25 short golden rules of learning

The ability to learn rapidly is a skill you need in a consistently changing world. High achievers, lifelong learners, and top performers rely on a set of principles, rules, routines, habits and actions to learn better.

Whatever you want to learn now or in the future, these principles can guide your learning process. And always remember to keep an open mind. Maintain intellectual curiosity. It’s the beginning of wisdom.

“Don’t make up your mind. “Knowing” is the end of learning.” entrepreneur Naval Ravikant said.

  1. Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can, there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”― opera conductor Sarah Caldwell
  2. Be active, not passive. Practice or apply what you read as often as you can. Successful learners acquire better skills by doing.
  3. Learn to repeat what you’ve already practiced. It’s a better approach to build stronger neural connections for knowledge retention.
  4. Make it personal. If you choose content types and a delivery system that works for you, learning won’t become a chore. You will enjoy it.
  5. Learn to address a specific need. Make it an intellectual pursuit that satisfies your curiosity, improves your skill, or upgrades your mental models.
  6. Learn the solution to your problem. When you’re learning with the sole aim of finding relevant knowledge you can immediately use in your life or career, you are more likely to recall it.
  7. Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
  8. Start with why. What do you want to achieve? How will the new knowledge improve your life or career? What difference will it make to your future self? A bigger why gives you momentum.
  9. Apply learning models that have already been figured out. Find successful models in books, essays, podcasts, and videos. Whatever you want to learn has already been achieved by someone else.
  10. To achieve mastery, immerse yourself in your topic of choice. If you want to master writing, write as often as possible. Getting good demands immersion by repetition. Shortcuts don’t work.
  11. Do more of what works and stop what doesn’t deliver results. Identify the vital few actions that move the needle and repeat them.
  12. Learn to overcome the dip. You won’t get the results you want until you overcome the dip — that uncomfortable moment when everything feels difficult and you feel like quitting. Don’t quit just yet.
  13. Deconstruct a challenging topic into subtopics and learn just enough one day at a time. The same approach applies to learning a new skill — break it down.
  14. Most skills are a bundle of subskills. List them and know what you need to learn. For example, to write online, you need research, persuasion, connectivity of thought, content flow, editing, photo editing, and email marketing skills.
  15. “The goal of all learning is action, not knowledge.” — author and pastor John C. Maxwell
  16. Cognitive overload inhibits knowledge retention. Learn in short bursts (half an hour or an hour) and then take a break. Take short breaks in between learning sessions, often.
  17. Find opportunities to teach what you learn (vlogging, podcasting, or blogging). You will not only develop a deeper understanding of the topic, but you will also remember 90% of what you learn.
  18. Beware of distractions that impede subskill practice — technology and people. Plan deep sessions without noise.
  19. Mastery-level performance requires expert-level practice. If you want to be in the top 10%, go the extra mile and don’t quit when you experience the dip.
  20. Build a feedback loop into your system. Find better ways to spot learning errors and redundancies and improve them when you can to accelerate your progress.
  21. Make it interactive. Combine passive (reading or listening) and active (doing something, practicing or teaching others) learning to make it experiential.
  22. When you hit a challenge, break the topic down into bite-sized parts as far as you can. Or better still, tear the subtopics down for focused learning.
  23. Make it personal (Part 2). Use as many types of content as possible. Focus on those that help you absorb quickly, especially for complex topics or skills. It’s an efficient way to recall and understand better.
  24. Don’t learn the branches until you master the root. Once you understand the first principles of any topic, you can quickly master the details. Don’t rush to learn complex ideas until you build a firm foundation.
  25. “Never stop learning. Never stop growing.” — motivational speaker Mel Robbins
  26. Successful self-learning is unstructured. It’s personal and adaptable. There are no strict or universal rules. Make your own rules as you make progress. (See, I broke the 25-rule limit I set for myself.)

This article originally appeared in Medium.