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How To Study Effectively After Graduating From School
June 22, 2019
In school or university, it is a different system. You have teachers and lecturers who give you the knowledge that you need to know for tests and exams. Maybe this knowledge will be useful for the real world, maybe it will not be. But what matters is you will be assessed for whether you know this knowledge at the end of the semester or year.
So in these settings, it is better to ask the teacher what has to be studied or focused on.
But after school, you enter the real world. And in the real world, you don’t have a teacher to guide you. A lot of the time, you will be doing self-study. Learning how to improve conversation skills is a self-study endeavor.
There will also be other subjects you try to teach yourself. In order to do this effectively, you need to realize that not all knowledge is equal. It is only some knowledge that give most of the results. And most of the knowledge give little results.
I believe in the 20/80 rule that a lot of experts have referred to. The rule is that 20% of knowledge gives 80% of the results. This is a general rule, and varies from subject to subject. In some cases, 5% of knowledge gives 80% of results.
I think the real method to effective studying, is to identify and learn this little knowledge that gives most results. Then keep revising and practicing it as much as possible.
I used to have an obsession with reading new books, and never liked reading the same books twice. I was always looking for ‘new’ knowledge, even though it would only give 0.5% of the results. And I would ignore revising and practicing the ‘old’ knowledge that gives 10% of the results, (especially if someone masters this).
But I have learnt through experience, that in every field or subject, there is a limited amount of knowledge that gives most of the results. And the more you practice these, the more mastery you gain over it. This is where success comes from.
It’s not from knowing everything, because that is impossible. But it’s from constantly revising and practicing the little knowledge that gives the majority of the results. As boring as it is, this is what has to be done. But not many people will do it, myself included, because of how boring it is.
It’s fun and interesting to learn something new once, then move on to the next thing and learn that once. This gives you a shallow intellectual understanding of a lot of things, but mastery over none. And you eventually forget what you only understand at a shallow level.
I guess there are three factors at play here. All of which are connected:
1) We have to keep revising, practicing and repeating a certain knowledge or skill a lot of times before we master it enough to see solid results.
2) We only have a limited amount of time. Not enough to master every skill or knowledge within a certain field. A shallow intellectual understanding of it isn’t enough. We have to move to the level of practical understanding, then mastery. Below is a rough idea of the levels of understanding. I will use the example of a simple maths equation a teacher in high school might have spent 5 minutes explaining, and the different levels a student goes through to master it. Here are the levels:
a) No understanding = Student has no idea
b) Shallow intellectual understanding = Student knows what the maths equation is, but doesn’t know how to apply it.
c) Practical understanding = Can apply the mathematical equation, but need to think a lot about it.
d) Mastery = Can solve the maths equation easily without thinking much.
It takes a lot of time to move up from one level to the next. With something like one maths equation, it might take a few hours or days. But with more complex things, it might take more time. Some skills might take months, or years, to reach mastery.
If you wanted to gain mastery over every single equation within a certain field of maths, it will take a lot of time (maybe several lifetimes). Hence, it is also important to know what your end objective is. Maybe you don’t need mastery over every single equation, just a few to achieve your end goal.
3) Not all knowledge is equal. 20% of knowledge gives 80% of the results (or thereabouts). This, is actually the solution to the problem posed by the first two factors.
A more effective learning method, would be to identify the limited knowledge that gives the majority of results. What are the 20% that gives 80% of results? Or in some fields, it’s 5% that give 80% of the results. Then practice and revise it until you achieve mastery in it.
I have recently started studying copywriting, which is the study of how advertisements are written. I have a lot of friends who have made products, but they don’t how to write advertisements for it. I like writing, and so decided I would learn how to do this to help them, and also see if it can also be a possible career path for me.
Studying this completely new subject, will be the perfect place for me to test my insight about learning on.
I have looked at surveys done with experienced copywriters, and discovered the 5 most recommended books in copywriting. I have purchased them, and my plan is to just keep revising them, and ignore everything else.
I will ignore the books that teach only the 0.5% of knowledge. There are a lot of books that do that. Not all books are equal.
Instead I will focus on applying, revising, practicing, and trying to gain mastery over the limited knowledge that I believe can give me 80% of results in copywriting.
Others would read 15 books once, which is what I used to do. But now I want to try reading each of the best 5 books 3 times. And not look at other books on this subject.
I know a guy who is also learning copywriting, but his approach is different to mine. He wants to learn as many ‘new’ things as he can. When I last saw him, he was going to learn some random, obscure theory. Looking at it objectively, it will only give 0.5% of results. And he has no intention of practicing it to gain mastery, or even a practical understanding.
He just wants to study it once, then move on. It is not knowledge that will give a lot of results, and he is not even going to master it. It could be a waste of time. But he doesn’t see that, and I can’t blame him. I was like that until recently as well. Most people are like that.
There is even a term for it, ‘shiny object syndrome’. Which is where you go from one shiny thing to the next, not sticking at any of it long enough; or doing research to evaluate is it even worth your time in the first place. Just because something is new or shiny doesn’t make it better.
If my theory is correct, one year from now I will be a good copywriter. If my theory is wrong, I will be back to the drawing board. But I believe my theory will be right.
I have seen professional basketball players and coaches say it’s about practicing the fundamentals over and over. The fundamentals like dribbling, passing, etc. These are the limited skills that give most results. A lot of successful people have talked about this form of learning or practice.
People have the fear that they need to understand or do 100% of something. But that is not the case. It’s impossible to accomplish this. People just need to understand enough to achieve their objective. Perfect does not exist.
The old saying ‘Try to learn one new thing everyday’ is wrong. It should be ‘Try to revise or practice one high-impact thing you know everyday’.
The aim is not to have a surface level understanding of a lot of things. You will forget most of it. And what little you do remember, you will not understand it well enough to apply it effectively.
The aim is to have mastery of the few things that give the most results.
My old approach was: 1) Read random new book. 2) Read next random new book. 3) Read next random new book. 4) Read next random new book.
The new approach I want to try is to: 1) Research and find out what the best books are (either by asking others, looking at recommendations, surveys, etc). 2) Read that book. 3) Reread it. 4) Reread it again.
If it’s a skill and not knowledge, then the same system applies. Rather than learning random skills, it will be to research what are the most valuable skills, and keep practicing it over and over again.
In summary: Do constant revision or practice of the few things that give the most results. Do this until you achieve mastery over these skills.
Ignore everything else as they will only give a small amount of results even if you practice them enough to master them. And if you just look at them once, you will not understand them well enough, and also may most likely forget.
Ignore people who have ‘shiny object syndrome’ and try to get you to waste time learning ‘new’ knowledge or skills with low results.