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Nash

@nash_39

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Perfect Pitch

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.

@nash_39

https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1445050174l/26312997._SY475_.jpg

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

by Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool

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. 

When Practice Doesn't Lead To Improvement
  • We all follow pretty much the same pattern with any skill we learn: We start off with a general idea of what we want to do, get some instruction (teacher, a book, or a website), practice until we reach an acceptable level, and then let it become automatic. 
  • But once you have reached this satisfactory skill level and automated your performance, you have stopped improving.
  • Once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement.
  • Naive practice means doing something repeatedly, and expecting that the repetition alone will improve one’s performance. This is how most people “practice” but it’s ineffective.
  • Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals. Without such a goal, there is no way to judge whether the practice session has been a success.
Components Of Purposeful Practice
  • Purposeful practice means having a plan - putting a bunch of baby steps together to hit a long term goal, 
  • Purposeful practice is focused.
  • Purposeful practice involves feedback: you have to know whether you are doing something right and if not, what mistakes you’re making.
  • Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone, feeling uncomfortable. If you never push beyond your comfort zone you’ll never improve.
  • It involves a way to monitor your progress and a system to maintain your motivation.

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. 

Mental Representations
  • They are mental structure that corresponds to an object, an idea, a collection of information, or anything else, concrete or abstract, that the brain is thinking about.
  • They help with processing large amounts of information quickly, despite the limitations of short-term memory.
  • Your skill in anything is based on the number and quality of “mental representations” you have for the skill.
  • What sets expert performers apart from everyone else is the quality and quantity of their mental representations.

Principles of Deliberate Practice:

  1. The field must be well developed. If there’s no competition to indicate skill, then it’s hard for there to be deliberate practice because the differences of the best are less clear.
  2. Deliberate practice requires a teacher who can provide practice activities designed to help a student improve his or her performance.
  3. Near maximal effort, constantly being taken out of your comfort zone by a teacher or coach. Not “fun”
  4. Well defined, specific goals, not aimed at “overall improvement.”
  5. Full attention and conscious action, no autopilot.
  6. Feedback and constant little improvements, modifying efforts in response to feedback
  7. Building and modifying mental representations
  8. Focusing on building and improving specific skills by focusing on aspects of those skills and improving them
The Deliberate Practice Mindset

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:

  1. The belief that one’s abilities are limited by one’s genetically prescribed characteristics.
  2. If you do something for long enough, you’re bound to get better at it.
  3. All it takes to improve is effort. If you just try hard enough, you’ll get better.
Effectively Practice A Skill Without 
A Teacher

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.

  • The best way to move past any plateau is to challenge your brain and body in a new way. Figure out the components of the skill that are holding you back, and find a way to push yourself more on those specific elements. Design a practice technique focused on improving that specific weakness.
  • To keep working on something, you need to keep the reasons to continue high, and the reasons to quit low.
Slow Readers

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.

The Real Way to Improve Your Reading Speed | Scott H Young

scotthyoung.com

Constraints to Reading

Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist, deconstructed the process of reading and the constraints we face when doing so such as:

  1. Not knowing much about the topic (therefore not fully comprehending what the individual is reading);
  2. Not knowing the words (therefore being unable to construct ideas due to illiteracy);
  3. And not knowing how to pronounce the words or how to sound them out, however, phonetic knowledge is much less of an issue with advanced readers.
Tips for Reading Faster
  1. Always have books for pleasure. If you're not interested in what you're reading you ultimately won't read at all.
  2. It's okay not to finish reading your books and switch them. Remember the more books you read, the more fluency you'll have, and the greater the enjoyment of reading leads to being able to read harder books
  3. Build up your foundation first; both on the knowledge of the topic and of the words used. It's okay to take your time reading.
  4. Build up to harder books when you get the hang of it.
  • The Gratitude Journal: Simply write about something that you’re grateful for.
  • Morning Pages: Before starting work each day, write 3 pages, long-hand, of anything that crosses your mind, to clear your head.
  • The Goal Journal: Incorporating your goals into a daily journal is a huge step to getting them done.
  • The Values Journal: Identify the values that are important to you. Then write about how the events of your day connect back to your values.
  • The Curiosity Journal: Challenge yourself to write about one thing every day that made you stop and ask a question.

The Productive Benefits of Journaling (plus 11 ideas for getting started)

doist.com

What you write, you learn

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.

What you write, you control
  • Recording your thoughts in a medium outside your own head helps your mind to become quieter: It stops returning to the same worn-out mental loops over and over. 
  • When you recount and reflect upon your thoughts and experiences you are, in effect, telling your own story. Journaling helps us clarify, edit, and find new meaning in these narratives.
Journaling and personal goals
Journaling about your goals helps you clarify what you want and encourages you to consider the why and how not just the what

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.

  • Use pen and paper, to reap the psychological and productive benefits of journaling;
  • Make it a habit: Keep your journal in the same spot where you’ll see it at the same time every day.
  • Embrace slowness. Resist the instinct to rush through it to get to the next thing.
  • Don’t edit; just write.
  • Experiment and find out which approaches work best for you.
Brain activation goes down as you learn

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.

How the Brain Changes with Expertise

scotthyoung.com

  • What you’re actually doing when performing a skill as a novice and as an expert are often radically different.
  • Researchers call this shift in neural activation due to changes in mental strategy functional reorganization.
  • Functional reorganization is a useful concept for making sense of many learning situations.
Scott Young
"Learning is dialog, not consumption. The attitude that creates curiosity is to see learning as principally driven by asking questions and coming up with answers, not consuming information."

How to Become More Curious | Scott H Young

scotthyoung.com

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.

George Loewenstein's theory on curiosity
  • Curiosity is influenced by framing effects. If the situation highlights a single missing piece, you’re much more curious than if you think you haven’t assembled most of the puzzle.
  • Insight-based issues provoke more curiosity than accumulative ones. If you need a single idea to make the entire idea snap into relief, you’ll be more curious than if the answer is only to be found by acquiring a mountain of facts.
  • You need to believe you can solve the puzzle. To be curious, we need to believe we can achieve success. If you think a lot of investigation won’t result in an insightful payoff, low curiosity is likely to result.

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.

  • The art of asking questions needs to be paired with the capacity of finding the answers.
  • Online forums are good ways and environments to ask questions and get expert replies. For many questions, teachers, peers and people around you can often answer questions you’ve missed.
  • Figuring out the answer for yourself is also satisfying.

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.

Why the ‘paradox mindset’ is the key to success

bbc.com

Thinking Like Einstein

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.

  • A study found that employees with a paradox mindset were better able to cope with "resource scarcity" at work. They found the challenge of limited resources inspiring and created better solutions to the problems within their role.
  • Leaders may find it important to note that managers with a paradox mindset influence the innovation of the whole team. Companies that embrace paradoxical strategies tend to outperform their competitors.

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.

Motivation to learn

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.

Why motivation to learn declines with age

bigthink.com

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 maximalist philosophy of reading

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.

How to Read Fewer Books

theschooloflife.com

The premodern world was obsessed with asking, "what is the point is of reading?" They had answers too.

  • For example, the value for Christians and Muslims was holding up one book - the Bible or the Koran - as more important than anything else. This book was read repeatedly and with great attention.
  • In the Ancient Greek world, one focused on just two books: Homer's Odyssey and his Iliad. These were all that was needed to impart the Greek code of honour and the best guides to action in military and civilian affairs.
  • In the 18th century England, the ideal of reading was focused on Virgil's Aeneid - all a gentleman required to pass as cultivated. More reading was viewed as eccentric.

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.

Neuroeducation

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.

Neuroeducation: exploring the potential of brain-based education

nesslabs.com

  • Attention. To learn, we need to be able to focus on some aspects while ignoring or excluding others. For example, reading this paragraph while ignoring the noise around you.
  • Memory. Knowing how memory works and how you can make learning more efficient can increase your performance. Science-based techniques include interleaving and chunking.
  • Executive control. Being able to plan, to create a sequence of steps, and to retain important information for short periods. While most happens in the prefrontal cortex, lots of research is needed to understand how executive control works.
  • Social behaviour. Social Neuroscience is aiming to understand how our biology affects our social behaviours.
  • Neurodiversity. Conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyscalculia (difficulty with arithmetical calculations), and dyslexia impact learning. Neuroeducation aims to understand how these conditions best adapt to the learning environment.

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.

  • Neuroeducation could be used to dispel harmful neuromyths about how people learn.
  • Well-researched neuroscience findings in the area of learning and memory could be taught to students and employees.
  • A more challenging step would be to teach these neuroeducation principles at scales while ensuring that people understand how to use them in a real-life context.
Making mistakes

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.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Making Mistakes

hbr.org

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:

  • State your fears out loud. It will help diffuse them.
  • Accept reality. List every truth you need to accept. "I understand that people will not always behave in ideal ways."
  • Act on your values. Identify your five most important values related to decision-making in a crisis, then ask yourself how each of those is relevant to the critical choices you face.

.. but only when you are solutions-focused. We can control systems, not outcomes. If you have a system to avoid mistakes, ask yourself:

  • Is your data reliable?
  • What are the limitations of it?
  • How do your systems help prevent groupthink?
  • What procedures do you have to prevent blindspots?
  • What are your processes for being alerted to a problem quickly and fixing it?

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.

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