Discovering the Characteristics of Effective Learning with Experts Peter C. Brown & Jonathan Levi
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As someone who specializes in accelerated learning, I’m really excited about this week's guest, Peter C. Brown. After retiring from management consulting, he has published a number of books on money making ventures for nonprofits, jumping the job track, and most recently, a book entitled “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” In fact, his book and mine are consistently battling it out for the top spot on Amazon’s list of best books about learning, so you know, i just had to reach out to him and compare notes on how the strategies for successful long-term learning versus those for accelerated learning compare.
I have to say, it was an absolute blast to speak to someone who is equally passionate about effective learning as I am. I really enjoyed the opportunity to pick the brain of someone intimately familiar with the research and see how he and I have coalesced or differed in our prescriptions to successful learning. The episode offers a ton of incredible takeaways both for students of my course and for those who have never even heard of it – telling you the key elements of successful and effective learning for the long term. I just know you’ll enjoy listening to the episode as much as I enjoyed recording it.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Peter C. Brown's journey from management consulting to writing and publishing
- The research of Peter's co-authors, memory experts Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel
- Common misconceptions on the characteristics of effective learning
- The relationship between difficulty and retention when it comes to learning
- Spaced repetition systems such as Leitner Boxes, and why they're so effective
- The parallels between physical fitness training and effective learning
- Where modern academic environments fail to adhere to the characteristics of effective learning
- How important is testing for effective and sustained learning?
- What the research tells us about the brain, short term memory, and long term memory
- How to structure effective practice and learning for long-term success
- Do we need to understand the basics of learning science to take advantage of them?
- Visual and emotional “markers,” as discussed in Jonathan's book
- The differences between Peter's book and Jonathan's
- What are the few habits that ensure effective and successful learning?
- What are the few habits that Peter C. Brown believes to be “game-changers” in life?
- How the characteristics of effective learning made the seemingly miraculous Hudson river landing possible
- Mental rehearsal and it's efficacy for learning
- How do sleep, dreaming, and lucid dreaming relate to effective learning?
- What is Peter C. Brown working on next?
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Peter's Book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
- Jonathan's book, Become a SuperLearner: Learn Speed Reading & Advanced Memory
- Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel, prominent psychologists at the Washington University in Saint Louis
- The Testing Effect
- Malcolm Knowles and his work on adult andragogy
- Spaced repetition software Anki (highly recommended – and free!)
- Sebastian Leitner and the Leitner system
- K. Anders Ericsson, who's work was quoted in Malcolm Gladwell‘s book “Outliers“
- Mary Pat Wenderoth, a professor at the University of Washington
- Tim Ferriss' new TV show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment
- Our podcast episode with language learning expert Benny Lewis
- Navy Marine Mia Blundetto
- Nonfiction writer John McPhee
- Hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger and his book, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters
- Football coach Vince Dooley
- Research at the University of Haifa, which shows age doesn't preclude learning
- Peter C. Brown's website
Favorite Quotes from Peter C. Brown:
Welcome to the becoming superhuman podcast where we interview Extraordinary People to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host Jonathan Levy.
greetings Super Friends, welcome to this week's show as someone who's. Specializes in accelerated learning. I'm really excited about our guest today after retiring from management consulting. He's published a number of books on money-making Ventures for nonprofits jumping the job track and more recently a book entitled make it stick the science of successful learning.
In fact his recent book and mine are currently battling it out for the top spot on Amazon's list of best sellers about learning. So basically I had to reach out to him and compare notes on how the strategies for successful long-term learning compared to those. I teach in accelerated learning, you know, guys, I have to say it was an absolute blast to speak to someone who's equally passionate about effective learning as I am.
I really enjoyed the opportunity. To pick the brain of someone so intimately familiar with the research and see how he and I have coalesced or differed in our prescriptions to successful learning this episode offers a ton of incredible takeaways both for students of my course, and for those who've never even heard of it, it'll tell you the key elements of successful and effective learning for the long-term.
And so I just know you'll enjoy listening to the episode as much as I enjoyed recording it. And now I'd like to welcome. Mr. Peter C Brown.
Peter welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you today. Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to it. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I was looking on Amazon at other books in the memory improvement category and yours is consistently up there with my own and so I'm really excited to compare and contrast.
Our methods for Accelerated learning versus long-term sustained learning and use of the skills. Yeah. I'm looking forward to the conversation that I think there's a lot on both sides of this we meet in the middle. Absolutely. So Peter you mentioned as we were prepping for the show a little bit that you retired in the 90s from your Consulting career and you launched a new career as a writer and I'm really interested in that because.
On my end all of this is all so new and teaching online and podcasting is new. So I'm interested to hear how you got into this new career as a writer. Well, I spent most of my career as a Management Consultant working with teams of senior managers and companies and nonprofit organizations on long-range planning listening.
To their ideas what the issues are and helping coalesce that into a plan of action and my wife and I decided to take a year off a 98 and go live in Italy just to get re-centered about life and what we wanted out of our remaining years. I'm 67 now. So I turned 50 in Italy and a decided when I came back that I wanted to explore this.
Thing called writing which is always been an important part of my life, but in the background since then I've written a number of books fiction and nonfiction and when I was between books, I live in Minnesota, my brother-in-law Henry rotor GE is prominent cognitive psychologist at Washington University in st.
Louis. We get together regularly and once when I was between books, I was asking him about his work in this field of memory and learning. And what he described to me from the research that he and his colleagues have been doing I found compelling and we decided we needed to put it out in a book that would be accessible for non-scientists readers like myself.
So maybe I'm answering more than what you've asked but that is how the Arc of my. Attention and focus has evolved and the last few years and I spent the last three and a half years or so working with Rowdy and his colleague Mark McDaniel to learn myself the science of memory and the recent research into the relationship between memory and learning.
And be able to put that into a book that was highly anecdotal soundly rooted in the Empirical research that would help people understand that most of us go about learning in the wrong way. Absolutely and I agree with you on that. I'm really excited that you go straight into it because in my course, I admittedly admit that.
I'm not a neuroscientist and though I'm going on a basic understanding of Neuroscience. I don't draw enough upon the studies. And that's because I haven't had access to them. So I'm really excited to hear about Roddy's research and maybe you can elaborate on that a little bit. I'd love to well Rowdy is I say is so full name is Henry wrote agarrar oedi ger and everybody calls him Rowdy his field is.
The science of memory. He's really Advanced that field has been recognized internationally and and he was approached by a big foundation around 2001 that said we're really interested in the question what teaching and learning strategies? Lead to better memory of the learn material and we're wondering if you would feel the team of your colleagues at different universities around the country to do empirical studies into those questions or that particular question.
And that's really after 10 years of doing these studies what led into the book and one of the fundamental ideas is that. When we think of learning or studying we think that we read something we listen to a lecture and that's how we learn it we take it in and that when we were tested that's like a dipstick to determine how much of it we've really learned and so the early research involved having students and Labs doing different amounts of reading and rereading of material to see how their.
Learning improved and other students would read it fewer times, but they be tested more times to see how those success of events of reading it and rereading it helped them and lo and behold what they discovered was that the students who hadn't read it very many times but had been quizzed on the material learned it far better.
Then those who had read it many many times but not been quizzed interesting. It took them right into this phenomenon that's been known for many decades called the testing effect. The testing effect says that retrieving something from memory is a more powerful way of strengthening the memory and connecting it to the other things, you know.
Then is review and rereading so that research started branching off in many directions, which we can go into. Can I ask really quickly? How old were the students the students in the beginning? We're college students, but they've subsequently the research has reached into Middle School is now going down into a younger ages still.
So interesting and it also has been conducted with people who are much older than school students are college students, right? The reason I ask is because I talk a lot in my course about Malcolm Knowles and his six principles of adult andragogy and you touch exactly on one of them, which is we need to understand and make our brain believe.
That there's pressing need you know, where as a child may be willing to learn or may be able to learn because they're told to do so adults need to know that they're going to use the material and I think that touches upon you know, when you're quizzed on it and you know, you're going to be quizzed on it repeatedly it creates this pressing need and applicability for the knowledge.
Yes. There's another way to think about that but the cognitive psychologists in this field called generation and that is. You're presented with a situation or a problem and you're invited to try to come up with a solution that might be something as simple as naming the capital of a state and you search your mind you think of the different towns in that state you think of other states and the capitals, you know, and even though you don't.
Pull it up when you are then told what the capital is. You remember it far better than if you had gone into a Roman said now we're going to learn the capitals of the states. The capital of Maine is Augusta, you might or might not learn it but this notion of struggling with it first creates. I don't remember the word that you used.
I started with an a oh andragogy. I don't know that word andragogy adult learning. Oh, okay. Well at any age. And this is clearly true of infants and toddlers that you struggle with everything around you that you're trying to learn and that struggle whether you succeed or fail leads to better.
Learning and memory of the correct answer when you get it. Mmm. Yeah so that I think resonates very clearly with your notion of learning something better when you have a need for the information. Absolutely and you must also be a fan of spaced repetition. I would assume. Right, one of the Notions.
I think one of the places that you and we might part ways a little bit is this but maybe not really when learning is easy when you hear a lecture that is the epitome of clarity. You think I think I must know this it just makes so much sense. In any case. I've got it, you know, it's clear to me.
Well when test time comes around that ain't the case it you don't remember when learning is easy. It doesn't stick there are certain kinds of things that make learning a little harder. Make it stick better. One of them is what I just described this idea of trying to solve a problem before you're taught how to solve it right.
Another is when you have read an article or learn how to find the volume of a spheroid or a wedge then your math class rather than. Practicing that solution over and over in Rapid succession which keeps your learning and short-term memory. You're much better off coming back to it later when you're a little rusty and you have to try to retrieve from memory.
What that solution was and how that worked that requires retrieving it from long-term memory and that act involves of reconsolidation of that learning and long term memory. So spacing out your practice which makes it a little more difficult and feels kind of clunky because it is difficult actually has far better benefits in terms of Mastery and retention.
Then practicing something the way we normally do over and over, you know, your 20-foot putt over and over again. That doesn't help you and you see Improvement, but it doesn't last you don't realize it doesn't last sure I couldn't agree with you more and I think that's why spaced repetition we talk about, you know software a lot and I'm a big proponent of anke as a spaced repetition software that will determine right when you're on that cusp.
Forgetting where you have to recall it back from long-term memory, but you know, this stuff's been around since the 1970s with Sebastian Leitner and his system for the lightener box, right? Oh, yeah, and I mean it's exactly if you look at how it works. That's exactly what it does. Let me move this card because it's difficult and I won't review it until it's Rusty and of course, I won't review the cards that are easy because at that point I'm gaining.
No benefit as you said, Leitner's box was a box to hold flashcards and it had several compartments in it and the everything starts in the front compartment and let's say it's French vocabulary. You're trying to learn a new quiz yourself on it. And that is you feel like you're on top of something you put it in the next box, which is instead of being practiced once a day.
It's practiced once every three days rest. For sake of argument and then when that works you put it in the Box for it's only practice once every week or once every two weeks. So the lightener box basically says when you're on top of it, you can retrieve it less often, but it never leaves the Box anything you want to hang onto you must always.
Periodically retrieve from memory exactly, you know, I have a deck in my Anki software, which as I said is really just a digital re-creation of this and I have words that are so basic in the languages that I'm learning that I'll never forget them. I'll never forget the word for I in Russian but six years from now, it's going to pop up.
All right, I'm gonna it's good it so one day just in case. So the notion with spaced retrieval practices that people want to know how far out should I space my practice of recalling something that I learned and the answer has you want to space it out far enough that it's difficult, but you can do it.
Hmm. You don't want it so far out that you have to relearn it. You just want to have to struggle with a little bit you have to. Try retrieving the cues that take you to that point and say oh, yes, it was that and that strengthens those cues in those roots that's are all Utes the roots to that memory.
I like that and one thing that I think about a lot is the parallels between exercise or weightlifting or bodybuilding and memory and we talked a lot about that with Progressive overload. How you kind of want to push yourself a little bit beyond your limits button. Too much and it sounds almost like we're talking about hypertrophy that you kind of need to push yourself a little bit further Beyond but not to the point where your metaphorically injuring yourself or getting frustrated.
I think that's takes us into the realm of the work by Anders Ericsson as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell and became known as the 10,000 hour rule basically the notion being that for True expertise or Mastery your practice. You need a lot of it and it must exceed current ability inevitably there is failure and you learn from the failure.
So this idea of improving your expertise in a skill or a subject area. Involves reaching beyond your current level in that struggle and that reach are what build the pieces that come together. Sometimes the elements get chunked into one unit. You no longer think of all the different individual pieces of that knowledge you think of that chunk and it becomes connected to another chunk.
I think we're kind of maybe getting to the weeds here. You're right and that notion of exceeding your current level and striving. We understand that in sports, but we don't think of it that much in intellectual exercises. Right and I think one of the shortcomings perhaps of Academia is that we're not doing this.
We're not testing people more than once and we're not. Forcing them to recall its kind of a brain dump from a textbook or an instructor one-time passive input of the knowledge and one-time recall in a very limited fashion. Yeah, really the best role of testing. I guess we need testing as a measurement is a dipstick but really we ought to be thinking of testing as a.
Powerful learning tool I interviewed went on the web. I was looking for teachers who are current with the research and learning and to see what they were talking about. And I found a wonderful professor at University of Washington in Seattle. Amen. Mary Pat Wonder off who was a scientist and she's teaching her students first thing.
She does she's very. Clear about how learning works and the difference between the illusions of Mastery that you get from reading a text many times and getting fluent in the text but not really understanding the concepts below it and the notion of retrieval practice is a way of locking and learning and she'll be lecturing to her students and she'll pause and she'll ask a question on the material and when the students turned to their notes, she says put your notes aside.
Imagine your mind is a forest and the answer is in there somewhere. The more times you make a path to find it the stronger that path will be that's a very simple metaphor, but that's what quizzing is. That's what retrieval practice is. It's going down finding your way down that path again and getting that knowledge and bring it out of the forest and that's why quizzing and testing low stakes.
Frequent is far better way to learn than to be presented something and review it and only be tested at a midterm or at the end of the year. Absolutely, and you know like you mentioned earlier where if you try to solve a problem and you don't yet know the answer or how to solve it. I can think back to my most memorable class in business school.
And essentially the quiz or test was presenting our findings in front of the class. And of course the professor wouldn't explain how we were supposed to solve this financial problem. And those are the things that I most remember because one I did all the work. To go through and play and try and understand how we were going to do this only to realize we didn't have the tools yet.
So I understood the problems and then we were presented on how to do it and then we had to present and essentially we were quizzed in a kind of socially I guess social proof environment. Which is low enough Stakes but high enough that you remember the content and you're pulling it back and really forced to dive in and create those extra Roots as you said.
All right. Yeah, that's a good way to learn a good way to run a class Peter. I'm curious what the other findings are. I mean, we've covered a couple of them. What are the other fundamentals of the make it stick way? Well, one thing I would say is it helps to understand that how learning works and the sense that.
When you're exposed to something new and at the traces are in the part of your brain called the hippocampus is in short-term memory and over a period of hours maybe a day the exact time and process aren't very well known but we do know that there's a period of time in which the brain makes sense of that material and fills in gaps and rehearses that and it slowly moves into long-term memory.
But it takes time it takes hours or maybe even a day or two for learning to go from short term memory to long-term memory. And in that period of moving of being Consolidated into long-term memory. It's pliable as plastic than brain looks for ways to connect it to what you already know to help make sense of that horror.
Is it fit into your scheme of the world? So the notion that doing something. Once or doing it over and over quickly where it resides in short-term memory, it's a false notion or an illusion that that's beneficial what really is needed is time for that learning to Consolidated asleep helps a lot.
Oh, yeah sleep. Is it important apparently in during sleep. There are certain functions that the brain engages in and rehearsing this kind of learning to help consolidate it and connect it the notion of pulling it out from long-term. Memory was some effort apparently makes that learning somewhat pliable again and it brings the.
Key ideas forward makes them more Salient it connects it to things you've learned since and strengthens both the way it's embedded and the memory and the retrieval cues to find it later two big issues. You want to learning well embedded in connected in the mind of what you already know and you want many different ways of finding it later when you need.
That takes me to one other point. I want to bring up that is when you retrieve or practice something. That you have learned earlier. You actually learn better. If you mix up your practice of let's say you're practicing Your solution to finding the volume of a sphere and you've got also a wedge and you've got also a cone different kinds of solid geometry problems.
You will learn and remember them and apply them better later if your practice is mixed up between the different examples. The same thing is true and golf your you will learn your 20-foot putt better. If you practice different distances and Different Strokes in mix it up. The brain gets a more sophisticated representation of the 20-foot putt versus the other Strokes that you're taking or it gets better able to identify.
What kind of a problem you're facing? Oh, this is a cone and the solution to that is over here. It's this solution so mixing up or interleaving the practice of different but somewhat related problems improves your. Mastery and your recall later, but when you are in the learning phase in the practicing phase when you mix it up and feel as clumsy as heck, he just don't think you're getting it.
So we don't tend to practice that way. No, we certainly don't but if you want to learn something like a language or you want to learn a sport you're forced to because you're not going to sit and review the same 10 vocabulary words and how long can you practice that 20-foot putt? All right. It actually reminds me.
I've been binge-watching Tim Ferriss has TV show but Tim Ferriss experiment which just came out finally after a kind of years of him trying to get the right and he goes through all these challenges and tries to deconstruct them. And what is interesting is he'll try 10 different moves of a particular sport.
And exactly like you said because it creates a more diverse learning environment. And in my opinion it also has to do with kind of creating neural / nephron and getting your brain into this excited learning State that's hard to get if you're practicing the same damn movement over and over again.
Right, I think when you mix up the problems you are on higher alert. If you will you're struggling you're engaging all of your resources in finding the solution, which is not the same when you have the predictability of doing something over and over again, you can kind of do something over and over again to be thinking about what you're going to do on Saturday night at the same time another interesting thing that seems to be coming out of the research is that.
Some people are better at what the cognitive psychologists are calling structure Builders. These are people who can read something new and pull out of the material the few key ideas two or three key ideas and make a mental model of that and connect that to something else. Whereas other people will read the same passage in try to remember everything.
They can't seem to discriminate between the important ideas and the illumination around it. If you will order some supporting points, and I think of that for example. A builder who was at a job site and has all the materials on the job site but doesn't really understand the key principles of the load-bearing properties of the trusses and so forth through the principles of heat transfer and how you need to design that roof to make sure that it's warm on the inside and cold on the outside, you know, all of those fundamental principles that involve the system.
For each system Electrical Plumbing, you know the shell and everything all those come together. Each one is a model and they come together to form a bigger model, which is a warm dry house. So the notion of when you learn something asking yourself, what were the key ideas here? And how do those ideas relate to something?
I already know how would I put them in? My own words helps you build a mental model that enables you to bring that learning up again later and apply it connect it to something else and apply it if you don't do that kind of thinking through and winnowing down to the core ideas and the connection in your mind that you don't learn as well and you don't apply it as well again later.
I love that and it actually touches on another one of the Knowles principles of adult learning which is adults need to connect and you've actually mentioned it a couple of times adults need to connect to existing learning and you know that just underlies the way that our brains work. They work by these connections between neurons and.
If things are not connected, you know that odd person's name that you meet. You have one data point on it and it's not connected to any pre-existing knowledge. It disappears. Yeah all know learning Builds on existing learning one of the learning disadvantage of somebody would be in a. Sit down in a class where they don't have the fundamentals that come before that class.
They can't learn that new material because I have nothing to connect it to us. We'll all new learning connects to something that we already know if you really going to learn it. Absolutely and I think that's one of the main reasons why you know, if you do speak a couple languages already. It's so much easier not harder to learn additional languages paradoxically almost many points of connection absolutely and different libraries of sounds with different meanings and.
Yeah, absolutely. So it sounds like you and I both would agree that in order for people to take advantage of these techniques. They really have to understand how the techniques work. Would you say? That's fair. I think that it helps to understand. Yes that it takes time for new knowledge to be Consolidated in the mind and that struggle mental struggle is positive evidence.
It's not evidence that you're not getting it. It's evidence that you're doing what you need to do to really get it well and hang on to it. Those are sort of large Concepts. I think also an area that you talked about in your book that I think is important learning from the memory scientist is that.
It's easier to find something you've learned later. If you have different Vivid cues to retrieve it. It's important that it's embedded. Well, but it's very important that you have ways to find it and some of the most potent cues to help find something, you know. Visual cues. I can think of many times when my wife and I have come back from a trip and she said, you know that woman who was talking about such and such was really interesting and I can't remember that way in a whore was that while I was in that restaurant next to the session session as media.
I can see the restaurant then I find the woman of my mind then. Conversation unfurls in my mind. It's an interesting thing. So the many different kinds of cues you can have but I know in your book you talk a lot about how to construct cues when you're reading something to help attach the memory to a cue that you can help find it again later and that's certainly validated by the memory research.
Yeah, that's about sixty percent of our method. You know in we often like to tell students, there's no point in speed reading if you can quickly assign the memories and store them in such a way that's going to be re callable and you know, the only really really fast way to do that is to use visual cues or if you can conjure up Sensational kind of imagery or smells tastes stuff like that or emotions what I think.
Here's one place where we walk down different paths. You walk down a path saying how can I consume a large body of information in a short period of time and be able to call it up later, which is a lot of Tori aspiration. The path that we're walking down is a little different we're saying for Mastery and long-term retention long-term, you know, making it stick make it stick as our book is called make it stick the science of successful learning to make it stick.
There are things that slow the learning down a little bit and make it a little more difficult that help make it stick longer and these are the spaced retrieval practice the generation trying to solve problems before you're taught how the mixing of practice of different kinds of things so that you switch back and forth and each time you come back to something you have to remind yourself.
What it was and how you know it and what you know and do the thing you need to do with it. Again, that's a little different. Well, it's fundamentally different in some ways from the notion of speeding up the reading and the capture if you will and the ability to recall but they both rest on a bed of.
Trying to move learning in a long-term memory and our focus is decided to lead not on speed but on cultivating a couple of habits that if you use them if you follow them cultivate those habits, you will find that you have to do spend much less time in review later. Say you approach a test or our situation and those habits are.
Periodically recalling from memory, you know self-quizzing that kind of thing mixing up your practice those kinds of activities will serve you at any point in your life. If you're trying to learn to play the piano you try to learn to be a neurosurgeon a cop, you know a student in college or in high school.
Those skills will get you to the end of the semester on top of your material agreed and I think you know some of the experts that I've spoken to in for example language learning seem to agree with you and say, you know, you should. Challenge yourself with quizzes get a pen pal try to write to them in the target language because that's a real world applicable quiz where you're quizzing yourself and testing yourself on the knowledge.
Yeah, that's exactly right Jonathan and there's two benefits to that one is what you've just described it strengthens your Mastery to do it, but the other is you suddenly become aware of whether in fact you. Are on top of it yet because we're not very good judges of what we know and don't know and so self-quizzing is a way of checking yourself and whether you really are where you think you are.
Yep, and I had Benny Lewis on the show who speaks seven languages fluently 12 languages conversationally and I asked him, you know, his book is fluent in 3 months. I said, how do you break down the three months and know what to learn in what week and he said there's no prescribed plan. I spend enough time testing my skills out by talking to native speakers that I do that on the weekend and by Monday morning.
I'm very clear on What's Missing in my skill set? Yeah, it's interesting. Isn't it? I'm thinking of the year. We spent living in Italy and I discovered that riding my bike through the villages and stopping at the Village water pump and chatting with them Hunters about what they were hunting and you know going into the little coffee shops and stuff and trying to make my way was the felt halting and awkward, but it ended up being a very.
The successful way to try to pick up the language you find yourself at some point speaking idioms that you didn't even know your new because they've come to you from that kind of exchange and an effort. I would say 10 to 20 times, you know minute for minute more effective than studying in a textbook.
It amazes me I have maybe. To one our conversations in Russian a week have completely stopped looking at textbooks. I've almost completely stopped, you know reading in Russian, but in those two hours, it amazes me sometimes like I didn't know I knew that word is one of the interviews I did for writing.
This book is kind of like what you're just describing but it was a young Marine. Name me a blundetto. Yeah, she was in charge of logistics and she was in Okinawa and and to be in charge of logistics. She had to go to jump school to learn how to jump out of airplanes which didn't really appeal to her.
But she was a very high honor the position she got so she said yes, sir. I'll jump out of airplanes and she described to me a jump school at Fort Benning you go there you are not allowed to have a pencil and paper and take notes or have a book or anything that. Before you write down what you're learning or you read about it you go there and you do it and you start at the very basic level you're standing there on the instructor says explains.
What a parachute Landing fall is how you land in different planes of your body and distribute the impact and then he has you practice them just by Falling. Around and demonstrating and the next day, you're maybe a foot or two off the ground going into a sand pit and the whole series of trainings, which actually is very complicated because when you're up in a plane and strapping in and your staggered behind other troops getting ready to go out alternate sides of the plane and then coming out into whatever that environment is, there's all kinds of things you need to.
Know what to do about second time. She jumped out of the plane. She landed and another jumpers shoot and she knew what to do. But going through that jump school is just a great example, just like what you're describing and practicing your Russian for you. Learn it by doing it and practicing it not by reading about it or writing about it.
Although writing about something is a good way to learn because you're putting it in your own words, but in the cases were describing. That kind of generation and retrieval practice and the spontaneity involved in it as very potent. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I'm actually curious, you know in your opinion since we both have this passion for learning.
What do you think are some of the most game-changing and pertinent skills are disciplines that people should undertake when armed with an effective learning methodology such as yours. You know, that's a I guess what's game-changing is up to every individual and what their passion is. I know for me in writing the game changer is not to try to figure it out but to start to do it because once you engage in something and you're struggling with the problem.
Your mind starts to knit at it, even when you're doing something else John McPhee the great nonfiction writer talks about that and talks about writer's block. He said just start writing about the thing and you'll discover later when you're driving down the road. Your mind has been working out. It will present you with a solution to a problem.
So I think this notion of just going and doing is a game changer for me agreed instead of trying to. I know exactly where I'm going and what I'm supposed to do. I think another game changer for me from having a worked on this book and read this research is the notion of. Making a habit of reflection and self inquiry and I find myself now when I read something in the paper and I'm going to be in a social situation where I want to talk about this thing that I read because it really made an impression on me.
Yeah used to be able to go see did you see that piece? You know, wasn't it? Great. Well now I want to be able to say what was it about that piece that really resonated with me and so when I read it. I had to put it aside and I have to ask myself that question. What were the key idea is what are the three ideas in this piece that are really important.
Why do I think they're important? Then? I have to pick it up and read it again because I I'm not sure I got it right, you know, but this notion of a habit of reflection and self inquiry. Is a game changer a neurosurgeon that I talked with in writing this book told a great story about the solution he had invented in doing a surgery in the brain.
He came to that solution through the same process of a habit of reflecting on what he had done or what he had read. Mostly what he had done how he might want to do it better to get a better result for this notion of self inquiry and then I. The notion of mental rehearsal if you read Captain Chesley sullenberger, ‘s Memoir about being a pilot.
He's the fellow hoop set that are bust down on the Hudson River so flawlessly and you wonder you know, how did he do it and it's wonderful to read how. Sullenberger is he came up as a pilot he flew in the military. He then investigated airplane accidents. He studied them. He took an interest in water Landings and he had studied what little available footage there was of those Landings and he had mentally rehearsed many different aspects of flight and has mind including water Landings and there he was at that moment.
So this notion of mental rehearsal I interviewed. Vince Dooley who was a Fame coach of the Georgia Bulldogs football team. He talks a lot about mental rehearsal with his players and his quarterbacks and his team. So those ideas for me going and doing it. Cultivating a habit of reflection and self inquiry and engaging in mental rehearsal of something that you are trying to master.
Our that for me. Those are game-changers. I would agree with you and I think the mental rehearsal is really just another form of recall, you know, we talked about the lightener boxes and stuff like that. It doesn't matter if you're actually rehearsing. I mean I talk to myself in my head all day long in Russian and that's likely a big contributor to why I feel I'm improving.
Yes, and in case of the neurosurgeon and the football coach, they both felt that the mental rehearsal enabled them to. Practice a different solution to something that they were doing that wasn't quite working well and then when they were back in The Fray and had to do it they were prepared to do it in that different way.
So it's a form of generation as well as retrieval, but it is both it's all of those things and according to write erode ger my side as co-author mental rehearsal can be just as potent as physical rehearsal of if you're rehearsing a physical activity mentally. I think that's very interesting and I think that actually it piques my interest because I'm starting to take an interest in lucid dreaming and the idea that you can conjure up situations and control your dreams and I would wonder you know, if sitting in mentally kind of rehearsing your way through a problem, I would wonder if you know you could actually get better at Surfing by Conjuring up a surfing situation and practicing over and over and over again in a lucid dream.
Well now I'm going to speak not from the research, but I'm going to speak for my opinion and that is although I think the research shows that the Mind consolidates learning in during sleep. And when my opinion is that if I'm working on a piece of writing or something that I'm trying to learn that if it's on my mind when I go to bed that the mind will.
Work on it through the night. You might find this true for me certainly find a right on an essay or an editorial piece the next day I wake up and I see you know, there's really, you know, just a couple ideas in this that are really important and my mind is sort of worked at it and brought that forward for me and I can revise the thing very nicely.
So there is a kind of mental rehearsal. Apparently that happens in our sleep that helps us consolidate our learning and. Move to the Forefront the most important elements of the topic that we're struggling with certainly in in, you know, what little we do know about sleep does tell us that it's actively, you know, repairing the brain and building these connections.
Right? Right or during sleep. We don't really know how but we know that that's happening more during sleep and the brains clearing metabolites that are created during rigorous mental activity, which is also very important. So what's next? What are you currently working on? I'm going back to fiction cool.
I'm going to back to historical fiction my first novel. I was Nest Oracle novel and you know, it's one of those things where there are a lot of aspects of life. Let's say in 1900 that wouldn't have interested me until I had to animate characters and move them through their day. So became passionately curious about how different things worked and so I'm going back to historical fiction for me the thrill of writing a story set in this case in the 1860s on the Mississippi River in Minnesota.
The Thrill is too. Try to inhabit those lives emotionally as well as physically in my mind and then the research this goes to actually to your book where you talk about a pre-read of something to figure out what it is. You're trying that we're looking for when you go back and really read it. This is true in writing historical fiction.
Instead of going out and doing a lot of research and then trying to write your stories better to get your characters moving and then have the question and read for the answer. And so I find this kind of learning very rewarding if I can animate it. Learn it. So well that I can animate my characters on the page and the reader will feel those emotions and the thrill that those characters are going through.
It. Sounds like an incredible challenge actually an incredible journey. Yeah, it is. You have to kind of remove yourself from the rest of your life, which is one reason. I resist doing it you live in your mind and through the scenes and experiences of your characters and you forget where to turn off the highway and so forth and so on but on the other end of it when it comes out in book form and your readers are immersed in the novel is like you've exercised kind of a demon because now it exists a lives on by itself and book format.
In other people's minds. I love that Visual and I love that concept. So Peter, I can count at least three distinct careers that you're clearly excelling at and I think you know if the research that was done at the University of Haifa wasn't conclusive enough. I think you're living proof that there is no excuse, you know for not being able to learn effectively whether 12 years old or 67 years old and I thank you for that because it is a misconception that you and I probably both battle everyday.
Yeah, I interviewed an idiot your old keyboard pianist who is still learning and Performing classical works at her age and she's now 90 and she's still doing it beautifully and I think there's no end to our ability to learn if we want to make the effort to do it. I would agree and I think that's a great quote to end on Peter.
Where can we send audience members if they want to learn more about you or your work would you like us to direct them to Amazon or to your website? Well, I have a website. It's make it stick dot net that as a website for the book make it stick the science of successful learning. If you click on about the authors that will take you to my personal website shows a variety of my books and you can learn more about them.
They're excellent and we will put that in the show notes as well as hopefully we'll dig up some of the research that Rowdy and Mark worked on and I'd love to put that also in the Shona. There's a tremendous amount of that in the end notes of the book and I must be quick to add Jonathan that the book isn't just about their research.
Not even the Lion's Share of it is their research. Some book is about a fast body of research that informs the book and much of it is there's excellent. So I'm definitely going to have to read it this weekend Peter. Thank you so much for your time. And I know you just got over a cold. So, you know for mustering up the strength to chat with me today.
I really enjoyed it. It's been a great pleasure for me Jonathan. Thank you for having me on my pleasure. You take care. You too. So that's it for this weeks episode guys, if you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed recording it, please head over to iTunes and or Stitcher and leave us a great written review.
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