A king was watching a great magician perform his act. The crowd was enthralled and so was the king. At the end, the audience roared with approval. And the king said “What a gift this man has. A God-given talent.”
But a wise counselor insisted “My Lord, genius is made, not born. This magician’s skill is the result of discipline and practice. These talents have been learned and honed over time with determination and discipline.”
The king refused to accept the message, saying “How dare you criticize a true genius. As I said, you either have it or you don’t. And you most certainly don’t.” The king turned to his bodyguard and ordered to throw the counselor to the deepest dungeon. He added “So you won’t be lonely, you can have two of your kind to keep you company. You shall have two piglets as cellmates.”
From the very first day of his imprisonment, the wise counselor practiced running up the steps of his cell to the prison door caring in each hand a piglet. As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, the piglets steadily grew into sturdy boars. And with every day of practice the wise consoler increased his strength and power.
One day the king remembered the counselor and was curious to see how imprisonment had humbled him. So, the king had him summoned.
When the prisoner appeared, he was a man of powerful physique, carrying a boar each arm. The king surprised, “What a gift this man has. A God-given talent.”, to which the counselor replied “My Lord, genius is made, not born. My skill is the result of discipline and practice. These talents have been learned and honed over time with determination and discipline.”
Genius is made, not born.
MOM Kicks Up Your Memory
- Motivation – why you learn what you learn
- Observation – be truly present in any situation
- Methods – a set of tips and tools which you’ll learn shortly
In this summary, we’ll focus on the third part of MOM – the ‘methods’ you’ll use to learn faster and better retain what you learnt.
10 Ways to Generate Limitless Brain Energy
Resiliency expert Dr. Eva Selhub often likens the brain to a high-performance vehicle. In her own words: “Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress – the waste produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.” We know for sure that there’s a direct connection between a good diet and a healthy brain.
Diet affects brain function. There are readily available sources for all nutrients but getting them sufficiently into your diet isn’t always possible. That’s where supplements come into play. Remember not all supplements are created equal so make sure to do your research.
When your body moves, your brain grooves. Heidi Godman, the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter puts it this way, “Exercise changes eh brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.” You don’t need a full gym membership to get a good workout. The key is to be active and moving. Even 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can go a long way.
Jim refers to managing your beliefs and emotions as ‘killing ANTs’. ANTs are Automatic Negative Thoughts. If you’re like most people, you hold limiting beliefs at least some of the time. Maybe you tell yourself you aren’t smart enough to learn a skill you want. Maybe you believe you can’t lose weight because you don’t have self-control. ANTs are everywhere. You can avoid them. Only when you kill them can you truly accomplish what you want to accomplish.
The air you breathe is critical to your brain functions. If you’ve ever been stuck in a room with a smoker, you know how hard it is to think clearly. Conversely, if you’re hiking in the mountains, you can feel your sense thriving. Most of us are living in cities but we can clean the air in our homes, offices and create clutter-free workspaces. Remove all unnecessary stuff. As Marie Kondo says, “Does this spark joy?”. If the answer is no, simply throw it away.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Certainly, your peers affect the way you think and talk but it doesn’t stop there. They can affect everything from what you eat to how much you exercise and even how much sleep you get.
It goes without saying that protecting your brain is critical if you want to make the most of it. After all, you have only one brain. Hard-contact or extreme sports are not ideal if you want to use your brain power to the fullest. Driving a motorcycle 20 miles per hour all the time doesn’t help either. If you love these things too much to give them up, at least take as many precautions as you can.
As long as we keep learning new things, we can develop new neural pathways in our brains. This is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is most effective when we stretch ourselves in our learning. Attempting to master a skill, discovering a new challenge and embracing new cultures can all keep your neurons firing and creating neural pathways.
Harvard Health Blog says, “There’s evidence that chronic stress may actually rewire your brain.” If stress happens occasionally, it’s not really a problem. But you’re stressed all the time, the buildup of cortisol in your brains can lead it to cease functioning optimally. Finding ways to reduce stress becomes paramount as more and more evidences indicate the link between stress management and brain functions.
To say that sleep can do miracles for your brain is an understatement. If you want to make good decisions, sleep better. If you want to think clearly, sleep better. If you want to learn faster, sleep better. If you want to lose weight, sleep better. And the list goes on. Quality sleep is as essential as food and water. Without it, you will find it harder to perform everyday tasks. So, get enough sleep, better yet get enough quality sleep.
Top 10 Foods For Your Brain
- Coconut Oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Salmon and sardines
- Dark chocolate
Try to remember the list as much as you can, in any way you like. You have one minute.
Ready? Let’s move onto how we can drastically increase our memory, using association technique.
Remember Anything #1 Association
Imagine 10 parts of your body:
Now, we’ll apply association technique to remember “top 10 foods for your brain”. To begin, simply assign our brain diet to our body parts.
- Head –> Avocado (imagine the shape of the avocado resembles the shape of your head)
- Nose –> Blueberry (imagine two blueberries sticking right up your nostrils)
- Mouth –> Broccoli (imagine the broccoli full in your mouth)
- Ears –> Coconut oil (imagine the coconut oil spilling out of your ears and feel it)
- Neck –> Eggs (imagine the egg in your neck)
- Shoulders –> Green leafy vegetables (imagine spinach and kale sitting on top of your shoulders)
- Chest –> Salmon and Sardines (imagine your chest as if it were a chunk of salmon)
- Hands –> Turmeric (imagine the turmeric powder on your hands)
- Belly –> Walnuts (imagine and feel the walnuts protruding your belly)
- Seat/Hips –> Dark chocolate
As simple as that. You can use association technique to store virtually any list you can think of. It will dramatically improve your chances of remembering what you learnt. Try it now!
Remember Anything #2 Chain Linking
In addition to ‘basic association’ we saw earlier, you may try using ‘chain linking’ technique to store your learning in long-term memory. Consider the words below:
- Fire Hydrant
- Sir Lancelot
Let’s see ‘chain linking’ in action. Imagine the ‘balloons’ tied to the red vivid ‘fire hydrant’. The balloons seemingly come from the ‘barrel’. Inside the barrel, there is a ‘board’ that closely resembles the shape of a ‘diamond’. The diamond drops on ‘Sir Lancelot’ head. He is then rushed to emergency in a ‘mask’. The ‘mask’ as it turns out is dirty that it needs to be cleaned with ‘toothpaste’. The leftover toothpaste is thrown away and now stuck at the ‘sign’ outside the ‘bar’.
Remember Every Name: BE SUAVE
- Believe – once you believe you can do it, you’re already halfway there
- Exercise – keep practicing until you become very good at it
- Say – say the person’s name back right after you heard it, that way you’d have heard the name twice
- Use – use the person’s name throughout the conversation
- Ask – ask where the person’s name come from, especially if it’s less-common
- Visualize – attach an image to person’s name
- End – part ways by saying the person’s name
7 Habits to Un-limit Your Studies
Habit #1 Employ Active Recall
Dr. William Klemm of Texas A&M University wrote, “Most students do not realize how important it is to force themselves to recall. In part, this is because they’re conditioned by multiple-choice tests to recall passively, that is recognize when a correct answer is presented, as opposed to generating the correct answer in the first place.” Klemm added “Optimal learning occurred when an initial learning session included repeated study and forced-recall testing of all items at least four times in a row.”
Habit #2 Employ Spaced Repetition
Cramming isn’t a stranger to most learners. On one hand, it’s natural to procrastinate. On the other hand, it’s tempting to pick up a tremendous amount of material all at once. The problem is neither of these approaches works. By spacing the intervals out, you’re exercising neural connections each time. As opposed to cramming, spaced repetition produces long-term and robust retention of knowledge. Spaced repetition works best when you review material at similar intervals.
Habit #3 Manage the State You’re In
When your body moves, your brain grooves. If you’re feeling great, the greater results you’ll produce. Studying is no different. The easiest way to change your state of mind is to move your body. Stand up, if you can’t sit up right. Chest out and shoulders back. Doing so facilitates breathing and improves circulation of oxygen to your brain and the rest of your body.
Habit #4 Use Your Sense of Smell
Did this ever happen to you? You walked into a room and smelled the air filled with a scent. That scent immediately send you back to a day with a childhood friend. Have you ever wondered why would a particular smell trigger that memory?
Smells bring memories to the forefront of our brains. The scent of rosemary has been shown to improve memory. Peppermint and lemon promote concentration.
Habit #5 Music for the Mind
Numerous studies link music to learning. “Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned.” Said Chris Boyd Brewer, music and learning expert. Baroque music stands out in particular, although one’s reaction to music is deeply personal.
Habit #6 Listen with Your Whole Brain
We spend a large percentage of our waking hours listening. Unfortunately, most of us are not very good at it. “While listening is the core of most of our communications – the average adult listens nearly twice as much as they talk – most people stink at it.” wrote Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson in their book The Plateau Effect. One possible reason we don’t listen so well is we tend not to apply all our brainpower. To help address problem, remember the acronym HEAR – Halt, Empathy, Anticipate, Review.
Habit #7 Take Note of Taking Notes
At its best, note-taking allows you to process the information much more deeply and in a way that makes it most likely that you can use it afterwards. To take notes effectively, be sure you understand why you’re doing it. The goal of taking notes in a lecture might be very different from taking notes during a work presentation.
Once you’re clear on your goals, listen with intent. Write your notes in a way you can understand later. Equally important is to use your own words whenever possible. Handwriting triumphs typing because writing by hand requires you to exert more effort and process information immediately, and that has proven to be more effective.
Use a method “Capture and Create”. Fold the paper into two columns. One left side, write down what you’re capturing, i.e., take notes. On the right, write your impression of potential applications, i.e., the areas you can apply this.
4 Quadrants of Active Learning
Quadrant #1 Visualization
Think of your bed. Did you see a queen-size mattress with a wooden headboard, blue sheets and giant pillows? Or did you see the word “bed”? Our minds think in terms of concrete pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words. The same is true in learning.
Quadrant #2 Association
To remember any new piece of information, associate it with something you already know. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve done this all your life. Here’s a simple test. Think of a cherry. What comes to your mind? Perhaps red, sweet, fruit, pie, round, seeds, etc. These are words and pictures you’ve learned to link to a cherry.
Quadrant #3 Emotion
Emotion + Association = Long-term Memory
This is worth repeating. Adding emotion to association registers your new information in long-term memory. Regardless of the emotion you use, emotion makes retention much more robust and durable.
Quadrant #4 Location
We’re really good at recalling places because we don’t’ need to remember any words nor numbers. If you can associate something you just learnt with a place, you’re familiar most, you’re much more likely to remember it.
Reading: An Essential Ingredient
To say, “I don’t read” is essentially saying “I’ve stopped trying to learn.” Yes, you can learn from watching videos, listening to podcasts and going to movies even. But it’s nearly impossible to replicate the experience of reading.
- Reading is extremely rewarding for your brain.
- Reading improves your memory.
- Reading improves your focus.
- Reading improves your vocabulary.
- Reading improves your imagination.
- Reading improves understanding.
Speed Reading: Self-Assessment
It’s difficult to improve something you can’t measure. To improve your reading, start off by assessing your ‘base rate’. The base rate in measured in ‘words per minute’.
- Set alarm for two minutes.
- Read at a comfortable pace and stop when the alarm goes off (put a mark where you finish).
- Count the total number of words in three regular lines and divide that by three. You will get average number of words per line.
- Count the number of lines you just read.
- Multiply the number of words per line and the number of lines.
- Divide this number by two. You will get your current words per minute.
The average person will fall somewhere between 150 to 250 words per minute. If you’re reading below 100, chances are the material may be too difficult for you. But let’s say you read at 200 words per minute. A person who reads at 400 only needs to exert half the time and accomplish just as much.
Speed Reading: Myths
Myth #1 Fast readers don’t comprehend well.
This is a rumor probably spread around by slow readers. It’s just not true. Here’s an analogy. When you’re taking a slow drive down your neighborhood, you can do many things. You may be listening to the radio, drinking a soda, waving to a neighbor and even singing your favorite track. It’s easy to let your attention wander all over the place. But imagine you’re driving pedal to the metal down a racetrack. Do you focus more or less?
Myth #2 It’s harder and takes more effort to read fast.
Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Reading fast actually requires less effort. Slow readers go through word by word, regress to a previous one and so on. Fast readers go through words much easier and in a lot less time, thereby accomplishing more with less.
Myth #3 Fast readers don’t appreciate reading.
This isn’t true either. You don’t have to study individual brushstrokes to enjoy a masterpiece. And you don’t have to comprehend every single word in a book to realize its value.
Speed Reading: Problems
There are basically three problems that prevent us from reading quickly:
- Regression – your eyes constantly go back to reread certain words
- Outdated skills – the last time you read was probably in school
- Sub-vocalization – you keep saying the words in your mind as you read
3 Easy Fixes To Read Faster
Fix #1 Give your reading the finger.
Use your finger as a visual pacer to keep your eyes focused and prevent them from wandering. Doing so improves your reading speed because your eyes are attracted to motion. It seems a bit awkward but remember it takes more effort to sharpen your skills first than it does to bulldoze your way through learning later.
Fix #2 Don’t move the body. Move the book.
Don’t bend your head down. Bring the book up and maintain good breathing.
Fix #3 Avoid moving your lips as you read.
This will help you stop vocalizing the words to yourself.
3 Learning Styles: Know Where You Are
- Visual – you tend to learn through charts, videos and illustrations
- Auditory – you tend to learn through lectures, discussions and podcasts
- Kinesthetic – you tend to learn through physical interaction
Take a quick quiz here to find out your learning style and make full use of the materials that naturally come to you.
It’s Your Turn
Throughout the summary, you’ve learnt valuable tools and techniques you can implement right away to take your new skills out for a spin. So, the question becomes “what are you going to do about it?” Solve a challenging problem at work? Start a book club? Make a dent in your neighborhood? Teach your children what you just learnt? Connect with people in more dynamic ways? Throw a brain-food dinner party? A truly limitless mind would attempt to do most of these things, if not all.
Jim’s hope for you is that you don’t just take what you’ve learnt from ‘Limitless’ and make your life better with it, also you touch the lives of those around you for the better, too. No hero’s journey is exclusively for the benefit of the hero. With your newfound knowledge, you have the privilege to help those around you learn better and be limitless.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Stan Lee
What’s Next – Your First 10 Days to be Limitless