Learn Better by Ulrich Boser [Book Summary – Review]

To be an expert in a field you need to have a high IQ, a high mind-holding capacity, or at least an impulse within you to work non-stop while reaching your goal, right? Well, this may not always be the case. Every person has sufficient learning capacity for success. Even if you are not a genius like Newton or do not have a memory that records everything, you can always achieve success with some learning methods.

Thanks to these learning methods, you will be able to master the subject you want in a short time.

This summary will provide you with six ways to become an expert in learning. While these methods will double the pleasure you get while learning something, they will also help you with the issues you have never been able to learn.

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Chapter 1 – You can facilitate the learning process with appropriate methods and ways.

It has historically been attributed to learning capacity as an ability we have when we are born due to genetics. However, this situation has now begun to be refuted. You can contribute to your learning process with just a few learning strategies and methods.

The greatest impact of these learning strategies will be the increase in your success.

In the 1980s, there was an experiment conducted by Anastasia Kitsantas at a girls’ school. She formed three groups of girls and taught them how to play darts. Girls in the “Team Performance Group” were told that they would achieve success by aiming at the bull’s eye. Other female students in the “Learning Method Group” were taught methods such that their arms and bodies should be close while throwing darts. And finally, the girls in the “Conventional Wisdom Group” were asked to just play at their best while playing. As a result, female students in the “Learning Method Group” were more successful than others. And also this group was the one who enjoyed playing the most.

There is another effective way of learning named self-testing. You are expected to test yourself by repeating the subject you learned through this learning method. In this way, it is aimed to save the new information you learn in your long-term memory.

According to the research, the success of the method of testing yourself on the subject you learned is 50 percent higher than other learning methods.

A study conducted at the University of Washington in 2006 has proven this. Jeffrey Karpicke and Henry Roediger, who researched two groups, gave a text to the participants. Participants in the first group read the given text four times. Those in the second group read the text once and applied a recall test for three times.

When the researchers Karpicke and Roediger took the group to test the text a few days later, they found that the participants in the recall group had more information about the text in their memory.

Another important method contributing to the learning process is to use earplugs that block outer sounds.

The author applied this method of learning as a child of 11 years old. When he couldn’t concentrate while solving math problems, he used earplugs to block outside sounds. He realized that this way he was able to focus more on solving problems.

These are useful methods that will contribute to your learning process. Let’s expand a little on the six strategies we mentioned at the beginning to increase your learning capacity.

Chapter 2 – The fact that your studies mean something to you speeds up the learning process and increases your capacity.

We are now aware that we can be much more successful with some learning methods and thus we can enjoy more while learning. Also, even more, success can be achieved if the six methods we will talk about in the learning process are applied.

The first condition is to give worth. If you think that the skills and knowledge about the subject you have learned are worth everything and give a good meaning to it, it becomes even easier for you to sacrifice for learning and not get bored.

The case of Jason Wolfson, a mature engineer in her forties, shows us just that. In the basement, he deals with artistic Lego designs. You may find it a bit odd for a mature man to deal with toys, but each toy design has a meaningful side. He designed the blue police phone booth according to the booth used by Dr. Who and made a replica of Gonzo for his wife, who was fond of the Muppet.

Wolfson devoted a large part of his time to these toys as he gave important meanings to these Lego designs. So, he became an expert in Lego design.

However, giving meaning to a subject and giving importance to it is not an immediate situation. You have to work hard to perceive the meaning and importance of the subject for you.

For example, very few students are fond of statistics. To help a group of students who don’t like statistics, psychology professor Chris Hulleman at the University of Virginia came up with a method.

He asked students to write a paper stating how useful statistics would be to improve themselves and their interests. When they wrote their thoughts on a piece of paper, they found a few very valuable ideas. Statistics can unleash their potential when they become a nurse, executive, or vendor. As a result, they started to put more emphasis on statistics. Some even managed to be more successful in this course when they were able to understand statistics to the finest point.

Chapter 3 – Specialization in a subject depends on setting minor and certain goals, but you should be clear that the fundamentals are solid.

According to the story, Isaac Newton all of a sudden found the presence of gravity when an apple fell from a tree to his head. However, in real life, you may not be able to come across such a time of sudden enlightenment.

Learning processes improve by setting goals.

To do this, you should apply the second method: You have to take care of big and uncertain goals by dividing them into small pieces so that you can concentrate more easily.

Imagine you are an athlete who wants to increase running time while running a marathon. Instead of aiming to run faster, make your running goal shorter and easier to achieve. It might be more beneficial to try running on rough terrain this week, who knows? These fragmented, small goals are less frightening and the easiest way to monitor the development process.

However, to specialize in a subject, you can apply other methods besides dividing it into goals. Before starting work, you should learn the basics of the subject. This is important as it becomes difficult to understand a new topic or area without knowing the fundamentals.

For example, think of you know nothing about the German language and all of a sudden being asked the question “Hast du heute gefrühstückt?”You should know a few basic vocabulary and grammar rules in German so that you can tell if the question is whether you had breakfast or not.

You can use this understanding for many other things. You wouldn’t attempt to repair your heating pipes without having a basic knowledge of plumbing, right?

And once you know the basics about the topic, you can break your goal into small pieces and become an expert in achieving success more easily.

Chapter 4 – The significance of feedback in the learning process cannot be denied.

Before presenting your work, you have probably practiced the presentation with a friend. This is a well-known method and very useful. The evaluation of the presentation by an observer plays an important role in the development of the study.

Accordingly, the third method is an improvement. You can improve what’s missing or good in your work based on the evaluations of others. After all, when you are studying a topic, you often do not understand what directions you need to improve your skills. Even if someone else’s assessment seems to block you at first, you may notice its contribution after a while.

The writer of the book particularly benefited from this method. He loved to play basketball, but he never played well: he was even the worst player on the team. Even if he practiced basketball for half an hour every day at the local basketball court, his moves and footwork were dull.

He was not making progress because he did not concentrate on his exercises and did not get other evaluations about his playing. Then he stumbled upon basketball coach Dwane Samuels while he was reviewing Craigslist.

The writer, with the help of Samuels, developed to perform certain moves such as a single-dribble pull-up jump shot. The coach taught him how his middle finger should grasp the ball and how his feet should move in the game. After a few weeks of training, the author’s ball shots managed to get through the hoop and even score three points.

If you notice your mistakes and work on them, you will complete the second stage of development. If you observe how you study, you can easily learn how your study is done and where the errors come from. So you don’t get over repetition by correcting flaws.

Neurosurgeons also adopt this method. Mark Bernstein noted every error that emerged in the Toronto operating room over the last 10 years. Defects such as incomplete communication between doctors, a badly placed sponge, or delayed anesthesia were recorded in his error system.

Thanks to this error recording system, the surgical mistake rate of his team decreased from three errors to just one and a half a month.

Chapter 5 – You can develop your learning process by getting caught up in the subject you want to specialize in and using more visuality.

You may think that the achievements of famous writers, artists, or scientists on certain subjects are their destiny. However, smart people are always in the learning process.

So you can understand what the fourth method is: You should always develop the knowledge and skills you have already acquired. In other words, people who reach the highest steps are always open to improvement in the subjects they specialize in.

Jackson Pollock, the painter, realized this long ago. He participated in the painting work of David Alfaro Siqueiros, a Mexican muralist at the age of 23. Siqueiros gave courage to Pollock to try it out. Pollock adopted the drip and pour method that made him famous in this workshop, but he needed some time to become an expert in this technique. He tried to work with fractal structures. These structures are geometric shapes that repeat gradually, as you can see in Romanesco broccoli or spiral galaxies.

In the early days, less complex fractal patterns were found in Pollock’s early drop paintings. As time passed, however, he began to create more complicated and detailed fractal drawings. The shapes are so elusive that the physicist Richard Taylor, not the art historian, saw them first.

Another method that can be applied to further improve your skills and knowledge is to envision your goal in your mind.

Bob Harris, a stand-up comedian, is an important practitioner of this method. Once, he had to remember the names of the novels E. M. Forster had written. So, he imagined himself looking out the window in a room, seeing “giant buttocks thirty feet wide.” Thanks to this visualization, Harris could recall the books named A Room with a View and Howard’s End forever. The big hips that Harris dreamed of probably owned by a giant called Howard.

With the visualization method, you can quickly learn the information required by the subject you want to specialize in.

Chapter 6 – You will experience a more effective learning process by becoming aware of the connections between notions and experiencing different practices.

To specialize in a new subject, it is necessary to repeat it until it is learned. However, a repetitive routine does not bring effective learning.

Next is the fifth method: You have to associate. So, you should notice the existence of links between notions.

A study by psychologist Charles Judd at the University of Chicago in 1908 confirmed this. He formed two groups of children hitting darts at a 4-inch target underwater.

The children in the first group were prepared by only throwing darts underwater. However, the second group of children was taught the physics of refraction before practicing. Thus, they realized that the target they wanted to hit was not where it was seen because of the movement of the light underwater.

Then, Judd laid the target board to a depth of 12 inches where the breakage was further increased. Hence it became quite difficult to hit the target because the deeper the target looked further away.

Of course, the children in the second group, who had information about refraction, associated this information with the situation they faced. As can be expected, they had more success than the first group of children.

You will do well in learning if you provide variety in your practice.

In 1993, two groups of women training for free throws in basketball became a research topic. The women in the first group only made free shoots and tried nothing else. The women in the second group did mixed shooting exercises. After the free throwing practice, they exercised throwing the ball from the marked places that were eight and fifteen feet from the basket.

As a result, the group of women who made different shooting trials achieved better scores in free throws.

Chapter 7 – By deeply examining our knowledge, we can end careless mistakes due to excessive self-reliance.

You wandered around for hours because you were sure you knew how to go somewhere and didn’t want to ask for directions, right?

By applying the sixth and last method, you can examine your information, evaluate it in detail, and in this way, you can minimize the possibility of making a mistake.

Excessive confidence causes mistakes by making you act carelessly. People generally glorify their achievements and proficiency managed in the past. They always think that they will achieve better success because they think the skills they acquired are more than they are.

In the army, this condition is given a name: disease of victory. A commander might think he’s very talented because he’s won many battles before. The Union general, General George Armstrong Custer, who won many victories over the enemy during the Civil War, could be a good example. However, this situation caused a defeat in the Little Bighorn War in 1876. He had his 200 men fight more than 1000 Indians. Unfortunately, only one of Custer’s men survived.

If you examine the knowledge and perspective you have in detail, it can save you from problems caused by excessive self-confidence.

For example, Art Markman, a psychologist, knew how to use the toilet. He would use it many times a day and when he was a child, he had moved the cistern several times to control the stopper and move the lever.

But after a while, he understood that he didn’t know how to assemble a toilet and that if he wanted to set it up on his own, he wouldn’t have been successful.

When he realized that he did not have enough information about the toilet, he only asked the right questions: “How is water carried to the toilet? Where does it go after the flush?”

He was determined to have enough information about it.

You can experience a better learning process thanks to these six methods we have mentioned. These learning strategies, which are given in many learning processes such as repairing the toilet, developing in the field of sports, or learning a new language, will accelerate and facilitate your specialization in any field you want

Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser Book Review

Thanks to your efforts and ability to focus on a subject, you can easily specialize in any field you want. However, for the specialization process, you need sufficient time and some tried and tested strategies. Follow the six steps we mentioned: give worth, aim, improve, expand, associate, and reconsider. These methods will provide you with a more efficient learning process.

Take some time to learn.

When preparing for the next important exam, divide the topics into several parts, and then study. You know the discomfort of devoting an entire day to study, knowing that in a few hours you will forget almost everything you learned. Try to work by setting yourself more achievable goals to free yourself from this regret and make your learning process effective. You have to let your brain take a break to save new information. Let’s take a break!

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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