A Brain Coach Reveals the Secret Sauce to Learn Faster
Five rules from someone who was told he had a broken brain.
Jim Kwik, who survived a life-threatening brain injury as a child, suffered a learning disability for fifteen years. Yet, he completely flipped his life and became one of America’s most acclaimed performance coaches.
Movie stars and billionaire entrepreneurs regularly hire him for all sort of needs, ranging from speed reading and memory enhancement to learning skills faster than their competitors. Speed learning became his brand, which Kwik often refers to as “the greatest skill of the twenty-first century.”
From someone who struggled at school to teach others how to learn, Kwik’s success shows how you can turn your problems into growth opportunities.
“Anyone can learn to learn better, faster, and enhance their memory and comprehension.” — Jim Kwik.
Our brains are extraordinary tools; sadly, they don’t come with a user manual. Here are five rules that Jim Kwik recommends to learn efficiently and master new skills faster.
#1 — Know Your “Why-How-When” Extremely Well
“Reasons reap results.” — Jim Kwik.
Before you jump into learning anything new, you must answer three critical questions:
- “Why must I learn this?”
- “How can I use this?”
- “When can I use this?”
When you have a clear end in mind, you can navigate courses and curricula strategically. You’ll be able to focus on the right sections and concepts and skip everything else.
Think about it: why would you want to learn how to spell Korean if your goal is to have basic conversations? It would be best to focus on commonly used expressions and possibly sentence structure, but never on grammar rules.
Have a clear why, how, and when before diving into any topic. This will help you build a strategic learning map to learn more efficiently.
#2 — Identify Your Learning Style and Intelligence
According to creativity experts, people learn best once they identify their dominant intelligence and learning style.
According to the multiple intelligence theory, there are eight forms of intelligence: spatial, bodily, musical, linguistic, logical, interpersonal, introspective, and naturalistic. The VAK model shows that people tend to favour one of three learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or bodily).
Dancers or musicians tend to have different learning styles compared to programmers or writers. Take, for example, Lewis Hamilton vs Sadhguru. One has incredible spatial intelligence; the other is extremely good at introspective intelligence. Now imagine if both Sadhguru and Hamilton were in school trying to learn algebra. Would that situation make sense? That would be a waste of their time and talent.
Personally, my dominant ability is logical intelligence, and my preferred learning style is visual. This combination means I’m naturally drawn to mathematical concepts and formulas, and I learn best using flow charts and diagrams.
Make sure to identify your dominant learning style and intelligence. You can easily find tests online, such as VAK learning tests. Once you know your affinities, use the right techniques and tools to maximise your understanding in record time.
#3 — Turn Dry Information into Vivid Imagery
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou.
The brain is not good at holding raw information (equation, concepts, theorems) but extremely good at learning through vivid imagery and emotions.
What formula or theorem you still remember from school? Why is that? Maybe your teacher conveyed it extraordinarily. Perhaps it had an emotional connection to your life, or you learned it with a close friend.
To remember what you learn, turn abstract concepts and formulas into vivid pictures. Build a story around them. Stories invoke and steer emotions in us. They are the best way to capture information in our brain. After all, stories were the only way to pass knowledge for thousands of years.
If you read:
The growth of a system is the sum of its potential energy and kinetic energy.
It’s going to be tough for you to remember any of this. But if you picture yourself as the system that is growing, your potential energy as your inner beliefs, and your kinetic energy as your actions, you’ll understand that:
Your growth is the sum of your inner beliefs and your actions.
Similarly, if you want to remember an unfamiliar word, you can make a story around it. Here’s an example: the word oligopoly is hard to remember, but if you associate it with a story like “Oliver (ollie) goes (go) to see Paulie (poly)”, then it will stick in your memory forever.
Much better, isn’t it?
By turning bits of knowledge into vivid pictures and stories that convey emotions, you’ll remember things much better.
#4 — Work from a Not-To-Do List
To learn faster and better, you must do the work with the highest returns. A great way is to make a list of tasks that you should not prioritise. This will help you focus on the most valuable work and avoid what doesn’t matter.
For example, many tasks that seem urgent, such as replying to emails and attending meetings, are not crucial to your learning goals. Such work only gives you a fake sense of productivity but doesn’t help you make real progress.
With a full not-to-do list, you can spend your time on tasks that are crucial for mastering the topic:
- Do practice sessions.
- Do research.
- Take online classes.
- Read documentations and take notes.
Do the work with the highest value; even if it’s the least comfortable, you’ll reap the most remarkable results in the long run.
#5 — “Practice Makes Perfect” Is a Myth
Lousy practise never leads to mastery. Rather:
“Perfect practice makes perfect.” — Jim Kwik.
According to Jim Kwik, your most valuable asset is not time; it’s attention. It doesn’t matter whether you have a thousand years if you waste them doing lazy work. That’s why working with intensity and heightened attention is key to fast progress.
Learning is like building muscles; you can either spend three hours lifting clumsily and chatting with friends or train with intensity for fifty minutes. In the words of Stephen Covey:
“If you are going to cut lots of wood, you better sharpen the saw.”
Practice your learning with intensity and focus; you’ll reap extraordinary results in the long run.
#6 — Bonus Tips
Remove chaos from your life:
- Clear your mind: mindfulness, gratitude, letting go.
- Clear your physical space: keep a minimalist and tidy space.
- Clear your digital space: organise your emails and files in folders with all-caps names.
- Clear your social life: ditch people dragging you down.
And most importantly, fix your sleep, your posture, your breathing, your diet, and have a daily walk.
With the right techniques, Jim Kwik overcame his learning disability and went to teach industry leaders to speed learn. His transformation is worth examining if you want to learn faster and master skills more efficiently.
Learning fast is a skill. With the right mindset and methods, you can become good at it. Moreover, efficient learning can boost your happiness and slow your ageing. So keep learning and keep growing.