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How to Learn in School

On 22, Oct 2012 | No Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

Regardless of the obvious flaws in the education system, most people still have to endure at least eighteen years of it, if not more.

I love challenging traditional notions that no one else challenges.

Take studying for example: It is nearly unanimously accepted that spending more time learning studying will make a person smarter.

But I believe that such thoughts are largely misguided. While counselors and teachers heavily emphasize the amount of time a student should be working on academic-related work, it is much more practical and effective to focus on what is actually beneficial to a person’s learning.

In my four years of high school, I picked up how to maximize results of the time I spent on academics, while retaining facts and exploring areas that were of interest to me.

I went to a nationally distinguished and highly competitive high school that sent students to every single Ivy League college.

And yet, while many of my peers spent hours and hours studying, I can probably count the number of times I actually sat down to study with one digit. And even despite studying only a fraction of the amount that my classmates studied, I maintained a solid 3.9 GPA in high school.

And with the extra time that I had, I focused my energy on actually learning thing that I cared about, such as web, graphic, circuit design, etc.

I’ve never believed in studying the way that most school teachers explained it. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning new things, and challenging myself to grow. But if you tell me that successful learning is found in patterns of reading, doing homework, and taking exams, you’ve been listening to what other people tell you too much.

True learning comes from an internal desire to expand your horizons. Such a desire can be manifested in a desire to take a class, go to school, etc, but is not limited to traditional means.

The most effective way to learn is have an internal passion and drive to learn it on your own. But most of the time, schools and educational systems do not give students enough freedom to allow students to learn completely in accordance to their passions.

For example, I love writing. I love expressing my thoughts on a blog, and articulating what’s on my mind to the internet. I am genuinely interested in improving my skills as a writer, but the writing class required for my college makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Why? because the class puts me in a box, forces me to analyze poorly written articles that I have no interest in, and then expects me to pick a side and come up with arguments for it.

Children, when they are born, are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to learn about the mechanics of trains, cars, and planes, animals, or anything else they can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. It only takes a decade of schooling to demotivate them from learning. They start dreading subjects because they are forced to memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam, and their genuine internal drive starts fading away.

Perhaps it would be most effective to avoid the education system altogether, if you’re an individual that is motivated and driven enough to learn things on your own. But for most of us, who are in school for a degree, or because we need classes, exams, and fear of failure to motivate us, here are some ways to readjust your mindset and allow yourself freedom to actually learn.

If you never want to spend an hour studying ever again, you have to focus on learning. You have to learn the material to the point where you are able to teach it to someone else. There were countless of times in high school when I walked into a class, and remembered upon walking into the class that there was an exam that day. Did I study the night before? No. Did I freak out because I didn’t study? No. Did I have a nervous breakdown? No. I sat down and aced the test.

I was able to maintain that habit throughout high school because I focused on learning the material as soon as it was taught, not waiting for an upcoming exam to force it all into my head. I let my mind connect different subjects together, seeing the big picture of how everything I was learning was connected to everything else. That way, I was always prepared for an exam, and never let fear serve as a motivator to learn.

Here’s the big catch. If you want to get more out of school, you have to care less about your grade. In fact, it would probably be the most advantageous to learning if you never saw your grade or numerical progress in a class. That way, instead of worrying you won’t get a good grade, you can focus on truly learning and understanding the material being taught. In fact, learning not to care about your grade will naturally relieve you from being as stressed, tired, and burnt out, allowing you to actually learn in a healthier mental state.

The 80/20 rule applies to learning as well. If you aren’t familiar with the 80/20 rule, it basically states that 20% of the input causes 80% of the output. Applied to learning, 20% of the effort will allow you to understand 80% of the material.

I believe that anybody can do this. Most people have difficulty unlearning everything they’ve been taught about how to study, thus hindering them from being motivated from a deeper, more effective place.

This is not to say that one way of studying is perfect for everyone. You will definitely have to experiment with circumstances, environments, and conditions that will help you learn best, or motivate you to learn best.

Take advantage of what you have. Just because you aren’t in a class doesn’t mean you can’t learn that subject. Just because your professor teaches math doesn’t mean you can’t ask them about art. Don’t feel boxed in by the suggestions of other people, learn to think outside the box and be as creative as you can.

Think deeper.

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Why Fliering is Stupid

On 05, Oct 2012 | No Comments | In Uncategorized | By Daniel Kao

You don’t have to be in college for very long before you get bombarded by millions of fliers you don’t want.

I’ve seen a lot of ineffective practices to try to promote organizations, but handing out fliers to random people on sidewalks is probably the dumbest strategies I’ve seen to date.

  1. It’s frustrating to people who are trying to go somewhere and aren’t looking to join any organizations. Handing them a flier is practically saying, “Here, put this in the recycle bin for me”. It also leads people avoiding fliers to avoid eye contact with people handing out fliers, or pretend to talk on the phone so no one bothers them.
  2. It’s frustrating to people who are handing out fliers because it requires a lot of effort to constantly try to force a flier on people who don’t want it and don’t want to engage in advertisements. Handing out fliers requires a huge amount of effort and most of the time there is little to no response.
  3. It’s completely ineffective because any organization handing out fliers is competing with all the other organizations that are trying to do the same thing. And when each person only hears a sentence from each organization, and only spends two seconds looking at the flier before disposing of it, few people are actually going to come out.

Fliering is a lose-lose situation, because neither the receiving end or giving end benefits from it. If you want people to join your organization, you’re asking them to place themselves into a community of people who are oriented toward a similar purpose. Therefore, building an organization of any sort is heavily dependent on building community. Community requires relationship. There is no way you can build a relationship with a stranger by handing out a flier.

I believe in the value of promoting your organization, but I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at how impractical most college organizations are being.

And enticing people with free food… I’ll save that rant for another day.

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