How I Study and Learn New Things as I Approach 50
As I roam around middle age, I’ve realized that I need to actively keep my mind sharp over the coming decades. And not only should I keep it sharp, but I should also fill it with new things. Basically, I should…
Never stop learning.
I studied computer science in college, but nearly everything I’ve used day-to-day in my career I learned after completing my degree. Later, as I wanted to improve my creative skillset, I learned how to write fiction. Now, I’m learning screenwriting and filmmaking.
How do I do this? Over the years, I’ve developed a system based on doing things after treating my brain like a sponge and absorbing information. Every mind is different, so your mileage may vary.
Be a Sponge.
First, absorb everything you can from as many experts you can find. Make sure you’re getting this information from experts, not some goober on YouTube of TikTok just looking for views.
When learning a new thing, you often don’t have any reference point for what good information is, or what foundational items you need to learn. It’s kind of like a you don’t know what you don’t know type of situation, so you need experts to show you a solid learning path.
Here’s what works for me. I watch a bunch of videos (from experts) and I read a bunch of books. Watching videos on a subject is my brain in pure sponge-mode. I just absorb. When I read, however, it’s a little more active.
I start with little page-flag-bookmarks and either underlining (preferred) or highlighting. Then, once I’ve finished a book, I go back over all my markings and add them to my commonplace book on the subject. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a commonplace book, think of it like a second storage location outside of your physical brain. In it, you write down the passages you marked, but then you also add your own thoughts, context, and commentary. It really helps me remember important concepts and solidify things in my mind.
I do this all with pen and paper, because over the years I’ve found that I have a better mental connection with what I’m learning if I physically write it with my hand (as opposed to…