Learning is perhaps the critical meta-skill in life. If you know how to learn, you can significantly improve multiple aspects of your life and the world around you.
But how does learning work?
This is a complex matter, but we all do it. I recently found an interesting concept called the Learning Spiral while going through a study guide from The Open University.
Step 1, you embark on some studying. For whatever reason, there is something you want to learn.
Step 2, you start taking in new ideas as you read, listen, watch, and discuss with others.
Step 3, you’ll think through these new ideas, and try and fit them into your existing worldview and what you already know. How does what you’re learning combine with what you already know?
Step 4, you’ll apply this knowledge in the real world or, if you’re following a structured learning course, in one or more assignments.
Step 5, as you use these new ideas, they become absorbed into your core fabric. They are part of how you now see the world, and you have no need to “remember” what you have learned; it is now part of who you are.
Step 6, as your knowledge increases, you start to see a larger and larger surface area of what you don’t know. This is very much like a sphere that keeps getting larger, and the surface area increases.
And so you then go back to Step 1 and learn things on the edge of your existing knowledge. Eventually, if you’re lucky, the edge of your knowledge will coincide with the edge of humanity’s knowledge on that particular topic or subject. Then if you learn something new, you’ll be contributing to the totality of human knowledge — you will discover something new!