You’re probably sitting on a treasure trove of skills and information you could learn overnight.
We all crave skills and knowledge. They fuel our curiosity, better our lives, and improve our standing with others.
But when push comes to shove, and especially in this age of information overload, we tend to consume more knowledge than we can manage and leave our skills and understanding half-baked.
Sound like you?
The good news is the answer is near at hand. And even better, everything we’re about to show you comes free and doesn’t require paying for new books, courses, seminars or conferences.
You’ve done all that, and we’re still here having this conversation.
So instead of adding to what you already tried to learn in the past, it’s time to finally put to use all the knowledge you’ve left on the shelf.
And we’re not talking about all those articles, books, and courses you’ve saved or bought but never got to.
Sometimes we put off those new things because we haven’t properly benefited from the ones we already tried, even the ones we loved. Without enough benefits achieved, your mind never feels rewarded and only feels the chore of learning, so you’re training your mind to desire learning less and less with each encounter.
And sooner or later, you plateau.
Now you know why.
The Importance of Going Back
If you don’t take notes, skip this section.
Actually, skip the whole post. Seriously.
Taking notes when you read, listen, or watch useful content is an obvious first step to getting the most out of knowledge you encounter. We’re working with the assumption here that you’ve known that since middle school.
Sure, there are some note-taking methods that work better, and some ways of organizing your notes that will be more useful to you long-term. But essential to unlocking the potential in what you’ve learned is at least having access to it, somewhere, somehow.
And stay consistent.
Tools like EverNote, Notion, OneNote, even just Google Docs or Word — pick one and stick with it. Find a system that works for you and that you can easily navigate when looking back.
You need to curate knowledge before you can unlock it.
And unlocking it requires going back.
Most people skip this.
Have you ever complained about forgetting most of what you learned in high school? Do you ever wonder how useful it really was?
Thinking back, you’re probably amazed you remembered as much as you did for tests and exams, but let’s be honest — it’s all gone now.
EXCEPT whatever you still use, whatever you built on in later schooling, whatever you draw from regularly wherever life’s taken you since.
That doesn’t make the rest of what you learned useless — just unused.
If you still had those old notes (maybe you do) you might be surprised how many useful nuggets are tucked away in there.
Now, however broad your interests, most of us narrow down and specialize over time, so notes from more recent years will be of far greater use to you than the wide range of subjects you covered in school.
And again, the more we specialize, the more we tend to drink in more information than we can handle. So you probably take in far more new knowledge than you review what you learned before, if at all.
You may even be hearing the same things over and over, remembering in the moment that you’ve been taught this before and wondering how you forgot.
It’s never been about forgetting, and the solution has never been taking in the same message over and over from different sources. You need to hear it from you. You need to go back and hear what you learned in your own voice.
The Importance of Exercise
Here’s where the gold’s at.
Knowledge is a muscle you need to flex to make gains. Here’s how:
Step 1: Edit.
Go back into your notes and revise them. Put what you can in your own words. If you already take notes in your own words, translating what you learn as you go (which, for the record, is a great idea), you can still rework the text to be easier to read. Highlight or underline key parts, add headings, cut fluff, bold noteworthy (pun intended) words and phrases, and add clarifying thoughts that will help you remember what you meant when you look back later.
Those added thoughts are VERY important. Try to add to your notes as you go through them, jotting down new ideas, stories, or even questions.
If you’ve studied writing and editing, you’ll also be getting practice with two essential skills for virtually every domain in work and life.
Step 2: Practice.
Try picking at least one element from what you review and put it into practice, ideally the same day.
Even better, try redoing some questions or exercises that came with the material, or search online for exercises relevant to your topic. Reference your notes as you go, or consider making cue cards. The key here is to practice what you learn and generate new content, which helps your mind build new connections and solidify old ones.
It’s not good enough to have put in the work years ago and then let the knowledge wither away. You have to keep forging new associations, new neural pathways to old content, for knowledge to stick.
The Importance of Imitation
One of the most important ways we learn anything is through imitation.
American Psychologist Andrew N. Meltzoff once said that imitation is quicker than discovering ideas and skills on your own and safer than learning by trial and error.
If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language, you know that books, dictionaries, and fill-in-the-blank exercises can only take you so far. But spend enough time with native speakers and watch some foreign films, and your learning speed quadruples overnight.
Imitation is even used in machine learning to train AI systems. An AI sometimes “watches” other systems solve problems or carry out specific tasks, or, more often, watches a human expert demonstrate the desired task, solution, or outcome for the AI to imitate through repetition and pattern recognition.
Now, for practical skills you’ve studied in the past, you may have to get creative to find ways and opportunities to imitate those doing or saying what you want to master.
This last tip applies to written or spoken learning material you’ve collected over the years.
In the world of writing and marketing, copywork refers to finding written content that you enjoy or admire and copying it out by hand.
It works for typing too, and if most of your written work is done on a computer (which is most of us), we recommend just sticking to type.
If you have books you love or a bookmarks folder full of great articles you’ve collected, pick one. Lock in on something you love or want to remember, and copy it out, word by word, into your notes.
No copy-and-pasting allowed.
It sounds tedious but does wonders. Your mind picks up on nuance you miss when speeding through content, and you’ll find yourself imitating their writing style from then on without even trying. Copywork forces your brain, conscious and subconscious, to pay more attention and forge stronger connections.
This works for spoken content too. Try transcribing a good video or podcast and watch what happens to your retention and understanding.
And whether copying writing or transcribing, try editing the content as you go. If you see a way to say it better, do it. Your mind will remember your own version better than the original.
The idea of re-reading and editing notes, adding new content, or copying content manually probably all sounds time-consuming — time you could have spent learning something new.
But really, we just taught you a superpower. Use it well.
We do a lot of training here at Jester, so these lessons hit home for us. We want more than anything for those we teach to get the most from our content, to excel and to carry forward the skills they learn.
Give it a try. Look back on what you’ve already learned. Edit. Practice. Copy.
You’ll be amazed by the results.