How to Learn Effectively

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  1. Bob wants to learn X.
  2. The minute he starts tackling something, he finds the material too difficult to grasp.
  3. He gives up forever.

His knowledge of X sucks.

Here's a better way to learn anything effectively:

  1. Get your feet wet.
  2. Eventually, the more you immerse yourself, the likelier you learn even more.
  3. Little-by-little, day-by-day, you become more proficient in the material.
  4. Ultimately, the longer you stick with it, the likelier you start becoming an expert on the material.

For instance, take "discount cash flow analysis" (a.k.a. DCF analysis).


Try reading the Wikipedia material on DCF in one sitting; it seems horrifically difficult to grasp.

But, as you get your feet wet, you start learning in stages:

  1. "I get the big picture! Peeps use DCF to value a company."
  2. "Oh I see now. Money has a time value."
  3. "Ahh okay. $1 today is worth more than $1 tomorrow."
  4. "Oh, oh okay. You value a company by discounting its future cash flow."
  5. "You discount future cash flow because money in the future is worth less than money today! YAY! HOORAY! HIGH-FIVE!"
  6. "....and to do that, you use these formulas...."
  7. and on, and on, and on, and on, and on until you = expert-tastic.

Depending on how quickly you want to learn the concepts, you can break the steps into minutes/days/hours/weeks, etc.

The key:

Get your feet wet.

Learning one simple-itzy-bitzy-small-thing of a difficult concept will make the difficult concept easier-and-easier to comprehend.

  • It's like you're building a pyramid of knowledge.
  • You lay one brick of knowledge on top of the other knowledge of bricks you've already set.
  • One day, you look back -- and tell yourself: "HEY! I've built a ridiculously massive pyramid of knowledge!"

You = expert rock star whose knowledge of X > 98690834698495603845093498534209 other people.

Nobel Laureates didn't wake up one day with their massive knowledge databases stuck in their brains; instead, they piled new knowledge bricks atop of their existing foundations.

Becoming a rock star expert at X takes learning a series tiny-bite-sized chunks of new bricks of knowledge.


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Posted on September 28

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