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How To Learn - What Most Schools 🎓 Don't Teach

I ran into a tweet by Amarachi Amaechi that talked about things schools don't necessarily teach you. Among every item listed, I realized that one more thing most schools don't teach is How To Learn

In Nigeria(my beloved country 😁), one of the most popular forms of learning is La Cram La Pour La Forget. It basically refers to cramming, studying intensively over a short period of time just before an examination, then dishing out what was studied and completely forgetting it after the exam.

I hated this form of learning(If it can even be called that) and after dropping out of school, I sought a better means of learning. After taking various lessons and courses, I found a few ways of learning and decided to share.


"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

Learning as defined by Malcolm Knowles, is a means of gaining knowledge and expertise. 

We have all heard the popular phrase - "If you stop learning, you start dying - Albert Einstein", no words have ever been so true. When you cease to learn, you cease to grow and when you cease to grow, you cease to improve, get better and move forward. With time, you just begin to - exist.

Before we can go into learning how to learn, we must first understand the organ that does the learning - THE BRAIN. We need to under how thoughts are processed in the brain and the various forms of thinking.


A thought is an idea or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind.

The brain is composed of over 50 billion neurons which it uses for communication. The brain is what it is because of the structural and functional properties of interconnected neurons known as - NEURAL NETWORKS.

When you think or process a piece of information, the information is received by the neuron's dendrites and then processed in the cell body.

After the processing is complete, the information is passed to other neurons for processing via the synapse and the whole process is repeated over and over again.


Researchers found out that we have two fundamental modes of thinking, we have the:

  • Focused or Concentrated mode
  • Diffused or Disperse mode

Focused Mode

A man went to the toy store to purchase some toys. He got a toy car and a toy truck, together they both cost $1.10 and the toy truck is $1 more than the toy car. What is the price of the toy car?

After seeing this question, the first thing you might have probably done was to fully concentrate on the question and try to provide an answer - that's Focused Thinking Mode.

With focused thinking, you zero all your thought to a particular spot or location. It's sort of like a flashlight modified to shine only on a particular spot.

Diffused Mode

The diffuse mode is a more relaxed state of thinking. This is the mode or situation your brain is at whenever you either go for walks or a swim or even asleep. 

Think of it like blowing out a dandelion flower. The movement of the petals in the wind can be considered as a sort of Diffused thinking mode.

In this mode, your brain is left to wander and make unintended connections and understandings from different disciplines which allows for the creation of diverse and robust mental models.

These 2 fundamentally different modes of thinking are complementary in our effort to learn and understand new knowledge. It is important to know that you can't do both at the same time. Rather, you need to consciously alternate.


Learning, believe it or not, is really easy. It only takes dedication and repetition. With that said, here are 6 ways we learn:-


Previously, we made mention on the 2 fundamental modes of thinking(focused and diffused). When they are trying to gain new knowledge in a particular field, most individuals usually make the mistake of staying in the focused mode of thinking especially when they are stuck with a particular problem.

Unknown to them, if you keep going at a problem in the focused mode unsuccessfully for too long, you develop tunnel vision(seeing only your own point of view).

A better solution when you are stuck with a problem is to simply switch your mind to a diffused mode of thinking. That's why when most developers are stuck with a bug for a long time, the advice given by most people is - "go to bed and you will be able to solve it in the morning".

Switching to a diffused mode of thinking allows the brain to make other widespread connection. After a few minutes in the diffused mode, you can then switch back to a focused mode of thinking.


You know that game we play where every statement made by someone is met with a sounding "why" question? Well, here you would need to play that game with yourself.

Questioning everything is a good way to learn. Whenever you come across something new or interesting to you, don't just brush it off as another advancement in technology(in Nigeria most people say "Ndi Ocha", they have come again 😂).

 Instead, question what that technology does, question how it was made, question the technologies being used to achieve it. Soon enough, your brain would start trying to making connections and in turn, it begins to learn and search for answers.


"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein

After learning something new, one neat trick you can use to cement the knowledge would be to explain it to someone else_(kinda like am doing now)_. 

By doing this, you are then triggering your brain to store the information in your long-term memory rather than the working memory.


As a kid, I never knew the benefits of exercise. At that time, exercise to me was a means for guys to gain muscles in other to pick up girls(thanks Johnny Bravo 💪).

Exercise has been shown to cause the hippocampus, the part of your brain tasked with the formation of new memories and associated with learning and emotions, to grow in size. This serves to increase mental function in older adults.

Moreover, exercise increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. So the more you exercise, the more your oxygen your brain gets.


"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over." ― Richard Branson

This quote says it all, you don't learn to be a pro footballer by watching Messi play, you don't learn to be a great scientist by watching Sheldon 😅, you learn by taking actions.

When you learn by doing, there is a higher chance of you to retain everything you have learned.


I tried to keep this article as short as possible, hopefully, you were able to finish it. So am CED and ironically I'm a Software Developer 😅. 

Thanks for reading. See anything that needs correcting, do let me know in the comments below. Happy learning y'all 👋.




Top comments (5)

j_mplourde profile image
Jean-Michel Plourde

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley is a nice to have book that really complement well the coursera class for futur references. Since I started using the book tips in my everyday life, I improved in so many ways. It almost feel as cheating, but it is 100% how we function and it's a shame we don't learn that in school. Imagine if I learned that 15 years ago !?

vectormike40 profile image
Victor Jonah

How do I get the book?

j_mplourde profile image
Jean-Michel Plourde

Typically from any decent book retailer. I bought mine on amazon for like 20 bucks IIRC.

candidodmv profile image
Vinicius Dutra

There's no question that the learning process it's too much important. In last years I try figure out how to improve my learning methodology, and I have made so insignificant discovery about that. This can be the next disruption revolution.

rafasmxp profile image

Ah Learning how to learn, this course made a twist in my career.