It is far from being a gift a lucky few have. It can be trained: By exposing kids to tones and challenging them to match them before age 4, they can develop perfect pitch for the rest of their life. Even adults can learn some of this, though there is some brain plasticity at that young age that makes it easier.
So did the young Mozart have a gift for perfect pitch? Yes and no. If Mozart had been raised in some other family without exposure to music—or without enough of the right sort of exposure—he would certainly have never developed that ability at all.
There is no such thing as natural talent or prodigies.
The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.
The reason that most people don’t possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it.
The traditional approach to learning is not designed to challenge this: It assumes that learning is all about fulfilling your innate, fixed potential and that you can develop a particular skill or ability without getting too far out of your comfort zone.
Principles of Deliberate Practice:
It offers the following view: anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way.
Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.
Improvement is possible is we learn to let go of these myths:
Keep in mind three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it.
Break the skill down into components that you can do repeatedly and analyze effectively, determine your weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.
Many people tend to feel embarrassed about not being able to read fast enough or are made fun of when they read slow. But the fact that reading is not a natural human ability needs to be kept in mind.
Reading is a skill that we acquire through years of development with the coordination of cognitive strategies such as image recognition and linguistic pairing since reading is not a skill that is hardwired into our brains.
Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist, deconstructed the process of reading and the constraints we face when doing so such as:
The key to learning is to stop passively consuming information and start actively engaging with the ideas we encounter.
One effective way researchers have found to reinforce learning is through reflective writing: It promotes the brain’s attentive focus, boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns and gives the brain time for reflection.
It serves as a tool for identifying what you should prioritize on a daily basis, and what you should let go of. And it also gives you a record of the progress you’ve made toward your goals to keep you motivated.
The better you get at a skill, the less of your brain is being used actively.
As you learn something, your brain wires more specialized circuitry for solving the problem with less effort. Using less of your brain is an advantage, since that is more efficient.
Learning is a lot easier when it’s interesting. And what makes learning interesting is the degree of your curiosity about a certain subject.
Career opportunities and the fear of failure can motivate us. But if you really want to learn something, nothing beats curiosity.
Curiosity was first pictures as an unpleasant state that we were motivated to decrease.
In 1994, George Loewenstein offered a more modern take in his information-gap theory. His theory stated that curiosity was driven from the gap between what you know and what you’d like to know.
Knowledge about a subject predicts curiosity for new knowledge. And this happens because you need to have some information before you can ask good questions. Since good questions are the raw material for curiosity, it’s difficult to be curious about something when you can’t ask any questions.
This shows that learning creates a positive feedback loop. The more you know about a topic, the more likely you are to have unanswered questions that direct and motivate curiosity.
To be more curious, you have to rethink the information you've acquired in terms of the key mysteries it was developed to solve.
Your curiosity will be stronger when you'll have a concrete, unanswered question that seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to solve.
Research found that people who embrace opposing demands show greater creativity, flexibility, and productivity.
This is called a "paradox mindset" and it can be cultivated.
Reflecting on apparent contradictions can break down our assumptions and offer us new ways of looking at problems.
Psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg noted that each revolutionary thinker had spent time actively thinking of multiple opposites simultaneously. For example, Einstein considered how an object could be both at rest and moving depending on the position of the observer. This led to his relativity theory.
Studies have shown that "paradoxical cognition" can help average thinkers to solve everyday problems.
Researchers demonstrated that people that have to reflect on apparently paradoxical goals, such as minimizing costs and maximizing innovation, are more creative than those who only consider one goal or the other.
We can note any paradoxes we encounter and then make a point of contemplating them before we try to solve it.
Your own job may already contain contradictory goals that could inspire paradoxical cognition. Previously, you may have assumed that you need to abandon one of the goals, but now you might spend more time considering the ways you can pursue them both, simultaneously.
As people get older, they often lose their motivation to learn new things. This get-up-and-go attitude is vital for our social well-being and learning.
In order to survive, we need to be able to learn what is good for us, and what is bad for us. But, a person may value a reward so highly that the risk of experiencing a possible cost is ignored. Another may wish to avoid the cost to the exclusion of all rewards. This may result in reward-driven learning in some, and cost-driven learning in others.
Many mental health disorders can skew the ability to evaluate the cost and rewards of an action, such as anxiety and depression.
A depressed person may undervalue potentially rewarding experiences.
Neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining cost and reward motivation.
Researchers are working on possible drug treatments that could stimulate this circuit. They suggest that training patients to enhance activity in this circuit through biofeedback could offer another potential way to improve their cost-benefit evaluations.
The modern world equates the intelligent person will the well-read person. It's difficult to think of anyone arriving at any worthy insights without having read an impressive number of books.
But despite the pressure to read through multiple awarded and fascinating books, we might pause and reflect on an interesting aspect of the pre-modern world: Reading was important, but it never put people under any pressure to read very much at all. It was more important to read a few books very well and not waste time on a great number of volumes.
The premodern world was obsessed with asking, "what is the point is of reading?" They had answers too.
The modern world has adopted an Enlightenment mantra that states there should be no limit to how much we read because we read in order to know everything. We don't read to understand God or to follow civic virtue; we read to understand the whole of human existence.
This maximalist legacy of the Enlightenment idea of reading is present within the publishing industry, within the way books are presented to the public at school and in shops, and within our own guilty responses to the pressure to read more.
Our exhaustive approach to reading does not make us truly happy. We appear to have a permanent sense of being under-read when compared with our peers and what the media has declared respectable.
To simplify our lives, we should ask the same old-fashioned question: What am I reading for? Rather than answering 'to know everything' we might find a more limited, focused, and useful goal. A new mantra to guide our reading may be: we want to read in order to learn to be content.
With this new targeted ambition in mind, to read for personal contentment, the pressure to read all the time starts to lift. We have the option of only a dozen books on our shelves and yet feel in no way intellectually undernourished or deprived.
When we know that we are reading to be content, we won't need to chase every book published. The more we understand what reading is for us, the more we can enjoy intimate relationships with a few works that deeply shaped us to live and die well.
Neuroscientists explore the biology behind processes such as the formation of memories, creative processes, etc.
Neuroeducation is a recent discipline that draws together researchers in neuroscience, educational psychology, and educational technology. Neuroeducation is about how scientific findings can be translated into the real world.
Learning starts in childhood and continues into adulthood. Some learning happens in our spare time, and a lot in the workplace.
Many of the current applications of neuroeducation in the classroom are usable in the workplace. Since $80 billion is spent every year on corporate training in the United States, we need to ensure training interventions are effective. Neuroeducation could provide an answer, ensuring employees understand how the brain thinks, learn, and make decisions.
We're often presented with challenges that we've not encountered before that may leave us feeling fearful of making mistakes. But no one can reduce mistakes to zero.
However, if you understand how anxiety works at a cognitive level, you can learn to use it to prevent errors.
Don't be ashamed or afraid of your fear of making mistakes, and don't think that being fearful is evidence that you're an indecisive leader. If you are prevention-focused, channel it to be bold and visionary.
The traditional image of a leader is one who is intelligent, brave, and unafraid. Your concern about making mistakes is there to remind you that you're in a challenging situation. Being cautious has value.
Fear of mistakes can prevent people from taking action. Overcome this paralysis with emotional agility skills:
.. but only when you are solutions-focused. We can control systems, not outcomes. If you have a system to avoid mistakes, ask yourself:
When we're scared of making a mistake, we can become fixated on that particular scenario. For example, if you're worried about tripping at night, you keep looking at our feet.
When you see your fears in the broader context of all the other threats, you can get a better perspective. Thinking about other negative outcomes can help put you into a problem-solving mode and lessen the mental grip a particular fear has on you.
Fear grabs our full attention. However, some people react to fear with extreme hyper-vigilance. They want to be on guard all the time.
That type of adrenalin-fuelled behaviour can have short-term value, but it can also be myopic. We need leisure and sleep to see the bigger picture and think about tough problems holistically.
When people are fearful, they may have the urge to constantly look at what everyone else is doing. This can result in information overload and you may feel cloudy or shut down.
Recognise if you're doing this and limit over-monitoring or over-checking.