Recently, I decided to choose for full responsibility of my mental health problems. I decided to go all-in like Stephanie Buttermore. This is a theme I will tell more about in the next paragraph. In this blog post I will share my new strategy to learn three new skills every month in order to become a hyper-adaptable monkey! Maybe that was a failed reference.
One evening, I was mindlessly scrolling through the internet and procrastinating to go to sleep. I got sucked into a blog post on Medium from Danny Forrest. He told me that he learned three skills each month and that I could do that, too.
I do not shy away from a challenge and I decided to save the blog post and read it again the next day. It is always important to sleep on these kind of new ideas. The next day though I still felt inspired by this idea. There was only one extra step: “I had to write a blog post about it and tell you all about it.”
All in food challenge
I went all-in! In reality, this is just a fancy and catchy term to indicate that I am following the homeodynamic recovery method. This is a method used in eating disorder recovery. It is one of the exceptions that actually has some evidence to support its efficiency.
I will include the fundamental ideas of this recovery program.
- Weight restoration
- Brain retraining
These fundamentals will make sure that my hormonal system is restored and my brain will have enough energy to do brain retraining. You cannot train a malnourished brain. Makes sense, right?
One thing to notice is that eating disorders are a neurobiological disorder. The disorder can be in remission but can never be cured. It is something that is always dormant in my brain. I can deactivate it but it will never be removed.
The brain retraining addresses the fact that you will have maladaptive responses to your anxiety after you eat during re-feeding. These maladaptive responses consist out of exercising, clean eating, dieting, and so on. You need to train your brain to get well adapted responses to the anxiety. The good response would be to accept the anxious feelings.
While we are training the brain and giving it its proper nutrition, it is time to get into skill acquisition. This is part two of this blog post where you are all excited about.
How to learn 3 skills each month and become hyper-adaptable?
Sarah, learning three skills each month is a bit audacious to say? I understand why you would think this way. We all have the tendency to talk ourselves down. We cannot possibly do the same things like ambitious Kelly next-door. She has way more energy than me. She also has a lot more time to do all this stuff.
The truth is that nobody really thinks like Kelly. Real ambitious people do not judge themselves. They know the skills of personal management. They know how to direct themselves to the goals they want to achieve. I will just give you a framework to learn more in just one month. This framework will not make you smart or more productive. It just makes you less likely to fall short on your dreams.
You can learn more than one skill each month. You do not need to be this boring and mundane person. The world is already full of these kind of people. There is need for some more audacity and quirkiness.
What is a skill?
A skill could be defined by the following criteria:
- Ability: You can show a level of proficiency.
- Action: Learning is and should always be active. If you cannot show your skill in action, you have potentially learned nothing.
- Anything: A skill could almost be anything. The only limit is your own imagination. Who said writing about learning skills is not a proficient skill on its own?
- Acceptable: You just need to reach an acceptable level of proficiency to say you “master” the skill.
Be aware that most skills will have to be broken down into sub-skills to make them more manageable to learn. You could for example break down mathematics in the different sub-skills going from Algebra to Geometry. This is a central idea that will spill over to the next paragraphs.
Why would I want to do this?
It is always a good idea to start with your why. When you find yourself struggling with the idea to learn more skills, then this blog post is probably not for you.
On the other hand, if you want to become a more interesting, intelligent, and generally fun person that people love to hang around with, then this idea could be suitable for you.
The analogy with an athlete
Athletes have one big secret to their success and that is, they use training plans. This is one central idea of their success you can start implementing in your own life.
People tend to learn more in a reactive manner. They learn when a problem arises in the environment. Great thinkers prepare by learning in advance. Great thinkers learn in a pro-active manner.
You should start with an end goal in mind and break it down in small steps. The amount of time you allocate to it, is in some sense arbitrary, but you have to make sure that you have a deadline. Be willing to expect that not everything will go perfect in the first couple of tries.
Use the Goldilocks principle to learn. This is also applied in video games. This principle teaches us to make a challenge that is not too hard but not too easy, as well. The challenge should just match our competencies.
The different types of intelligence
These are the the different types of intelligence according to Howard Gardner. Each person has a different degree in which they possess knowledge in these areas. If you struggled with learning before, the changes are high that you tried to learn a skill in one of your under-developed skill domains:
- Spatial: The skill most females will under-perform in.
- Naturalist: Understanding and reading about nature. Where are all these plant lovers at?
- Musical: Being able to discern sounds, their pitch, tone and timbre. These people can replay any song they hear on their own instrument.
- Logical/ mathematical: These people who always want to make sense of the world using logic and mathematical calculations.
- Existential: These annoying people that make blog posts about existentialism. No pun intended.
- Interpersonal: The skill you need as a doctor to communicate with others. If you do not posses this skill as a doctor, you could still become a surgeon. Definitely, no pun intended!
- Bodily/kinesthetic: Being able to control your body and movements. Preferably in a gracious way.
- Linguistic: Finding the right words to express what you mean.
- Intrapersonal: Understanding and expressing yourself fully while embracing all your feelings and thoughts.
The other parts are considerably behind. That does not mean though you cannot pick a skill out of these categories. Just be aware that they will be slightly be more frustrating and challenging to learn.
How to start?
The worst advice would be if I just told you to start. This is conventional wisdom that we get told over and over again. It is not a good idea to just start. If you do not plan ahead, you are basically subconsciously preparing for failure.
You really want to learn new skills in a maintainable way?
Then you should continue reading!
Start with the process
Think first about the process you will need to go through in order to learn this skill.
Which level of proficiency do you currently have? What are the different learning platforms you could utilize? How could you test yourself during the process? What are the sub-skills you could start with?
These are all important question you could start asking yourself right now. Pick a pen and paper and answer them right now.
You could also use Notion just like me to keep all your thought processes collected in an organized way.
Visualize a skill-tree
Build skill-up trees. Make a graph for yourself where you visually show which skills you need to master before you can master an entire skill. For example, if a child want to learn how to run, it will first have to learn how to crawl, then learn how to balance himself, then learn how to walk, until he can finally run.
You can almost look at it from a gaming perspective. In a gaming environment you have to complete challenges before you can level-up. This same principle will apply to your learning progress.
Consistency and sharing
Set up a learning goal, work with daily check-boxes, and join online groups. In short, “Make it harder to quit than to follow through.”
There is also a lot of power hidden in the act of sharing your process.
In my opinion, that leads to:
- Feedback. Feedback will be an important tool to find out about the areas you should improve. The only pitfall is that you should be really cautious of who gives you feedback. Is this a credible person who is an expert in his field or is this just a scam artist who loves to comment on people’s behavior?
- “Social” pressure. We love to have the feeling that we have some responsibility. We are more likely to finish a given task when we make a commitment with another person. This is just a really easy trick you could include in your learning process.
- Herd effect. When you get into a new community and you see other people sharing their work, you will almost feel guilty if you stay behind. There is no need to feel guilty though. Just try to find out how you can help and inspire other people in your group. There is almost no better motivation than that.
- More creativity. One plus one equals three in social theory. If you combine two creative minds, you will get to more solutions than when you would have been working both alone. Engage in this creative process.
Work on your memory
Improve your memory. You can use different skills like spaced repetition, the Feynman technique, acronyms, visualization techniques, note-taking. Train your brain to remember things. Try to utilize this brain capacity even on simpler stuff like remembering names.
Revise frequently on different locations to consolidate information more easily in your brain. You could, for example, start to study and contemplate on the sofa of your grandmother. You will not only work on your memory but also on your patience levels.
What to do afterwards?
Okay, we are almost there. We have made a plan, we have stuck to it, and now we are one month further. How do you go on after this? Should you continue using this strategy or just call it a day and go back into your usual sloth mode?
I think you should continue your learning process. Preferably, we want to keep doing this cycle until the rest of our lives. There is no better way to keep your brain in a good shape by exercising it daily. This is what you could do right now:
- Use the momentum and dig deeper in the concept.
- Find a complementary skill.
- Do something completely different. This does not mean your knowledge about the previous skill is completely lost. You can maybe integrate concept and ideas from the seemingly unrelated skills into the new skill. Holistic thinking rules!
I am starting this challenge myself as I have committed to three learning goals this month. Don’t consider me as an expert on the topic. I just wanted to share the insights I have discovered after doing some research. It is really as simple as staying consistent and planning beforehand. If you plan and keep yourself responsible, then there is no way you will not succeed. Remember as well, that even learning one skill will make you better than most other people.
Will you join the learning challenge together with me? Are you ready to reach the next level in the game of life? Are you ready to learn more skills to become hyper-adaptable?