Learning how to learn

Deliberate focus building mental models (chunky trunk of principles) to grow leaves of creativity. Mastery learning frees up limited working memory of four chunks for other thoughts or connections. Don’t overlearn things you have already mastered. Otherwise, you’ll only be confirming your own beliefs/methods/existing knowledge rather than exploring new information and possibility learning something new. Collaboration with a team helps spark new ideas and connections which are deeper too. Practice multi-sensory association (memes!) and recall and good habits to stay focused. Plan ahead for avoiding bad habits.

Deliberate rest to remember long-term, especially after many repetitions and struggles. Physical activity helps too. Approach difficult things first then come back to them later for new perspectives after some diffuse processing.

These discoveries seem similar to how babies learn. They are constantly moving all over the place, observing even the tiniest details in a multi-sensory way, focused on them, then something else, then tired, they must rest and process them. They’re obviously learning a lot very quickly between various motor skills, language, and so many things we take for granted. Understand that it’s a normal process not a product. Focus on output and outcomes will come.

Growth versus fixed mindset

A growth mindset is basically having the attitude that failing is acceptable because you can learn from failures going forward. You experiment with new things and may fail once in a while, but what you learn from it compounds and keeps encouraging you to do even more.

Fixed mindsets are the opposite. You restrict yourself from trying new things because you may fail. And because the world keeps changing, with new people learning new things, you essentially get left behind by not adapting.

I first heard about a growth versus fixed mindset while reviewing some algebra lessons on Khan Academy with my girlfriend. Sal Khan, the founder, had an article talking about a growth mindset and why he would only praise his son for effort rather than results because that would encourage a growth mindset. This made a lot of sense to me and I was interested to hear that it is also a superset (and I love supersets!) of grit and some other character traits that I’ve read about from KIPP. Of course I dug a little deeper to learn about growth mindsets and found a TED Talk about it too.

It’s interesting that this attitude in a growth mindset is also related to the Lean software development philosophy of “Think big, act small, fail fast, learn rapidly.” I’ll get to that another day.