Do You Know How to Learn?

Learning is a skill you must develop, and once you have, you can do anything.

Posted Sep 11, 2019

Jonathan Levi is an accelerated learning expert who has sold over 200,000 online courses on the topics of learning, memory, productivity, and high performance. He recently published The Only Skill That Matters: The Proven Methodology to Read Faster, Remember More, and Become a SuperLearner, in which he breaks down a great deal of science on how to learn effectively.

Here are a few of the insights highlighted in this comprehensive and useful book:

Make a Plan (Even a Small One)

Levi explains that while attempting to learn Russian, his fourth language, he made a fatal error. He didn't spend some time looking at the Russian language for a bigger-picture perspective. He just jumped right in, which led him to miss some vital components.

You want to start with the foundation.

As Levi states in the book:

"Instead of sitting down to get a broad overview of the Russian language—a view of the forest from 30,000 feet, I had gone straight for the trees.

In all of my excitement, I neglected to develop a plan for balancing between vocabulary and grammar. I never stopped to look at the “big picture” and understand how the case system actually works. I simply jumped in at what looked like the beginning.

And to this day, I am a below-average Russian speaker because of it. The idea of preparing and structuring your learning in a logical way beforehand comes up a lot in accelerated learning circles."

Levi then breaks down Tim Ferriss's learning strategy, which is useful for getting the big picture and then breaking that big picture down into chunks:

Deconstruction: How small can I break things down into their basic units of learning, such as individual vocabulary words or grammatical rules?

Selection: What are the 20 percent of those units that will give me 80 percent of the benefits (Pareto’s Principle).

Sequencing: What is the best order in which to learn these units?

Stakes: How can I use psychology or social pressure to condense my timelines and push myself to learn faster? 

Learn Like a Caveman

"After hundreds of millions of years of cruel evolution, you, me, and most of our mammalian friends are left with brains that are really good at remembering smells, tastes, and sights. As homo sapiens, we’re especially adapted to learning in ways that are vivid, visual, and experiential.

Scientists refer to this as 'the picture superiority effect.' And though many of you have been led to believe that you’re an 'auditory' or 'tactile' learner, the truth is, we are each naturally gifted at remembering pictures." —Jonathan Levi

Memories are formed with our senses. The more visual you can make something you're learning, the better off you'll be. 

The less technical and more visual you can make something, the better you'll understand and remember it. 

Keep it simple. Make it fun. Children are effective learners because they are imaginative about what they are learning and thus remember much more.

Learning languages is the same way. Don't think in terms of the words, but the images connected to those words. Connect those images to specific things in your life that have relevance. For example, for the word friend, think of your best friend and see a picture of your best friend in your mind.


Levi covers far more in The Only Skill That Matters. He also contextualizes the importance of learning in today's fast-paced, constantly changing, and global world. 

The truth is, job security is no longer a thing. You can't expect to get a gig and keep that gig until retirement

The job market has become like wealth building; you're best off being self-insured. In other words, you are your best insurance. If you learn how to learn effectively and quickly, then you don't need "job security," because you have the freedom to adapt to change successfully.