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How to Learn Everything - Avalanche Learning

The information comes down like an avalanche.The beauty of mother nature (avalanche) - Image

Innumerable podcasts, millions of books, blogs, wikis, articles, feeds, tumblr, twitter, facebook...The amount of information is overwhelming.

How do you absorb the massive amounts of information in a useful way? This article is the first in a five part series titled How to Learn Everything. In this article, I'll walk you through an overview of how to consume massive amounts of information in our information-saturated world.

In the next article, I'll discuss how to use technology to increase the information we consume in Plugging into Tech. After that we'll talk about how to capture inspiration with advanced note taking. In the third article of the series, we'll talk about memorizing as you listen with mnemonic notes. Finally, we offer an article on speed reading.




How to Memorize Everything: Mnemonic Notes


Can you memorize an entire deck of cards in under a minute? Impossible? Memory mnemonic experts routinely accomplish this incredible feat using memory mnemonics. In Moonwalking with Einstein a normal journalist chronicles his journey and eventual triumph in competing in the United States Memory Championships. A normal guy, with an average memory, could train his brain using memory mnemonics to do incredible things: memorize a deck of playing cards in < 1 minute, remember 100’s of digits, and quickly memorize long poems word-for-word. But honestly who cares?

Call me crazy, but I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to sit in his room to practice memorizing decks of cards for months to clock in under a minute (Well, at least I won’t admit in public to doing that :)  ). To me, this is a parlor trick. They certainly entertain people if you ever get interviewed by Jay Leno but the common person doesn’t care about memorizing cards. What about poems? I admit it, I’m not very cultured either. I don’t care about memorizing poems. Perhaps being able to recall a few choice quotes and verses would be nice, but I hardly need to master memory mnemonics for that. Don’t get me wrong, I could imagine myself one day becoming a renaissance man and making the ladies swoon with my mastery of Shakespeare. I'll chalk that up in my list of future New Year’s resolutions (to never accomplish). You get the point. Many people share my frustrations with how today’s uses for memory mnemonics seem pointless.

Memorizing a Semester of Lectures

When I came across memory mnemonics in college, I wanted to make them practical. I was excited about the idea of using them to memorize lectures. Imagine it! An entire semester of lectures neatly stored and cataloged inside my brain. Every test would be an open notes test (my favorite)! History exams would be trivial. Languages, English, Accounting, … almost any subject could be mastered with ease by carrying around mental notes. This idea intrigued me. If I could learn how to do this for college I could employ the same system for learning throughout my life.


The Adventure of Peak Learning

milford sound

For me it all started with a nagging thought in the back of my mind. I remember the thick college text books wrapped in clear plastic with pictures scrolled across the book covers. Each semester I unwrapped the package as if this was learning. Yet something seemed wrong. These books promised knowledge, but after each semester I was unsatisfied. Boredom. Drudgery. Stress. After the lectures faded from my mind, I kept wondering what was the point? I was exchanging a fortune for a diploma, but was I wasting myself?