How Speed Reading & SuperLearning Have Changed My Life
Productivity is important to me. Really important. During my undergrad, I managed to graduate with honors while simultaneously running a multi-million dollar online business and actively participating in fraternity social life. Looking back, however, I was far less efficient than I could have been, for one reason: My reading speed.
Though I’d invested a lot of time in trying to learn speed-reading, it never clicked. I could, if forced, read as fast as 450wpm, but my comprehension was 20-30% at best. The result was that I would read, like most, at 250wpm with 60-70% comprehension.
I’m also a big believer in the law of attraction. I’ve found that in my life, whenever I need something, it will be flashed before my eyes, if I’m just open and receptive to it. One such example, then, occurred while I was interning in a venture capital office in Israel and met a fellow by the name of Lev Goldentouch.
Lev was a “SuperLearner.” He had earned 2 PhDs by the age of 27, was listed on countless patents across a few different fields, and read 100-150 articles and peer-reviewed journals per day – over his morning cup of tea. This equates to about 1200-2000wpm.
When you meet someone with a skill that can only be described as “Superhuman,” your immediate response is doubt. “There’s no way you can comprehend and retain information at that speed,” I remember saying. “Actually, it’s a bell curve. If I were to read at your speed, my comprehension would be significantly lower. Up until about 1500 words per minute, my comprehension only increases. Anything more and I sacrifice some detail, yes.”
I decided to test Lev out, and I would send him articles via email. Within a minute or so, I’d get a half a page of comments, which reflected an in-depth analytical view of the material. Holy shit. He was actually reading.
I was on my way to a 10-month, condensed MBA, and I knew that these skills would free up time and ensure my success. Fortunately for me, Lev’s wife Anna is a university professor and superlearning specialist who has worked with academic and corporate institutions to help teach her proprietary method of superlearning. Through my relationship with Lev, I was able to take Anna’s course, though even with a friends and family discount, it was a pretty significant investment. The course wasn’t easy, and Anna pushed me hard. But after about 6 weeks, the results were dramatic. Often times, after a bit of discussion, a professor would hand out the “Part B” of a case assigned the night before. He would give the class 5 minutes to read these supplementary materials, which were usually about 2-3 pages of 8.5×11” size. Imagine the looks I got, then, when I flipped the packet over and began impatiently staring at the front of the class 45 seconds later. I imagine that those around me assumed I had checked out, because I often saw darting glances of “WTF?” when I was able not only to contribute to discussions, but to correct minor details that had been misspoken. Game changer.
Along about this time, I estimated that in my 1-2 hours a day of work, school, and pleasure reading, I had wasted at least 60 minutes doing it “the old fashioned way.” If you consider that I started voraciously reading at age 10, this equates to more than 9 months of my life completely wasted. Today, I really only read 2-3 hours a week – but in that time, I can finish an entire book…
But there have been other benefits, too. I can remember things. Odd things. Difficult things. Strings of numbers. People's unusual names. I can spot things quicker, too: I’m usually the first one to find the exact book on the shelf we’re looking for or which exit to take from the subway station. I learn quicker, too. When I get an email from a “.ru” email address and reply in basic but grammatically correct Russian (with Cyrillic), people are blown away. It’s like I’m running a different operating system, at times.
It wasn’t long before many of my conversations on campus and with friends started off with “so, does it really work?” I found myself inundated with requests to explain what exactly I was doing differently. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to explain in a one-hour lunch even the gist of the skill set, and for this reason, I returned to Anna.
I told her there was unbelievable demand for a guided approach like the one she offered me, far beyond her capacity for Skype or in-person coaching. Together, we worked to adapt the curriculum to the online learning platform Udemy, and within 6 months, we became one of the best selling courses of all time. That course's success (nearly 18,000 students at the time of writing) has catapulted me into an area I never thought I would find myself; teaching. I've since recorded a number of courses, with others in the works. I've given talks and interviews in a number of countries and all over the web. And of course, the success of the SuperLearner course and the strong community it has become are both directly responsible for the creation of this blog. Funny how the law of attraction works, huh?
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So, what do you think? Have you ever tried to learn speed-reading? Were you successful?