Two-Cent #004

Innovative Learning, Artificial Urgency, & How To Get Rich (without getting lucky)
September 15, 2020

Hey Guys

Welcome back for another week of goodies. Summer's winding down but I'll be soaking up all the last nectars the sun has to offer this week in OBX. I'll be drinkin bloodies whilst searching for the wreckage of The Royal Merchant (& the $400 million worth of gold inside). Wish me luck ; )


Innovative Learning

In college I created my own curriculum towards the latter half of my degree so naturally I became really interested in how we learn. This led to multiple learning experiments, much reading on the subject, and a job creating online courses.


I found that many of the ways we've been taught to learn have proven to be extremely ineffective.


The best research by far came from Peter Brown's book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. I give the book a 10/10, which I don't do often. It's extremely value dense with case studies and actionable advice for students and educators. What follows is the distillation of learning tactics that I've had success with.


Common Learning Strategies (That don't work well)

Repetition - repeating a phrase and definition multiple times to remember it.

Rereading - rereading text to commit it to memory

Highlighting & Underlining - People believe that this makes key points more memorable, the benefit is negligible compared to elaboration and reflection.

Massed Practice - Doing 1 thing continuously without rest (3 hour math study sessions the night before an exam)


Better Learning Strategies (What to do instead)

Retrieval Practice - recalling information when it's not readily in front of you. (Commonly done with quizzes/exams)


Problem (How it's commonly used):

Educators use tests as a way to validate learning and weigh it heavily on students' grades. It's often seen as a "end all be all". The traditional 2-4 big exams per semester method has been proven to be ineffective as it promotes massed practice which leads to great short term recall but doesn't tattoo information into memory long term.


Solution (How it should be used):

Regular retrieval quizzes with known dates (2-3/week) that are weighed significantly less than exams show promise. Instead of 2-3 exams in a semester that total 50% of their grade there should be 30-40 short quizzes that total 50% of the grade.


This increases the repetitions of recalling information which leads to long term mastery of the subject, opposed to short term recall.


We need to design environments that promote failure as a learning strategy. Failing is good. When we get feedback then go in and correct our failure, that is when we really learn. There should be a tight loop kept between the time students consume information and the time they are asked to retrieve it.


✅    Interleaving - alternating subjects while studying (i.e. 60 minutes math, 60 minutes english, 60 minutes science opposed to 3 hours straight of math)


"Interleaving is unpopular and seldom used because it feels sluggish but the research shows it improves retention long term. Massed practice feels more productive, and it is with short term retention, but long term durable learning and mastery is best improved with interleaving." —Peter Brown


Interleaving develops your "sorting skill"— your ability to look at any problem and discern which tools/principles you need to use. This skill is built with interleaving and problems that pull multiple real life themes. Blocking or mass practice doesn’t build this skill.  


✅     Elaboration- Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning and relating it to what you already know.


Elaboration stacks new material on top of something you already know, what you already know then becomes a cue for recalling that information later. Checkout how world memory athletes build "memory palaces".


✅    Reflection (combo of retrieval and elaboration)


Strategy: Weekly low stakes learning paragraphs for students to sum up what they learned and relate it to something else in their life. Conversational and informal.


What to do instead of rereading and highlighting:

1. Read something once

2. Rephrase into your own words

3. Convert main points into series of questions

4. Relate to something that you already know outside the subject

5. Attempt to answer the questions (retrieve the information) the next day


Other Principles On Learning

  • Trying to solve a problem before being given the solution leads to higher learning retention.
  • Feedback should be delayed slightly. Immediate feedback fosters "failing to get the answer" as a strategy and students won't spend as much time invested in solving the problem (which is where the real learning happens).
  • Filling in a missing word yourself is better than being given options. Need to “retrieve” solutions on your own.
  • Space out retrieval is harder - but tattoos info deeper in the brain. Get rusty then try retrieval again.
  • Praise children for hard work and effort rather than smarts and ability. Praising for effort gives children a variable they can control, but emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of child’s control and gives the child no good recipe for responding to failure.

To all the educators on here; I'd love to hear your take on this.


In my opinion - I think there should be a class on "how to learn" that should be mandatory at all grade schools & universities. To me, it's the equivalent of learning the internal "Operating Manual" on the human brain and how it absorbs information.


Artificial Urgency

Have you ever noticed that whenever you have a deadline you're able to bang out 5 hours straight from 7pm to midnight before it's due? The deadline lights a fire under your ass and gets you moving. But other times when you sit down to work it feels sluggish and unproductive.

How can you recreate this type of urgency to maximize your output each day? I've found great success with artificial urgency. Here's what I do:

  1. Map out the top thing you want to do and estimate how long it'll take to complete.(Example: Create LinkedIn Post for every day this week— 2 hours)
  2. Set timer that you can see winding down (Kitchen timer, apple watch, laptop clock) for that time with an alert at the end.
  3. Start working to beat the clock

Seems super simple but I was surprised at how useful it's been. I use my apple watch because I like that I can look down to check the countdown at any time and I also like that it'll vibrate my wrist when it's done opposed to an annoying alarm.

How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)

This is the name of a thread that absolutely blew me away by Naval Ravikant. A friend recommended it to me on LinkedIn and I was in awe at how concisely Naval distills "principles" that he's found to be true on gaining wealth.


Naval is an extremely successful early stage investor and also the founder of AngelList. He's invested early in companies like Twitter, Uber, Thumbtack, Poshmark, Postmates, Notion, & Neuralink.


The thread, on Twitter, is a distillation of principles on how to gain wealth; the ROI on your reading time is bar none. You can find it here.


My favorite is "Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest."


or, in other words... "What can I focus on doing consistently that will gain value proportional to the time I put in?"


Some things that come to mind for me are reading books, attempting (& failing) to start ventures, & sharing everything I learn.

Sign-up for the next Two-Cent

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.