5 Bottlenecks of learning

Overly reliant on technology

The mind is the headquarter of knowledge. The operations in the mind give birth to new synaptic patterns, new concepts, new ideas. This is where the action happens and this needs to be emphasized especially in today’s sea of technology.

The tools you work with are a middleman, they bring results only indirectly. So the mind is the bottleneck, not your set of tools. Speed of processing knowledge is the #1 bottleneck, the #1 thing to focus on and the leader in the learning process. This cannot be emphasized enough!

If you spend time with a tool, results won't follow. If you use 2 years working with a tool like SuperMemo or Anki, results won't follow. Now if you spend time with the tool and actually process the knowledge in your mind, the results will follow.

The point being, you need to always be mind-oriented. Even the text in a book is secondary, choice of words are even less important, the conceptual part, the mind part, this is where the results lie. The more you allocate your resources towards the mind, the better the outcomes.

Lack of creativity in learning material

The big principle of creativity is that inspiration can be found anywhere. This is not only true for some artistic processes, but it is true for learning scientific knowledge as well. That is because concepts in our brain are the outcome of a long series of analogies by nature. If we trace back enough, we can always find a common point. See: Tom Chi - Everything is Connected.

You can find similar mechanisms from anywhere, because everything in our universe is about vibrations. Things are moving, mechanisms work under similar principles. You can find parallels between programming and acting. You can think of a mathematical variable as a placeholder, and see the same thing as you pour milk into an empty mug. That mug is a placeholder, in which you can pour whatever liquid you want. Mug = milk, x = 2.

This does not mean that when you want to understand something, you should target just about anything, but it means that you should keep your eyes and mind open for spontanious analogies. The wider your concepts expand in the nature, the more prominent your structure of knowledge turns to be, and the higher your creative capabilities will be. The more parallels you’ll find and create, the more breakthroughs you come up with.

Micro- instead of macro-optimization

You want to have the most efficient learning possible. We need to identify what are the key drivers in your process in order to maximize your efficiency, everything else is secondary. For this, we divide your learning to macro and micro sections:

- Material selection (what will you read, watch or listen to) 
- Priorities (what will you read in which order)
- Knowledge targeting (what do i specificly want to get out of this material?)
- Knowledge processing (how do i transform this to be usable in my life, how do I make sense of things)

- Creating flashcards & extracts
- Typing & conventions (pressing buttons etc)
- Templates & set-up (how nice the enviroment is)

I see so many people stressing over speed especially and Anki community is notorious for min-maxing their space smashing speed, even if that should be the least of their concern. I think this is deceiving and stems from lack of experience in long term memories. They haven’t seen how 2+ year intervals behave, what works and what does not in the long term.

Reading literally, not semantically

Devil is the details and devil is the punctuation. Your thoughts = concepts. And a concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world (to which words can be attached to). When you have text in front of you, your job as a learner is to evoke a series of concepts when you read it. Repeat, series of concepts in arbitrary order. Like a jigsaw puzzle, it does not matter whether you read from the middle to the end to the start, as long as the concepts are evoked, and they form a coherent picture of the matter in hand.

Each concept is triggered selectively by the situation, and each concept can be described with many ways. I see many beginners memorizing some very specific language a single author uses, and focusing on punctuation of that specific person. They are orienting themselves towards specifics instead of general. Then they struggle to form synthesis and tackle new problems.

Semantic = meaning, there is million ways to describe a thing, do not dare to hit that fail grade in your spaced repetition system, if you pronounce the correct concept in your head with slightly off words. You create spelling item for that, if you want to be precise.

Seeing knowledge as structures and sequences, instead of as concepts

Previous topic explained concepts partially and in the same sentiment, you should treat all your learning material as concepts. There is no “chapter 1”, there is just bunch of arbitrary concepts in an arbitrary order. A book of basic economics is not some magical order of concepts presented in the nature. The author decided that these concepts form a good understanding of basic principles and put them in some arbitrary order. Another author has different concepts in different order.

There are sensible orders if the concepts build upon each other, but this is often overexaggerated. As we’ve learned to read in this linear way, people are often hesitant to break it. That goes also to the point of lack of creativity in the learning material. They treat the knowledge in the book as if these concepts are locked tightly inside of this specific book and underestimate the concepts they already know in serving to understand the material. Hypothetically, if I was a very young child, and somehow I’ve seen some bacteria doubling in my dads laboratory, before I had any touch on math, I probably would understand the nature of exponentiality better than some elementary math drills.

The point being, no magic order, concepts are long series of analogies, you have a lot of concepts that you don’t realize could serve you in learning, probably because of some personal inhibition. Each concept you can always look and back up from anywhere in the internet, supportive knowledge is everywhere, in your mind, in youtube, in google… Concepts…