How to Win the Competition for Knowledge

Knowledge is the modern arena and mental models are the modern weapons. The prize is wining the competition, becoming successful.

Competition for knowledge

Whether you like it or not, most of you are competing for knowledge. The professions where there is no need to constantly acquire new knowledge are limited, not really valued, and not well-paid, even though some are still essential. Change is rapid, all-encompassing, and … inevitable. Knowledge (and the ability to learn) is a superpower.

I recently read Jim Kwik’s book Unlimited (link to Goodreads). Below I have digested the book into six steps that will help you enable your mind for unlimited knowledge.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.

Henry Ford

Overview

The capacity of your minds is unlimited. As least when it comes to memory, skills, abilities, and knowledge. In order to tap into that capacity, you need to review and improve three aspects – mindset, motivation, and methods. In addition, you need a system for storing knowledge externally – an external brain. We are not going to get in details in this article, but you can learn more information here – How to Improve Book Retention.

Six steps to an unlimited mind

Mindset is all about limitations and growth. If you believe that you cannot do something, you cannot grow, then you most certainly will not be able to do it. Motivation is something you do, not something you have. If you don’t have the motivation to learn something, you won’t learn it. And finally, methods is about the mental models (or shortcuts) have save you time and the tools to acquire them.

Step 1: Get rid of limitations

The first step you need to take in your quest for unlimited mind is getting rid of limitations. Limitations which you’ve put in pace (e.g., slow learner, stupid, slow reader) and limitations which society (your family, your culture) has put in place. Those limitations can be anything – assumptions, attitudes, beliefs. As Daniel Kahneman outlines in Thinking Fast and Slow, these limitations can also be shortcuts. And shortcuts are useful in familiar situations which require fast reaction, but they also limit your potential to learn new things. Jim Kwik calls the “fast brain” the “inner critic”. It is really useful to put a name to that actor and understand that it is not you. There are three steps to reframe a belief: 1) Identify it; 2) Get to the facts; 3) Create a new belief.

Step 2: Adopt a growth mindset

The second step is adopting a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that everything is set (i.e., you believe in your limitations). You have a growth mindset when you believe that everything is malleable, anything can be improved through practice and persistence. When you have a fixed mindset, you measure against somebody else, while with a growth mindset you measure against who you were yesterday. The fixed mindset thinks and compares (analysis paralysis), whole the growth mindset acts. When you act, you can make mistakes, but mistakes are part of the journey.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

Epictetus

Step 3: Adopt a morning routine

The third step and one of the main methods is the morning routine. There is something very powerful in setting accomplishment in motion. Once you create several positive habits (e.g., meditation, exercise, mindfulness, healthy breakfast) into a morning routine, you will be unstoppable. You will be able to predictably get into the right mindset every day. More information here – My Updated Morning Routine, Frustration-free Morning Routine.

Step 4: Concentrate

The fourth step is flexing your concentration muscle. You cannot achieve anything without concentration. Multitasking is a great innovation which helps computers work on multiple things at once, but what they actually do is switching context really fast and working on only one thing at a time. You are not a computer and context switching is very expensive for your brain. When you do something (i.e., read a book, study, learn a new skill), dedicate yourself to that thing. The best way to sustain concentration is using the Pomodoro technique. For more details here – Time Management – Using Pomodoro Technique.

Step 5: Learn by association

The fifth step is association. Your brains do not work the way they teach you in school (repetition, repetition, repetition). Your brain works as a Velcro – new information (hooks) is associated to existing information (rings). There are a few things you can do to improve that muscle. Active recall, means to pause and try to recall as much as possible about what you’ve read. Spaced repetition is about repeating what you’ve learned in time. This is where it becomes clear that the brain is limitless – the more know the more associations you can create to store new knowledge. This is the flywheel of knowledge. For the external brain I recommend using the Zettelkasten method.

Step 6: Create mental models

The final step is mental models. You have acquired all this information, but how can you use it? You can use it to make better decisions. The tool which helps you make better decisions is building mental models (i.e., mental shortcuts), based on what you have learned. You are making your slow brain create mental models for the fast brain, so that the fast brain can make better decisions. Useful mental models are: 40/70 (do nothing until you have 40% of the information, make a decision before you get 70% of the information); study your errors (this will help you uncover more limitations); second-order thinking (ask “and then what” repeatedly to get to the root of the issue); exponential thinking (focus on making something different, not something better).

As you collect and build mental models in various disciplines, think about using them in other fields. For example, a universal law of mathematics is that if you need to solve a really hard problem, you try to solve an easier problem and hope that the answer will be a good enough approximation. You can use a similar approach in decision making by making a small step in the direction of the big decision and measuring the results (e.g., if you want to retire and live on a farm, get a 1-month vacation and spend the whole time on a farm).

One cation

Without gaining new knowledge, without learning, you will be stuck where you are. Stuck while the rest of the world is moving and changing. If you take only one tip from this article, it is to adopt a growth mindset. Learn to believe that you can change anything (especially yourself).

Next steps

What are the next steps?

If you have liked my article, please proceed to my contact page, where you can view various ways to contact me.

Thanks!

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