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The Rules of Genius #25: Learn how to learn

Learning to learn is a metaskill—a skill applied to itself. It multiplies your knowledge and accelerates your progress. When you learn to be your own teacher, you can acquire any skill you put your mind to. You can quickly build a new skill on the roof of the last one. You can move laterally from one skill to the next by bringing deeply understood principles to related disciplines. The ability to direct your learning is personal growth squared.

Teaching yourself is called autodidacticism. It requires that you develop your own theory of learning, a personal framework for acquiring new knowledge. While every person’s framework is different, here are ten principles you can use to construct it:

Learn by doing. We learn better and faster when we use our hands, our senses, and our whole bodies in addition to our brains.

Find worthy work. Not all work is educational, important, or fun. Look for work you believe in. It’s too hard to work with one hand holding your nose!

Harness habits. The brain forms habits when routines are transferred from the rational level to the automatic level. They allow you to perform familiar tasks with little conscious effort, freeing up mental resources to for new challenges.

Focus on your goals. It’s easy to become distracted by shiny objects in your periphery. A genius learns to concentrate on a single task for an extended period of time.

Cultivate your memory. While general knowledge is available online, your store of craft-specific knowledge needs to be ready at a moment’s notice. Memorize it.

Increase your sensitivity. A key trait of genius is the ability to make subtle distinctions among outcomes. Consciously identify the nuances that separate the truly great from the merely good.

Stretch your boundaries. To keep growing, always aim slightly beyond your current abilities.

Customize your metaskills. Intuition, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, imagination, and other high-level skills can make a big difference in how you learn. Focus on the metaskills that will drive your professional success.

Feed your desire. When you want something so badly that you never give up, success eventually surrenders to you. Keep the fires of passion burning with books, articles, talks, and conferences.

Scare yourself. Take on projects and responsibilities that lie outside your comfort zone. Look for workarounds to mitigate your fears. As any genius will tell you, fears faced are fears erased.

Next week: Start with curiosity, not belief.
A key trait of a genius is a strong disbelief system

The Rules of Genius is now a book with a bonus section called “How can I matter?” that includes 10 essential rules.  Buy here.

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