Optimize Learning

Locked 101 Classes

Learning 101

The Science of How We Learn and Make Things Stick (Efficiently)

Did you know there’s a science (+ art!) to learning? Yep. In this class, I’m excited to share some of my favorite Big Ideas on how to learn + make things stick–efficiently! Whether you’re a student, parent, teacher or life-long learner, I hope you enjoy!

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How We Learn

The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

Benedict Carey is an award-winning science writer for The New York Times. This book is his exploration of what the latest research says about, you guessed it, How We Learn. Big Ideas we cover include the #1 enemy to learning (and how to win that battle), why distributed your learning is where it’s at, how sleeping is like learning with your eyes closed and how to put the Zeigarnick Effect to use for maximum benefit.

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The New Psychology of Success

Carol Dweck, Ph.D is a Stanford Professor and one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of motivation. She tells us that our “mindset”—how we see the world—determines a *huge* part of our overall happiness and well-being and achievement. In this Note, we’ll explore the difference between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset” and some Big Ideas on why we want to learn how to live from a growth mindset. And, of course, how to do it!

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The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Duckworth is the world’s leading authority on the science of grit. In fact, she pioneered the field and, as Daniel Gilbert says on the cover: “Psychologists have spent decades searching for the secret of success, but Duckworth is the one who found it.” In this Note, we explore the two facets of grit (hint: passion + perseverance, why they’re important and how to cultivate them.

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How to Become a Straight-A Student

The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less

Cal Newport is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth who went on to MIT for his Ph.D. and is now a Professor at Georgetown. In this book, Cal shares the top ideas he gleaned from interviews with non-grind Phi Beta Kappa members at elite schools across the country. They had to perform well AND they had to achieve those results without grinding away. Their practices, although discovered independently, reflect the same wisdom shared in the science books. It’s great to see the overlap. Big Ideas: pseudo-work vs. real work (and a secret formula), conquering procrastination, when/where/how long should you study?, #1 way to learn (and #1 trap), the importance of spacing out your work and the power to choose your future via excellent grades.

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Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life

Jim Kwik is a widely recognized world expert in memory improvement, brain optimization and accelerated learning and has “served as the brain coach to a who’s who of Hollywood’s elite, professional athletes, political leaders, and business magnates.” The best part of Jim’s story? After suffering a brain injury in kindergarten, he was described by a teacher as "the kid with a broken brain.” He struggled with learning for most of his life. Then he went antifragile on it and studied (and applied!) the science of how we learn. Fast-forward a couple decades and VOILA. Here we are. This book is REALLY (!) good. Big Ideas we explore include the Limitless Model (Mindset + Motivation + Methods), Supervillans (Digital: Deluge + Distraction + Dementia + Deduction + Depression), Learn FASTER (Forget + Act + State + Teach + Enter + Review), Learned Limitlessness (delete the LIEs and Optimize the BS!), and how to create sustainable Motivation (Purpose x Energy x Small Simple Steps).

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A Mind for Numbers

How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

Although, as per the sub-title, the book is ostensibly about “How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra),” it’s really about excelling at learning and at LIFE! Barbara Oakley is an award winning engineering teacher who used to struggle mightily with math and science. She walks us through the latest research in neuroscience and learning as she shares fascinating biographical sketches of scientific + mathematical luminaries along with wisdom from other world-class teachers. Great stuff.

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The Art of Learning

An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

Josh Waitzkin is an extraordinary human. Ever heard of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer? That’s the story of Josh life. Literally. After a childhood and young adulthood spent dominating chess, Josh then went on to master Tai Chi and became a World Champion. But what he REALLY became was a master of learning and peak performance. Big Ideas we explore include the two approaches to leaning, the downward spiral (what it is and how to avoid it), honoring your unique disposition, investing in loss, knowing your goal (decent, good, great, among best!), the power of stress and recovery and the ultimate secret of mastery.

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How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success

Shane Snow is a journalist and entrepreneur who takes us on a fascinating tour of “How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.” The book is packed with stories capturing the ascent of everyone from young Presidents, Jimmy Fallon, and Elon Musk—and, of course, the “Smartcuts” they used to get there. Big Ideas we explore include: the power of progress, failure as feedback, creating a deep reservoir, stripping away the unnecessary and 10Xing our thinking.

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The Practicing Mind

Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life‎

The Practicing Mind. It’s the key to true inner peace and contentment. In a world that conditions us to obsess about goals and outcomes, it’s easy to miss the importance of the process. The PRACTICE. Thomas Sterner brilliantly (!) helps us bring discipline and focus into our lives to experience the presence and joy that comes as a result. (Bonus: We also create a frictionless path to our goals as well!)

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Make It Stick

The Science of Successful Learning

Want to learn about the science of successful learning? Then this is the book for you. Written by a story-teller and two of the world’s leading cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to mastering memory + learning, the book is packed with wisdom on what works and what doesn’t. Big Ideas we explore include mastery vs. fluency, the power of active retrieval (aka “the testing effect”), explaining stuff in your own words and the wisdom in the adage that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

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The Power of Mindful Learning

Ready to apply mindfulness to learning and teaching? That's what this book is all about as Ellen Langer challenges seven pervasive myths related to learning. In the Note we explore Ideas ranging from reframing, ever-present gratification and creating options to mindful presentations and celebrating confusion.


#19 How to Build Your Grit

The 4 Key Scientific Variables
Angela Duckworth created the science of Grit. It’s fascinating. She defines it as intense passion + intense perseverance. In short,
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#62 "That's Like Me!"

How to Optimize Your Self-Image
Whether you’re an athlete, entrepreneur, teacher, parent, manager, or — fill in the blank here —, what percentage of your game do you
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#85 50 Pounds = A

How to Master the Fear of Art
Imagine this: It’s your first day of art class. You signed up for an intro class on pottery. (Nice! Go you!) The teacher does something a
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#92 The Gift of Greatness

We’ve All Been Given It — Here It Is
Anders Ericsson is the world’s leading authority on the science of what makes great performers great. If you’ve ever heard of the
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#93 The Science of Being Awesome

A Quick Look at Purposeful + Deliberate Practice
In our last +1 we talked about Anders Ericsson and his research on the science of greatness. The most exciting discovery? The fact that we
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#94 Adaptability + Homeostasis

Why Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Is So Important
We’ve talked a lot about how important it is to get out of our comfort zones. But why is it so important? Two words: Adaptability +

#96 Win or Learn

Three Questions to Ask after a Disappointing Performance
Lanny Bassham won a gold medal in rifle shooting in the 1976 Olympics. But he didn’t win that gold until AFTER he kinda fell apart in the

#110 Desirable Difficulties

How to Turn Weakness into Strength
We’re on a roll with the whole “embrace challenges on your epic quest!” theme so how about one more +1 on the subject? Malcolm
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#137 How to Turn Life-Lemons into Optimizade

Instant Recipe with One Ingredient-Question
A lot of people ask me to share more examples of how I personally apply these +1s to my life. Here’s a fun one. So, these days my mornings
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#165 Flow

What It Is & How to Get in It
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is one of the world’s leading researchers studying the science of well-being. He co-founded the Positive
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#176 Want to Improve? Measure

The Power of a Pedometer and Other Measuring Devices
Did you know that one of the easiest ways to optimize any aspect of your life is to simply measure it? Yep. In fact, this effect is so
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#179 Chunk It!

Break Your Epic Goals into Bite-Size Chunks
In our last +1, we talked about reducing Delay to increase Motivation. I briefly mentioned the power of “chunking” a big goal into small
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#240 Our Minds Must Relax

Seneca on How to Avoid Mental Dullness and Lethargy
In our last +1, we talked about the Cal Newport-inspired “Shut-down complete!” First, quick check in: You win that game? 😃 Get this:

#250 Incremental to Bam!

Notes on a Baby Learning to Crawl
As all parents know, one of the most amazing things about having kids is watching them hit new milestones—when, one day, they can do what
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#323 Why We Err

Necessary Fallibility + Ignorance + Ineptitude
In our last +1, we reflected on Nobel Prize-winning Herbert Simon’s wisdom that “A wealth of information creates a poverty of
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#370 Mistake-Learner’s High

Enjoy It as You Pursue Audacious Goals and Endlessly Evolve
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’ great phrase: “Endlessly evolving process.” Phil likes to draw upward spiraling loops to
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#425 It’s Always Hard

Before It’s Easy
Emerson is learning how to read and I’m the lucky guy who gets to teach him. (btw: We’re LOVING this book: Teach Your Child to Read in
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#442 WARNING: Noisy Environments

Can Diminish Your Performance
As I was writing that last +1 about our two Goddesses, some sort of truck starting beeping down the street. I immediately reached over and
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#579 Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing

Choosing a Practice As a Portal to Optimizement
Alexandra recently got Steven Pressfield’s newest book called The Artist’s Journey. Sub-title: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the
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#604 Interleaving

A Key Way to Learn
In Learning 101, we talked about a concept scientists call “interleaving.” The basic idea is simple: If you want to learn something,
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#787 A Learning Mindset

Is a Wise Mindset
In our last +1, we hung out with the WD-40 chemist in his lab and then joined Thomas Edison in his lab. When I pictured those scenes,
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#815 Archeological Reading

← Aka How Twyla and I Read a Book
In our last +1, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on reading and thinking. Recall her comment that: “If I stopped reading, I’d
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#956 Your Learning Zone

vs. Your Comfort and Panic Zones
In our last +1, we did a gold-medal-winning layback Ina Bauer with Shizuka Arakawa. Then we counted the number of times she had to fall on
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#998 Going thru the Motions

vs. Going for Mastery
In our last +1, we chatted about eudaimonology—the study of a good soul. Recall that the ancient Greek philosophers thought that a sense
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#1020 Learning Cycles

And How to Optimize Them
In our last +1, we talked about the PM ritual Pythagoras came up with 2,500 years ago (!) that the Stoics liked to follow: Allow not sleep
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#1029 The Pen Is Mightier

Than the Keyboard (Science Says re: Taking Notes)
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’s insight that leadership entails a willingness to embrace what he calls “hatred and
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#1030 Want to Make It Stick?

Explain Like I’m 5
In our last +1, we talked about the research on the fact that The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note
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#1191 Genius Work vs. Mediocre Work

High Fiving Your Inner Genius
In our last +1, we talked about the INFINITE power of Consistency. Recall that our (always evolving) equation for Awesome now goes something
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#1194 How to Learn FASTER

Forget + Act + State + Teach + Enter + Review
Today we’re going to revisit Jim Kwik’s brain and book Limitless for some of his wisdom on FASTER learning. Recall that Jim is one of
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#1256 Conscious Competence

Is Where It’s At
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a big fan of mental toughness books—whether that’s coming from peak performers in