Ultralearning book review
Being an autodidact, I never thought of spending time learning to learn. I stumbled upon this book when John Carmack tweeted he was reading it (so it must be good, I thought). The book gives a tip for every chapter, accompanied with some stories of success of ‘ultralearners’ that applied those tips. I found those stories the most engaging part of the book, as it described the thought process of legends like Feynman or Ramanujan. But also introduced lesser known geniuses like Mary Somerville, who translated Laplace’s Traité de mécanique céleste and got recognised by Laplace himself as the only woman who understood his job.
The learning tips are quite simple, and can be summarized as follows:
- Invest time in gathering quality learning materials and finding a path.
- Focus on the task and eliminate distractions. Practice entering and exiting focus at will.
- Learn by doing, not by reading.
- Invest more time in your weakest points.
- In order to memorize things, you need to retrieve them. Only reading is not enough.
- Get external feedback and learn to take it and be uncomfortable.
- Do not isolate what you learn, everything is interconnected.
- Try things that are outside of your comfort zone, as you may find unexpected benefits.
Of course, the book digs a bit deeper and gives various strategies for each point. Also, it provides citations to psychological articles backing what he says, but the majority of things are of common sense, though the majority of people are too lazy to practice (myself included). The amazing ‘ultralearning’ stories come from people that become obsessed with the task at hand and apply these techniques. But for us mortals the good news are that applying those techniques for learning at our own pace already put us in great advantage compared to the majority of the competence.
Also, this book pushed me to take blogging more seriously, as I want to learn how to write and sell myself.
In the end, it was longer than it needed to be and could be summarized in a post of series of posts. But it is a decent book and a light read that it is motivating and puts on the table some reasonable ideas.