Sunday, November 3, 2013

Inspiring Example, Practical Steps (a repost)

Emerson Spartz
A non-traditional approach to self-improvement

*** NOTE: This is continued from EmersonSpartz.com.

My self-education program consisted of three parts: reading, reviewing, and rehearsal.

READ - At Notre Dame, I set a goal of reading one non-fiction book every day until graduation. Goal: condense decades of experiences into the shortest period of time possible. Fastest way to do this? Learn vicariously through other peoples' experiences. Why? Our brains can't tell the difference between something real and something vividly imagined.

I taught myself how to speed-read and devoured books about business, politics, psychology, economics, technology, science, and more. Goal: learn as much about the world as possible. It wasn't just books. I poured through hundreds of annual reports/10ks, how-to manuals, trade publications, scientific studies, and industry reports on a variety of industries - from Drywall Contracting to Natural Gas Wholesaling. Goal: learn everything possible about the structure of commerce. Discover the patterns of business success.

REVIEW - After significant research on the subjects of learning and memory, I reviewed all of the concepts I wanted to remember on a spaced-repetition schedule: a day later, a week later, a month later, then every six months.

REHEARSE - I organized different topics into frameworks. From there, I further desegregated the information into scripts, using various mnemonic devices that I practiced applying to specific situation. For example, I took all the best tactics, techniques and strategies from my studies of negotiation and synthesized them into an acronym to aid in recall. Then I practiced 'using' these strategies with mental rehearsal - replaying real or fictional negotiations in my head while applying the strategies. This is the 'corporate athlete' equivalent of doing what I did earlier in my life as a basketball player shooting 1000 free throws in a row with the goal of flawless execution during the game.

ANALOGY - You wouldn't learn Spanish trying to pick it up as you go along. You'd start by studying its structure and memorize key words. Then, when you achieved a certain level of competence, you'd begin full immersion.

Sure, you can learn from experience alone. But as Ben Franklin said, "Experience is a dear teacher." First knowledge, then experience. Think, then do.

There are usually faster, better ways of doing things IF you do your homework.