Why You Need to Master How to Learn New Things Faster


Despite being a valuable idea by itself, learning faster only has a few fans.

Lucky for us—we don’t need any more competition than our intellectually-gifted friends.

However, there’s something I felt morally obliged to tell you guys about.

And it’s the WHY behind all of these “learning faster” stuff on the blog.

I mean, it’s good to learn faster, right? But I’m telling you—it’s not just a party trick. It’s not just something you can use at school, or in your personal learning projects.

The ability to learn faster has something more to offer you than you think.

And today, I want to tell you the purpose behind what I’m sharing with you.

The hike that burns competition, not calories

The constantly-improving technology gives us a clear advantage in, well, pretty much anything—taking notes (Evernote, Notion), and even improving our memory and productivity (Anki).

And it’s a good thing—being able to work with “new technology” by quickly learning how to use them makes us a couple of times more productive than other people who do otherwise.

But did you know where the real advantage came from?

It’s because you knew something other people can’t easily replicate.

It was your ability to hike steep learning curves (difficult skills, hard subjects) more quickly is what will separate you from everyone else with mediocre results.

Economists even agree.

MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee discuss in their book, Race Against the Machine, how the change in technology nowadays is changing the labor market.

This was actually emphasized by Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work, where he mentions the two core abilities for thriving in the new economy:

  • the ability to quickly master hard things
  • the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed

If you are a student, the ability to grasp a difficult topic faster than others is a guaranteed advantage.

If you are an engineer, the ability to master new technology and leverage them is invaluable.

If you’re a blogger, the ability to quickly learn from any complex resource and then synthesizing them in as few words as possible is a must. (By the way, I’m constantly trying to develop my research and writing skills for you guys.)

And these abilities—regardless of field, rely on two things:

  1. Your ability to cultivate focus and perform Deep Work
  2. Your proficiency in using proven learning methodology (that I discuss in my ultimate guide to learn faster)

As I mention a lot in this blog, YOU can change your brain—effort changes the brain.

Whatever you focus on, you get better at. It’s a double-edged sword, however. When you always focus on unimportant things, you get better at doing unimportant things. When you always worry about things you don’t control, you get better at worrying.

So, focus on cultivating your ability to perform Deep Work—which Cal Newport describes as:

“the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”

Expert research even proves this idea.

K. Anders Ericsson, the leading researcher of the science of expertise, provides two core components required to become an expert—the two core components of deliberate practice:

  1. Intently focusing on a skill/information you’re trying to master (aka Deep Work)
  2. Fast feedback that tells you the areas you should focus on

Most of the time, it would take someone 10,000 hours of these two things in order to achieve total mastery of their field.

What the hell does this mean? Becoming an expert is totally in your control.

And again, the ability to focus and the learning feedback loop are the only things you require.

It gets even more interesting how you could accelerate this process by combining two skills.

I read an article (can’t find it anymore) that says you don’t really need the 10,000-hour rule to become an expert at something.

For example, if you’re good at marketing, and you’re sufficiently good microcomputers…based on what he says, you’ll become an expert much, much faster than anyone else on “microcomputer marketing”.

Basically, the idea is instead of playing someone else’s game, make your own.

Anyway, there is another great thinker in the field of accelerated learning whom I look up to—Scott Young.

He provides compelling arguments in his book, Ultralearning, on why we should learn how to master new things more quickly, as we’re going to discuss next.

Why learn faster, according to Scott Young:

Rapidly learning hard skills can have a greater impact than years of striving on the job.

I see it like chopping a tree with a dull axe, when you could actually train yourself how to sharpen it.

Doing the same thing over and over again then expecting a different result is a prime example of insanity, as most people have heard.

By the way, don’t apply this way of thinking to the way habits work. Cliche advice is something you should NOT apply to every situation!

Anyway, if you’re doing something every day anyway, then why not put some thought into improving it? You’ll become much more efficient that way.

When I was first starting out this blog, I knew that I was going to write and research a whole lot to create better quality content.

I’ve had a blog before, but I didn’t even think about improving the way I write. As it turned out, that blog didn’t turn out so well. I stopped writing in it and started this blog—it’s quite enjoyable to grow with your readers, you know.

Anyway, I started developing a reading habit just a month ago (after running out of ideas in 4 months of writing).

And then, while I was reading, I highlighted the parts that seemed the most helpful as well as the references that the authors were referring to in their research. Also, I was able to deconstruct how better writers communicate with their readers.

They used less words.

They were easy to understand.

They provide compelling anecdotes.

Now, I developed my skill of writing much, much faster than before through this process.

You can also implement this into your own life, as well.

But I suggest you do it with one skill at a time because in my experience it’s mentally taxing to perform deliberate practice—it’s totally worth it, though. The process allowed me to produce higher-quality content at a much, much higher rate.

If you have low self-esteem or satisfaction in life, this will do the trick

Learning faster requires fixing your weaknesses and breaking through barriers.

In this way, you get to know yourself even more—and without ego, because you’re always striving to get improvements through learning about your weaknesses and limitations.

At the same time, the moment you break through these barriers and strengthen areas you’re weak at, you gain true confidence in yourself.

Mihaly Csiksentmihaly, the leading researcher on a state of mind called “Flow”, recommends that we change the way we think about satisfaction/happiness.

Here’s Mihaly Csiksentmihaly via Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

“What I “discovered” was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but rather, on how we interpret them.”

Continued, (emphasis mine)

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we could make happen.”

Therefore, optimal experiences can only be attained through the act of learning faster—which ultimately requires you to perform Deep Work.

Where should you start?

First of all, if you’re not that persuaded by this article to start cultivating the skill of accelerated learning, then I suggest you check out Deep Work by Cal Newport or my list of books on learning. He provides even more compelling evidence on why you should do so.

Now, for starters, I’d like to guide you through the whole process via my 10,000-word guide to learn more quickly.

After that, you can check out my free book that tells you how you could incorporate these techniques into your lifestyle effortlessly (literally zero effort).

Besides that, let me know in the comments what you think about this article!