Have you ever gone on a cross-country road trip? Just you, a bag of clothes, and a car?
Have you ever spent extended time alone? On purpose?
A few years ago, I got in my car and started driving west. I’m a creature of comfort. My family is easy to be around. My friends and I have great discussion. I was coaching in a gym that meant so much to me and was a HUGE piece of my development… both as a human, and a coach.
But I needed to break the cycle. I needed to get more UNcomfortable. If I didn’t, I would never grow… at least as much as I expected from myself.
I drove out to Denver, CO from Indy in two days. I stayed at a sketchy hotel on the way out there (there was a sign that said, “Best Western is not responsible if your things are stolen”). I met some Airbnb people and finally saw what mountains look like (this just in: they’re gorgeous). I even went HIKING.
Like, super lazy. I know it’s human nature to put in the least amount of effort possible. But seriously, I would never study growing up. Even up until I finished my Kinesiology degree in 2012… let’s just say I was not the best student.
Heck, we were just on fall break and I wanted to study the nervous system. I got out of my routine just a little bit, distracting thoughts enter my head, and then I essentially became useless.
I’ll write those two days off as a needed break, but it’s amazing what a small change in your schedule can do to you.
More specifically for me, it’s a lack of schedule that is most crippling.
I run into people every day who ask how I do the things I do. “You’re just studying that… for fun?” I was walking with a friend yesterday who asked how she can stop procrastinating everything to the last minute.
If you’re interested in one thing, you’re interested in absolutely everything.
I want you to know what Isaac Newton discovered. How to do “work” in the physical sense. I want you to know why caffeine wakes you up and why you get so sleepy if you go without it. How your body uses food to make energy. How to use Excel to track your progress.
You will never know when you’ve learned everything you need to. That point does not exist. Thankfully, too, because now I have something to do for the next 70 years.
View learning as focus-oriented. If I’m interested in the brain, I’m going to start reading about that, but when that gets boring, I’ll pick up the next subject I want to learn. Maybe I’ll come back to the brain in four months. Maybe I’ll move on.
Experience = learning. Learning = experience.
Try new things. It amazes me when I do stuff these days and immediately think of a vivid memory from my childhood. Torque has always made sense to me because I used to climb the big tree in my backyard. I would go as high as I could go, but I had to make sure that, as the branches got smaller, my weight wouldn’t break them off (causing Newton’s gravitational laws to come back into play).
Coming spring 2015
Even the impression teachers can leave on you is amazing. I still remember making ice cream in 8th grade, or chewing that gum with the lights out to see it spark in 5th grade. Or that same 5th grade science teacher singing Barry Manilow, teaching us about music, rhythm, and setting aside the fear of what others think. In science class.
My lesson to you: do everything you can. Learn everything you can. When you wonder about the world, you have found optimal experience.
When it comes to learning, easier is not always better. Here’s a good read on the subject.
I used to talk about this in my classes all the time. It’s easier to retain the information you acquire more difficultly.
Also to add to the conversation is the following research article. If you want to know which study techniques are most useful to hack your learning, read this:
Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. doi:10.1177/1529100612453266
Brain Plasticity and Running
Very interesting stuff from BrainHQ. I’ll definitely be going back through this one again. Again, the central message is to teach your brain something new.
The quoted neuroscientist, Dr. Mike Merzenich, is featured in a fantastic chapter of a book called The Brain that Changes Itself (it’s a compelling read; highly recommended). BrainHQ is his baby.