repetition' and go over a tropic repeatedly over a period of time.

For example, many people take a quiz again and again, focusing on getting the wrong answers right eventually. Spaced repetition works better if there are periods of rest involved, giving the brain space to get all the learnings in, and also to think about the problem at the back of the mind.


11. If you enjoy the learning, you learn better.

That's why good teachers and good books explain the relevance and importance of the subject first, and explain things in an interesting way. Big picture thinking on a subject gets people really interested.


12. Use memory techniques to learn better. (please read the guide to 'better memory').


13. The Feynman technique: Attributed to Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feyman, who suggested we explain what we are learning as if we were teaching it to someone else.


Feynman said this technique creates better recall/better contextual understanding as we (the learner) are actively synthesizing the material in our mind.


14. Use metaphors and analogies: Try to relate the concepts related to the subject to other applications you are more familiar with.


15. Make abstract ideas more tangible: Make a picture in your head, but also include sounds, textures, and feelings.


16 Map it out: Use mind-maps and diagrams to connect ideas and concepts. Write the main topic in the center of a plain page, write components of the subject as smaller circles/otehr shapes connected to the big circle (an dto each other, of applicable). Keep thinking deeper levels - more things related to the subject.


Just Google 'mind map examples'.


Another interesting thing to Google: 'mental math shortcuts'.


17. How to find the 'gaps'


- Think about the tasks where you are spending most of the time

- The most repeated teasks you keep doing

- Think about the skills the new task wants (or, what they will ask in next job interview)

- Think about your most common Google searches


18. Do the right kind of practice.


Obsessive practice isn't the key to success. Spaced, interleaved, varied practice is



Practice doesn't make perfect. Meaningful practice makes perfect, even if you don't get paid for it.

- Seth Godin


19. Learning languages


Every language has three distinct components: pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

- by Paul Pimsleur


Grammar is best learned by using it, not by talking about it.


Break the language down into manageable tasks.

- Focus on sounds, not letters.

- Practice sounds in a specific setting.

- Listen to people talking the language closely

- Practice whole phrases, not words


(Source: 'How to learn a foreign language' by Paul Pimsleur)


20. How to develop talent/a skill


- Get more myelin for your brain: The science of brain research shows that each time we do a task, our brain adds another layer of myelinover the axon of our nerve cells. Myelin is a fatty substance that covers the inners of nerves, think of it as outer covering of electric wires. The more we practice, the more layers of myelin we earn, the more quickly and accurately the signal travels, and the more skill we acquire.


- Observe, learn and copy from top performers in your field.


Watch and listen these top performers closely. Imagine yourself doing that task for 15 minutes/day.

For physical skills, project yourself inside the performer’s body. Become aware of the movement, the rhythm; try to feel the interior shape of the moves.

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;

Steal tactics, techniques and mannerisms from the top pros, if it helps you.


- Hard skills vs soft skills: Hard skills are about repeatable precision, and are often found in specialized physical pursuits. Soft skills have many paths to a good result, not just one.


To Build Hard Skills, Work Like a Careful Carpenter: E.g. The Suzuki music instruction method. Suzuki students begin by spending several lessons simply learning to hold the bow and the violin with the right finger curve and pressure, the right stance, the right posture. Using rhyme and repetition, they learn to move the bow (without the violin)


To Build Soft Skills, Play Like a Skateboarder: When you practice a soft skill, focus on making a high number of varied reps, and on getting clear feedback.


Focus on the hard skills because in the long run they’re more important to your talent.


- Forget the Prodigy Myth: Many top performers are overlooked early on, then grow quietly into stars - For example, Tolstoy wrote 'Anna Karenina' in his 40s.


- Pick a teacher who is action-oriented and is very honest, who excels in giving short, clear directions and first focuses on building your fundamentals.


- Break the task down into chunks. Each day do one chunk. Repeat.


- Daily practice, even for five minutes, helps your brain grow, while more occasional practice forces your brain to play catch-up.


- Games instead of drills: Skills improve faster when they’re looked at this way. If it can be counted, it can be turned into a game.


- Practice alone, because it doesn't depend on others and you can find your 'sweet spot' (where you are at your best for the task)


- Think about the chunks in images


- Pay attention immediately after you make a mistake.


Go through the mistake. Visualize it.


- Shrink the space: Online headline writers became good at it when they had to abide by Twitter's 140 characters rule.


- Slow down the practice: You will be able to look at your errors more clearly.


- Close your eyes: It shuts off all distraction, engages your other senses and makes even familiar tasks strange and new.


- Mime It: Removing everything except the essential action lets you focus on what matters most: making the right reach.


- When you get it right, mark the spot: And rewind the mental tape.


'Practice begins when you get it right.'


- Take a nap: Napping helps the learning brain by strengthening the connections formed during practice and prepare the brain for the next session.


- To learn a new move, exaggerate It: E.g. How parents teach their babies new words—they stretch out each sound, overemphasize it, overdo it. Going too far also helps us understand where the boundaries are.


- Make positive reaches: Always focus on the positive move, not the negative one. Psychologists call this 'positive framing'. But don't move away from what you want to avoid.


- To learn from a book, Close the Book: E.g. Reading those ten pages once, then closing the book and writing a one-page summary.


- Use the sandwich technique: Make the correct move. Make the incorrect move. Make the correct move again.

It reinforces the correct move, and highlights the mistake.


- Use the 3 × 10 technique: Practice it three times, with ten-minute breaks between each rep.

Studies show our brains make stronger connections when they’re stimulated three times with a rest period of ten minutes between each stimulation.


- Invent daily tests: To check your progress one key element of the skill, everyday.


- To choose the best practice method, use the R.E.P.S. system.


R: Reaching and Repeating: Does the practice have you operating on the edge of your ability, reaching and repeating?


E: Engagement: Is the practice immersive? Does it command your attention? Does it use emotion to propel you toward a goal?


P: Purposefulness: Does the task directly connect to the skill you want to build?


S: Strong, Speedy Feedback.: Do you receive a stream of accurate information about your performance - where you succeeded and where you made mistakes?


- Stop Before You’re Exhausted: Fatigue slows brains. It triggers errors, lessens concentration, and leads to shortcuts that create bad habits.


- Practice immediately after performance: helps you target your weak points and fix them.


- Just before sleep, watch a mental movie: Play a movie of their idealized performance in your mind.


- End on a positive note: Small, sweet reward - eatables, anything that makes you happy...a good tune...


- How to be a better teacher or coach:

1. Use the first few seconds to connect emotionally

2. Don't give long speeches

3. Give vivid chunks of information (factoids, tips etc)

4. Use specific words/precise information, not vague terms ('move your right leg behind your left leg' instead of ' move your leg behind'.

5. Tell them the 'whys' (context etc)

6. Track performance with a scorecard (focusing on specific skills)

7. Help them learn on their own


- Embrace repetition


- Work is worship: Top performers work on their skill, practicing their craft.


- For every hour of competition, spend five hours practicing: Games and tournaments. good for teamwork etc, slow your skill development, for they make us risk-averse (there are people watching), force us to use shortcuts (because the objective is to win), and there is no emphasis on what or how much was learned (the scorecard isn't enough)


- Don’t waste time trying to break bad habits, instead, build new ones (also see 'Habits' in Table of contents)


- To learn it more deeply, teach it (We also know this as the 'Feynman technique').


- Give a new skill a minimum of eight weeks: Is this why most big name training program last for eight weeks? Eight weeks is neither too long, nor too short.


- When you get stuck, make a shift: Change the practice method. Disrupt the brain's habit for that task.


- Cultivate your grit: Work at it. Keep working at it.


- Keep your big goals secret: Telling others about your big goals makes them less likely to happen, because it tricks our brains into thinking we’ve already accomplished the goal.


- 'Think like a gardener, work like a carpenter': Build your skills with daily deep practice, knowing that each piece connects to a larger whole.


(Source: 'The Little Book of Talent', By Daniel Coyle)


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