How to retain 90% of everything you learn

by Sean D'Souza

proof

Imagine if you had a bucket of water. And every time you attempted to fill the bucket, 90% of the water would leak out instantly. Every time, all you’d retain was a measly 10%. How many times would you keep filling the bucket?

The answer is simple: just once.

The first time you noticed the leak, you’d take action
You’d either fix the bucket or you’d get another bucket, wouldn’t you?

Yet that’s not at all the way we learn.
Almost all of us waste 90% of our time, resources and learning time, because we don’t understand a simple concept called the Learning Pyramid. The Learning Pyramid was developed way back in the 1960s by the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine. And if you look at the pyramid you’ll see something really weird.

That weird thing is that you’re wasting time. You’re wasting resources. You’re just doing everything you can to prevent learning. And here’s why.

To summarize the numbers (which sometimes get cited differently) learners retain approximately:
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.

So why do you retain 90% when you teach someone else or when you implement it immediately?
There’s a good reason why. When you implement or teach, you instantly make mistakes. Try it for yourself. (In this article for instance, after I’d read the information, I cited the loss rate as 95% instead of 90% to begin with. I had to go back and correct myself. Then I found three more errors, which I had to fix. These were factual errors that required copy and paste, but I still made the errors).

So as soon as you run into difficulty and start to make mistakes, you have to learn how to correct the mistake. This forces your brain to concentrate.

But surely your brain is concentrating in a lecture or while reading
Sure it is, but it’s not making any mistakes. What your brain hears or sees is simply an abstract concept. And no matter how clearly the steps are outlined, there is no way you’re going to retain the information. There are two reasons why.

Reason 1: Your brain gets stuck at the first obstacle.
Reason 2: Your brain needs to make the mistake first hand.

Reason 1: Your brain gets stuck at the first obstacle.
Yes it does. And the only way to understand this concept is to pick up a book, watch a video, or listen to audio. Any book, any video, any audio. And you’ll find you’ve missed out at least two or three concepts in just the first few minutes. It’s hard to believe at first, but as you keep reading the same chapter over and over, you’ll find you’re finding more and more that you’ve missed.

This is because the brain gets stuck at the first new concept/obstacle. It stops and tries to apply the concept but struggles to do so. But you continue to read the book, watch the video or listen to the speaker. The brain got stuck at the first point, but more points keep coming. And of course, without complete information, you have ‘incomplete information’.

Incomplete information can easily be fixed by making the mistake first hand.

Reason 2: Your brain needs to make the mistake first hand
No matter how good the explanation, you will not get it right the first time. You must make the mistake. And this is because your interpretation varies from the writer/speaker. You think you’ve heard or read what you’ve heard/read. But the reality is different. You’ve only interpreted what they’ve said, and more often than not, the interpretation is not quite correct. You can only find out how much off the mark you are by trying to implement or teach the concept.

So how do you avoid losing 90% of what you’ve learned?
Well, do what I do. I learn something. I write it down in a mindmap. I talk to my wife or clients about the concept. I write an article about it. I do an audio. And so it goes. A simple concept is never just learned. It needs to be discussed, talked, written, felt etc. (I wrote this article, ten minutes after reading these statistics online).

The next time you pick up a book or watch a video, remember this .
Listening or reading something is just listening or reading.
It’s not real learning.
Real learning comes from making mistakes.
And mistakes come from implementation.
And that’s how you retain 90% of everything you learn.

Which is why most of the people you meet are always going around in circles.
They refuse to make mistakes. So they don’t learn.
They’d rather read a book instead. Or watch a video. Or listen to an audio.

Their bucket is leaking 90% of the time.
But they don’t care.
The question is: Do you?

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Already we’ve applied the principles to one of our workshops and the response has been fantastic. The Brain Audit and our ongoing association with Sean has been one of the best business decisions we’ve every made.

paulm
Paul Mitchell, Managing Director, The Human Enterprise, Australia
Judge for yourself The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy And Why They Don’t

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I would recommend 5000bc to any entrepreneur or small business owner as a great source of knowledge and information from like minded people who have often already achieved what you may be struggling to do and can help save you loads of time and ultimately expense in getting to where you need to be.

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Duncan MacIntyre, officechairadvice, Derbys UK

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheia March 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

I guess this is why when i study I remember most of the material because this is how i do it…. I read the text, then I basically summarize it, Imake notes by writing the material i just read in my own words..so i basically pull out the concept or the main point out. I would do this until i finish the book, then i would go back and read the notes I had written…as i go along, i talk to myself as if i am explaining it to another person..in simple terms and even in my native dialect. I do sound like a crazy person when i’m alone but it works for me! :)

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