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Learning How To Learn How To Learn

So they say there is more than one way to skin a cat. College is a cat with a lot of skin, and thick skin at that. Over the past week, I’ve been reexamining my approach to learning new concepts. Taking notes? Yes. Flash cards? Totally. Ready for an exam? Uhhhh…not yet. The thing is, with certain ideas, they just slide right out of my head when I need them most. I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time developing patterns to retain the new information and access those files readily and at will. Recently, I read a book called The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin – the young man in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. If you’re unfamiliar with that movie, go ahead and google it. I’ll wait.

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Pretty cool, right? Well, as it goes, Josh wasn’t just good at chess – he was good at learning. Actually, that language I just used is part of the problem we all face. He wasn’t good or bad at anything. He simply did things that helped him succeed and fail at certain things. In our case, it would be certain courses or subjects. He recognized patterns, internalized them, and repeated them at will to create a “flow” state. Now before I get all woo woo on you, I want to back off and tell you that I am by no means a Jedi. I would describe myself as C-3PO half the time, and maybe Han Solo here and there. At the end of the day, I’m closer to Chewbacca. So exhausted you don’t understand a word that comes out. That’s when my wife becomes Han – she’s the only one who can decipher the growls.

Anyway, back to learning. After becoming a world champion in chess, Josh went on to become a two time world champion in Tai Chi Chuan – the martial art version of Tai Chi. He also earned a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Marcelo Garcia, widely regarded as one of the best practitioners to put on a gi.

How can we use this information? Josh taught a peer of his how to enter a flow state, and my Biology study group and I are currently mimicking the process. I wanted to share this with you all. Think of something you like to do for fun. Something that makes you feel free and as comfortable as possible. Create a routine and practice it after this activity and turn it into a habit. After a few times, you’ll begin to train your brain to get into that comfortable state simply by performing the routine you’ve created. Follow? Pretty soon, that PB sandwich you eat after playing the bass for an hour will trigger that flow state. Bio exam? No worries. PB sandwich to the rescue!

We are still ironing out our particular routines, but this is the general premise. Of course it’s a little more complex than peanut butter, but you get the idea. Please, if you do try this, comment and keep us updated. *Collective Consciousness*




My name is Raul Torrento. I am a local, born in DC proper and raised in the area (Aspen Hill, Springfield, DC, Falls Church, Annandale). Music, gymnastic strength training, and Muay Thai are just a few things I enjoy. I also have a slackline and a skateboard. Those get used.

I am a lover of complete and total physical and mental exertion. Finding new ways to achieve that panting glory is what keeps me spry. Music is something I’ve always loved, since my hands first touched the congas at age 4. A father of three, I appreciate every little moment I remember to focus on – because they tend to pass by in a blur as a result of trying to keep up with them. I don’t take myself too seriously, instead I focus on the importance of my work – whether that’s practicing a tuck handstand, fine tuning an L-sit, finding a new groove on my bass, nailing a new recipe, or whipping up a classic cocktail for a complete stranger. Oh yeah – I’m a bartender too. More importantly, I am a student. Of everything. Forever.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Let me know how this works out! I think it is true that we can “learn” how to learn, but I think everyone must have their own learning style. What never worked for me was how to use process of elimination on SAT tests. Kids uses to repeatedly tell me they boosted their score by getting it down to two choices and being therefore left with a 50-50 chance. So how come I seemed to always choose the wrong one! I think how w learn and how we test has more to do with how we process information in our brain. Looking forward to your results!

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