If you’re reading this, you likely spend a considerable amount of time learning by consuming various business/personal growth oriented content. I know I do. YouTube, audiobooks, physical books, courses, blogs, newsletters, Money Twitter.
However, many of us—myself included—have found ourselves at the tail end of a consumption bender with no real memory of what we “learned.” For some people, content consumption is an illusion of productivity. We don’t feel we have anything useful to do (or we’re procrastinating), so we placate ourselves by content consumption.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m a big believer in giving yourself the time and mental space to approach difficult tasks without excessive stress. However, if you’re consuming this content and finding yourself unable to retain it or put it to practical use… now that is a bad thing. It’s literally a waste of your time and energy.
The way I’ve found to address this problem is simply to write down the knowledge I want to retain and plan ways to reinforce it through consistent action. Here are the three ways I’ve found that help me make my knowledge permanent.
Apply the knowledge
Learning new information is only valuable if it improves your life in some way. If it doesn’t do this, your brain discards it to make room for things it feels are more important. Ergo, to retain knowledge, you must use it to improve your life.
One way to do this is to find tasks that you already do which could benefit from the new knowledge you’ve acquired. For example, if you learn a new skill related to time management, you could apply it to your work schedule and see how it improves your productivity.
Do this consciously on a day to day basis. Pick an item on your to-do list that incorporates the knowledge you’ve acquired, then consider your new information in the process of ticking it off. The more frequently you do this, the more deeply your new knowledge is ingrained.
Another way to apply your knowledge is by performing new tasks that make use of your new information. For instance, if you’re learning a new language, you could set up a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker a few times a week to get some extra practice with it.
For exceptionally important information that you need to retain for future reference, the best way to retain it is to create a daily habit that reinforces it. This could involve setting aside time each day to practice a new skill, review important concepts, or apply a new approach to a problem you encounter regularly.
By applying your knowledge in practical ways, you are more likely to retain what you have learned and develop a deeper understanding of the core concepts.
Explore other perspectives
Another way to cement your learning—particularly with material based in opinion rather than fact—is to explore other perspectives related to the material you are studying. Get acquainted with perspectives that differ from your own, especially those that you disagree with. Understanding why people hold different perspectives can help you gain a deeper appreciation for the subject matter and broaden your understanding of it.
There’s a quote that says, “having an opinion is the lowest form of intelligence.” This quote highlights the importance of understanding the subject matter before forming an opinion. If you don’t fully understand the issue at hand, your opinion may be based on inaccurate or incomplete information.
Therefore, to truly cement your learning, it’s important to not only explore other perspectives, but to also strive to truly understand the subject matter. Only then can you form opinions that are worth something and make informed decisions that are based on reality.
Now, while it’s important to accept other perspectives, it’s equally important to embrace your own. And embracing your own perspective is the goal.
For example, I have a friend who hates capitalism, despises the wealthy and considers corporations to be evil. I love capitalism, aspire to become wealthy, and plan to use corporations as a vehicle for accomplishing that aspiration.
I understand my friend’s perspective. I’ve talked to them at great length to understand what led them to feel the way they do. My friend grew up in poverty and routinely watched their family face many difficult choices. It was very easy for my friend’s parents to blame their problems on the wealthy, especially their employers who they felt were the cause of their issues.
Gaining understanding of my friend’s perspective not only enabled me to avoid uncomfortable arguments, but also made me more secure in my own perspective. I see my perspective on money as a prerequisite for avoiding the trap that my friend’s family fell into. I also use the fear of falling into that trap as motivation to stay on my chosen path, even when things get difficult.
I already had my perspective on money at 17, but I had no understanding of differing perspectives—or even of my own, for that matter. I was just spewing rhetoric from people and personalities that I idolized. My opinion was intrinsically worth less, simply because I had no real knowledge or life experiences to back it up.
Exploring other perspectives is a valuable way to cement your learning because it forces you to engage with the your knowledge and the world on a deeper level. By gaining a broader understanding of the subject matter, you can develop a more nuanced perspective that will help you apply the knowledge without being horse’s ass about it.
The more perspectives you understand, the more comprehensive your picture of reality becomes.
Teach someone else
Teaching someone else what you have learned is a powerful way to cement your learning, as well as to give back to the world. It requires you to present the material in a way that is understandable to another person—and in many cases, the other person is completely uninitiated in the material you’re teaching, so this can be a challenge. Interestingly enough, such a challenge requires that you understand the material at a very deep level.
By teaching, you solidify your understanding of the material and identify areas where you may need to review or deepen your knowledge. You can also identify core concepts you might have missed entirely… simply by approaching the information from an outside perspective again.
When teaching someone else, it’s important to approach the process with patience and empathy. Remember that everyone learns differently, and what works for you may not work for someone else. Start by identifying what the person already knows and build on that foundation. Use clear, concise language and avoid using technical jargon or complex terminology.
As you teach, be open to feedback and questions from the person you are teaching. This can help you identify areas where you need to improve your own understanding of the material and can also provide you with a fresh perspective on the subject matter.
Learning is only valuable when it’s tempered with action. Without this missing piece, your education becomes worthless. The three best actions you can take to cement new knowledge are to:
- Incorporate your knowledge into your daily life
- Understand and empathize with those who disagree with it
- Pass on your knowledge to those who come after you
Happy April, my friend. Now go out there and have a killer month 🔥