Learning Finale

May 19, 2016

"All good things must come to an end" - Geoffrey Chaucer

Death is but a door time is but a window I'll be back - Vigo the Carpathian

Although we've come... to the end of the road... still I can't let you go... it's unnatural... you belong to me... I belong to you... - Boyz II Men

Time to UNLOCK MY POTENTIAL at last and kick this amplifier party into the 11th gear. We are going to become a better learner. We are going to interact better with fellow learners. We are going to recognize our strengths. We are going to find that Imposter Syndrome inside of us and kill it with our bare hands.

How to Become a Better Learner

  1. EXERCISE - physical exercise improves our brain and causes them brainy cells to be born anew. The hippocampus is critical to learning, and exercise makes new neurons form there. EXERCISE. These cells literally DIE if you don't use them. Exercise is more effective than any drug on the market, and is healthy for all of your body. Gym and recess are more important than any part of the curriculum. NEW EXPERIENCES can also help the brain but not as much as exercise can.
  2. There are certain critical periods for acquisition of new knowledge. Practice can train and repair the brain. You must practice if you miss out on learning things in the years leading up to puberty when your brain is exploding in ability. Also note that parts of the brain mature at different times. The visual cortex matures in early childhood, while the prefrontal cortex matures later in early adulthood.

The prefrontal cortex is in charge of complex analysis, planning, judgment and language. These make us human. This is the last part of the brain to mature so be careful, young bucks.



Note that learning and improving take place in fits and starts. It is not a steady, even, mechanical progression. Language learners have moments where the language, once learned, suddenly seems incomprehensible. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the mind is wrestling with new material. Keep your cool.

Blake Lively Visual Metaphors and Analogies

Metaphors and visualizations are a critical trick for helping us understand new concepts. Especially imagine you are inside the chemical reaction or geometric illustration. Be in the thing you are learning, no matter how abstract and silly. Metaphors and models are similar in that they are inexact but vitally important to communicate a process we are trying to understand. They can overcome Einstellung (mind stuck in a rut and applying old tricks to new problems). Metaphors help us glue new concepts into our mind, by connecting new ideas and chunks to preexisting ideas, memories and visuals.

Overcome Genius / Yeezus Envy

yeezus To learn to hit a ball in baseball, you need to practice a million times until its fully automatic. Same with learning - we want to become a zombie, we want flow. Fighter pilots are on automatic pilot, as are surgeons and chess masters. We want to cultivate this automatic pilot sense so we can move on to learning even more things.

While intelligence, which is defined as holding more things in working memory, matters, it can also block you from being creative. Then you suffer from Einstellung and do not allow new ideas and solutions seep in. Daydreamers often benefit from more creative combinations and looser prefront cortex control so they can make connections in the brain easier. People with smaller working memory often have to work harder at first to store chunks, but can also be more creative and learn faster.

Practice can improve brain power. Mental patterns can enlarge the mind. If you feel like you are an imposter - that you lack natural gifts and competency - you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a deep feeling of inadequacy. Keep your chin up, and realize a lot of people feel this way. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, brush that dirt off your shoulder.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

I agree with Barbara the instructor - learning about famous people in history is a favorite thing to do. Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a Spanish juvenile delinquent who would later win the Nobel Prize and became the father of modern neuroscience.

Myelin sheaths are the insulation for neural circuits. These don't fully form until people are in their twenties, explaining why teenagers suffer from impulse control. Practice - using your brain - strengthens these sheaths. Learning also forms connections between different parts of the brain. All this explains how Cajal pulled himself out of his adolescent tailspin.

Cajal felt he was less brilliant than some of his scientist peers, but he noted that smart people were careless and biased like everyone else, providing opportunity for him to thrive. He felt his perseverance, his ability to change his mind and admit errors, and his dedication to learning allowed him to compete with people with more natural gifts. We can change our own brains! Intelligence is not fixed.

Darwin was also a poor student. However, he had the luxury of time to ponder while on the Beagle sailing around the world, and he made a habit of taking walks near his home. It speaks to how meditating on a topic, and making learning a topic on our own as a goal in itself, lends itself to mastery. We can get different viewpoints, and see the same topic from different sources, to get a fuller picture of the material than a single book.

Haters gonna hate

Cajal noted that success breeds criticism, and that critics are everywhere. He warned learners that there are legions of critics and dickheads that will try to undermine you and make you feel bad. This Nobel Prize winner noted that Haters Gonna Hate years before the catchphrase was invented. If you achieve, prepare to be attacked in proportion to the awesomeness of the achievement. Similarly, if you fail a test, get ready for some haterade to get dumped on you. BRUSH THAT DIRT OFF YOUR SHOULDER, PIMP. "Switch to that cool dispassion" to stay focused on the task and on learning, and tune out the haters. I am personally going to practice hearing that Jay-Z song "Dirt off your Shoulder" play in my head whenever a hater throws shade. And they will. I have experienced it throughout my life. Keep your head held high and your eyes on the prize.

Do the things people say you cannot do. Take pride in striving for mastery of subjects, especially in the face of haters. Take pride in the things that make you different. Defy the prejudices, judgments and negative predictions of the people on the sidelines.

One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And from Guns'n'Roses - Duff McKagan & Axl Rose on haters & revenge

Why do you look at me when you hate me? Why should I look at you when you make me hate you too? I sense a smell of retribution in the air I don't even understand why the f!&$ you even care And I don't need your jealousy yeah Why drag me down in your misery

And when you stare you don't think I feel it But I'm gonna deal it back to you in spades When I'm havin' fun ya know I can't conceal it 'cause I know you'd never cut in my game, oh no And when you're talkin' about a vasectomy, yeah I'll be writin' down your obituary...history!