How do you dramatically increase your rate of learning?
And why do we get stuck when we're trying to learn a new skill? Strangely the concept of boxes comes into play.
We move from beginner to average—and then we spin in that middle box, never moving to expert level. So how do we move to expert level? And how can we do that without instruction? Listen to the episode to find more about not just how to learn, but how to teach as well.
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: Understanding the three boxes of learning
Part 2: How construction and deconstruction plays a role in learning
Part 3: How you can start using this accelerated learning system, today.
Right click here and ‘save as' to download this episode to your computer.
This is the Three Month Vacation. I'm Sean D'Souza.
It's a relatively unknown fact that the world's best chicken sexers come almost exclusively from Japan. Now chicken sexing is simply about telling the male chick from the female chick. For poultry owners, especially commercial poultry owners, this knowledge of which is a male chick and which is a female check is very important because that enables them to feed the female chicks and basically get rid of the male chicks, which are unproductive.
In the past, the poultry owners had a problem. They had to wait for about five to six weeks before differentiating male from female. When you have a problem there's always a solution, so from that problem you got the Zen Nippon Chick Sexing School. It began courses in training people how to accurately discriminate the sex of a day-old chick, not five or six weeks but day-old chick. People were able to discriminate instantly.
Of course you had all these experts who over time became very good at distinguishing the male from the female. Well, then you came along. What are you going to do? How many months or years are you going to spend trying to learn this skill? As it appears, you can do it extremely quickly. But you can't do it through traditional methods, which is where someone tells you exactly what you have to do. Instead, it's more a factor of the brain taking over.
We see something very similar unfolding in the Psychotactics cartooning course. If you went into a café and asked about 10 or 15 people, “Can you draw cartoons?” there's a very good chance that almost all of them will say no. Yet within just a few weeks of starting the cartooning course you will find that people are drawing cartoons like Snoopy and Sid from Ice Age and all these complex cartoons with relative ease. How does this transformation occur? What's really working? What is causing this factor of accelerated learning? That's what we're covering in the episode. Because accelerated learning enables you to do the very same task at a very high speed. Therefore you can go on more vacations. Yes, I know, everything ties up to the Three Month Vacation. You want to get very good at your skill and be very quick at it. That's what this episode is all about. It's about accelerated learning and how we can get there in a fraction of the time.
To understand this concept of accelerated learning we have to look at three elements. The first is box one, two, and three. How do they play a role and what causes us to get bogged down, and how can you move past that? Then in the second part we'll look at construction and deconstruction, and how that is important. Finally, we'll look at the practical usage of all of this stuff that we're going to look at today. How are we going to actually use this so that we can learn but also teach, because we're all teachers.
Let's start off with the first element, which is understanding box one, two, and three.
Part 1: Understanding Box One, Two, and Three
Let me tell you the story about my hairdresser. His name is Francis. Now Francis grew up in Samoa and he was brought up by his grandfather. His grandfather was a fisherman, but he also cut hair. Now Francis was 11 years old when his grandfather got him into their saloon, or what he considered to be a saloon. Francis was not allowed to touch the scissors. He was only allowed to sit there and watch or sweet the floor and watch, but all he was doing was watching and watching and watching. No matter how many times Francis asked, his grandfather said, “You're not ready, Francis. You're not ready.”
Francis went through several years of just sweeping the floor and watching. Then one day when he was 15 he came home from school and he walked through the door, and his grandfather says, “Francis, you're ready.” Francis turns around, “Ready? You're ready for what?” He says, “You're ready to cut hair.” He gives him the scissor, and there is this guy sitting in the barber's chair. Now that happens to be Francis' grandfather's friend, so obviously he was ready for that kind of haircut from this absolute beginner who hadn't touched the scissor, who hadn't cut hair. He was trusting him to do a good job. As Francis tells the story, he had no problem whatsoever.
What's happening here? Why is Francis able to cut hair when he has no experience whatsoever? Why is he not feeling any fear when he's cutting the hair, when he should really be extremely fearful? This is the concept of box one, box two, and box three. Box one is when you are kind of hopeless at a task. We want to do something. We know we should do it, but we're not very good at it. Box two is the middle box. We're kind of good at the task but not that great. Eventually we get to box three. That is when we have this fluency and when we don't have to drain our brain's resources.
The problem is that most of us get stuck at box two, and it's the middle box, but you can effectively call it the muddle box. Because when we go from box one … say we're learning a language like Spanish, so we go from box one to box two, and then we get stuck. We have phrases like “where you from” and “what's your name,” and “I'm a professor” or “I'm a student,” whatever. Then we're stuck there and we're spinning there. Why don't we go to box three? Because it's very difficult to go to box three.
That's what the chicken sexers learned. They learned that it was very easy for them to tell the male chicken from the female chicken, but they couldn't tell you how to go about it. Here's what they had to do. They got you to lift the chick and for you to guess. You could guess and you could say, “That's male,” and they would say yes or no. Then you would go about putting the chick in the box, and so you'd go forward. Male chicken, female chicken, male chicken. They would say yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Then suddenly you get it, and no one gave you any instruction.
You can probably imagine the surprise on their faces when they figured out that they didn't have to teach. The students were learning all by themselves. What was really interesting was that these beginners were doing as good a job as the experts. Now granted, chicken sexing is not a very complex job like drawing cartoons or writing a book or flying a plane. Still, to move from box one to box three, how do they do that?
The answer lies in how the brain works. The brain really has two parts: the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is the bully brain. This requires all the steps and methods and logic. This requires all the steps and methods and logic. Then you have to right brain. It doesn't require all of that stuff. It's the creative brain. The creative brain is able to work out the elements that you need to get to that point and then feed it to the left brain, and then work out all the logic. Sometimes that logic never has to happen, which is why those chicken sexers couldn't pass on that skill by telling them do this and do that, and go here and do that.
What the right brain is really doing is it's identifying the errors and eliminating them. When you look at talent, talent is a reduction of errors. These people are getting this skill by reducing the errors, but not knowing what errors they are reducing because the right brain doesn't care. Eventually you're able to get to that skill without having the steps and the logic and the system in place.
There was another part of the secret that needed unfolding, and that was that you needed to learn by example. You know when they were picking up those chicks and going male chick, female chick, male chick, female chick, well you had to go through about 300 examples before you figured it out. But not just 300 examples, but 300 good examples. This is where the expert came into play. The expert was accurate every single time, so they were able to tell you that you were wrong, so you had 300 great examples.
Then you were able to do the task. We see this on the cartooning course as well. What we do is we put people into groups. The groups don't matter as much as the examples. Year after year we get lots of good examples. You curate those examples and you show those groups the examples. What they do is they start to recognize a pattern. They see all these different examples. If you were to tell someone draw a circle, how many ways can you draw a circle? As it appears, many ways some people draw circles with pencils. Some people draw big circles. Some people draw complete designs or a swimming pool with circles. Some people draw characters with circles.
Suddenly the brain is working out a pattern. It's working out how to get from box one to box three, completely eliminating box two. Those 200 to 300 good or great examples of what people need to learn, or rather to eliminate the errors, and that makes them great artists, or great chicken sexers, or great writers, or great speakers. When we look at the Renaissance, we see Michelangelo Buonarroti. We see Leonardo da Vinci. We see Rafael. We see Donatello. We see all of these great artists.
But what's really happening at that point in time? What we are seeing is 200 to 300 great examples, all of them in the same or similar workshops experimenting but also comparing each other's work. There is an explosion of talent. There is this moment in time and history when you have amazing art and amazing architecture, and we can't explain why it happens, but we can. It's going from box one to box three requires those 200 to 300 good examples. That's how you move ahead, especially when a skill cannot be taught.
We see this in the article writing course or the cartooning course, or any of the courses that we've constructed. We've constructed it in this way because we know that if the clients just show up and they do their assignments, and we give them those great examples, they will get very good at that skill. Now granted that cartooning or copywriting or article writing is far more complex than, say, chicken sexing. Still, when you go through those examples and you go through a system, that's when your brain eliminates or reduces the errors, and that's when you get talent. It's not something inborn. It's something that can be acquired. You can go from box one to box three in an accelerated way if you know how to get there with those examples. The key to a Psychotactics course is the quality of the examples. There is another element, and we'll talk about that in the next section, which is construction and deconstruction.
This takes us to the second part, where we're talking about construction and deconstruction, and how it plays a role in learning, but learning in an accelerated format.
Part 2: Construction and Deconstruction
I think most of us remember when we learned to ride a bicycle. One thing becomes very clearly apparent, and that is no one can actually teach you how to ride a bicycle. You can have a mother or a father or some kind of guide, and they're teaching you how to ride. They're saying just pedal pedal pedal, balance, go to your left, go to your right. But they're not giving you an instruction.
In effect, the left brain, the bully brain, it can't do anything. It's stuck because it requires this instruction and it requires it in a systemized way, and it's not getting it in a systemized way, and you're crashing to the floor all the time. Then the right brain takes over and it works out the errors and eliminates those errors, and soon you're just riding down the road at top speed with no problem at all.
Most of us are not prepared to fall down and get bruised all the time when we're learning a skill like cartooning or when we're learning writing or storytelling or presentations. What we need now is a factor of construction. This is where a good teacher comes into play. Good teachers are teachers, not preachers. There's a huge difference between a teacher and a preacher. A lot of information that you have in books or courses or workshops, or even presentations, is based on preaching, not teaching. The reason why it's based on preaching is because it's easy. You can take information and stack it up one over the other and you can have a book, you can have a course, you can have anything you want.
Teaching, that requires deconstruction, so the teacher must be able to break it down to a very, very small part that you're able to apply. When you're looking at how you're going to learn very quickly through the method of deconstruction, you have to look for the teacher, because the teacher will have a system, and the carrier will have a group. Within that group there will be examples.
To begin with, the system will have very tiny increments. This is what we do at Psychotactics. We make sure that you go one inch or even one centimeter a day. You move very slowly ahead, because you master that skill and then you move to the next, and then you learn skill A and skill B, and then skill A and B and C, and you have this layering system. Groups make a huge difference as well, because groups or members of the group start to make mistakes. When they make mistakes, those mistakes can be identified, those mistakes can be corrected, and essentially that's what talent is. Talent is a reduction of errors.
You have to know the errors in the first place to fix them, and that's how the group works. A great teacher will have that system, will have those groups, will have those examples. That's how you learn, because they have deconstructed everything down to those tiny increments. You only have to do one little step every single day. You will still make the mistake. When you make that mistake, others learn from it, and of course the teacher can step in and fix the mistake.
You compare this with learning by yourself. First of all, you have this book and it has chapters. Within the chapters there are subchapters, and there's more and more and more information. There's not this factor of tiny increments. When you don't have tiny increments, and you don't have examples, and you don't all of this facility to learn, then learning becomes very difficult. This is why we abandon learning. This is why we need to change the way we look at learning, which involves the teacher, the system, the group, and the examples. Because the examples, those 200 to 300 examples, they're very important. Examples can come in many forms. They can come in stories, in case studies, in how to. But essentially those examples become the critical element that allows the brain to filter out all the rubbish and keep what is important. Suddenly, you become talented.
This brings us to the end of the second part where we look at the system that you could use to learn. One is through construction, which is what the brain does automatically. The second is to find a teacher that is really good at having the system and examples and group. They will teach you through these tiny increments and you get deconstruction. Then you can put the bits together and improve your skill, and become talented very quickly.
Now this takes us to the third part, which is how do we use this?
Part 3: How Do We Use This Accelerated Learning System?
How do we use this while learning or teaching? I mentor my niece Marsha every day. Marsha was having a problem with writing stories with drama. Now all of us know that we have to write better. One of the critical elements of stories is drama. How do you create this intensity where people want to listen to you, where they want to read your stuff? She was writing these stories that just didn't have any drama.
How are you going to teach an 11 year old kid how to work with drama? As it appears, it's remarkably simple. what I did was I used the same concept of chicken sexing. I started out with a good story, then a boring story, then a good story and a good story, and a boring story, boring story, good story. You know how this is going to unfold, don't you? Marsha was able to identify which was the boring story and which was the good story. Once I gave her a number of examples, and I continue giving her those examples whenever she's writing, what we have is a situation where she'll go back and she'll write a great story.
Now notice that I haven't specifically given her any method to write great stories, but she's worked it out. Her brain has worked out what is a boring story, what is a good story. Without too much effort, it has gone from box one to box three, and there's very little input except identifying which was good and which was bad. This is now where the second part comes in, which is the construction bits.
Now when you have to system, when say now we're going to concentrate on this little bit, then you can build on that, and that's when that skill goes from just average to brilliant. It goes from box one to box three, and then box 3.1 maybe. We do this on the headline writing course. You are soon able to write hundreds, even thousands of headlines, which incidentally you do on the course. You're able to do it because you can identify the good from the bad, but more importantly, you also have the construction methods, which is what makes a great headline.
Most people, they guess. They expect that they can just copy your headline and change the words. They don't understand what's happening. It's important not to understand, but it's also important to understand. The construction and the deconstruction is very critical. The ability to let your brain figure it out all by itself is very critical, but then to get to 3.1 it really helps to have those methods in place as well, the system that a teacher will bring, the tiny increments, the examples. You have high quality examples and high quantity examples.
That is precisely what happened in the Renaissance. All those great artists, sculptors, engineers, they all came from one age because they had high quality and high quantity. That is the same reason why Francis could pick up that scissor and cut hair when he came home from school. Which of course brings us to the end of this episode, in which we have covered just three things, which is very critical when you're teaching and when you're learning to learn just a little bit, very tiny increments.
We learned about box one, box two, and box three, and how we get stuck in that middle or muddle box, and how it's important to jump from box one to box three. How do we do that? We do that through high quality and high quantity examples. That's when we get to fluency.
The second thing is when you're looking at deconstruction and construction. While it's fine to fall around like we're doing on bicycles, it's not very helpful. What we have to do is find a teacher, a teacher with a system, a group, and of course tons of examples. Because that's where the magic really lies. Finally, when you're learning, you want to find 200, 300 great examples. But when you're teaching you can create the situation where you're creating good, bad, good, bad, good, bad. The client is then just made to identify it, and they become very good at it. Then you can bring in the construction bits. Then you can layer over your system and they move from box one to box three, and possibly 3.1.
What's the one thing that you can do today? It's going to be very hard to find examples, and hundreds of good examples, and high quality examples. What you can do is you can start to accumulate examples so that when you're teaching someone you have those examples in play. Then you stop becoming a preacher and you start becoming a teacher. Because they can learn just on the basis of the examples that you put together. That takes them to a whole new level of accelerated learning.
This brings us to the end of this accelerated learning episode. By the time you listen to this podcast, you've probably missed the headline writing course, so you missed a great opportunity to see how this unfolds. But there is also the DaVinci cartooning course. That's at psychotactics.com/davinci. If you've enjoyed this episode, share it with your friends. They need to learn how to learn better as well. This episode will really help them, so share it with them. If you've already done the sharing, go to iTunes and leave a review, because that really helps. You go to iTunes, leave a review, and there is the subscribe button, the purple subscribe button, hit that purple subscribe button, and yes, you get subscribed to this wonderful Three Month Vacation that comes to you week after week.
Finally, if you haven't already subscribed to the Psychotactics newsletter, then you should do so because you can get a great report on resistance. Go to www.psychotactics.com/resistance, and you'll find out why resistance plays an important role in learning, and how it's not just about laziness. That's psychotactics.com/resistance. That's me, Sean D'Souza, saying bye for now. Bye bye.