How Do You Learn — Hard Way or Easy Way ?

Some years ago I read a book, Think without Ink. The book aims at teaching the readers — How to do mathematical calculations mentally, without writing anything on paper. The book thus aims at making the reader faster and more quicker in tackling the quantitative aptitude (related to numbers). But there’s one issue with the book : Only a person with an ability to work hard and having a sublime disposition can effectively learn from the book. For those who usually don’t want to sit back and contemplate on what is being taught, can hardly benefit from it, and the book will become yet another non-productive  chattel ( day to day thing ) in the room.

TWI and numerous other books which are often found with a best seller tag in Book stores , found in cities and Railway Stations,  are often purchased as an easy escape from grinding hard work. But once bought, rarely benefit the buyer. Still, every now and then, a Book hits the book stores , with claims to have a better alternative to old fashioned hard work.

how do you learnThe proponents of hard work are not standing still. They are simultaneously promoting the humble hard work and discipline as the trusted way to learn new things.

Google’s Adsense and SEO Head , Matt Cutts in a TED Speech some years ago, shared the easiest way to learn a good habit and retain that for life. He advised the audience to religiously Try something for 30 days. After the 30 days, the act will remain with you life long. The act can be : doing something or abstaining from doing something. Thus the list can be endless : Going for a walk daily, jogging, Gym, studying daily, learning something new daily or abstaining from smoking, drinking etc.

You may also have sensed that, someone who had the discipline of trying something for 30 days without fault, will usually be a hard worker. Or will be at least disciplined.

In recent years, a spate of recent best sellers have promoted the effectiveness of hard work in learning new things and achieving success in one’s life, career. This school of Hard Work, is somewhat weary of quick fixes to success, as it deeply believes that the ability to work hard, toil and contemplate are the founding blocks to learning. This school firmly believes that even learning quicker, no pen or paper methods require a mind composed enough to learn. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims that talent and intelligence matter little in life , but that 10,000 hours of practice you devote in your chosen endeavour is all it takes to succeed. 10,000 hours roughly equals 417 days or 1 year 52 days.

Our approach to learning, especially with kids, ranges from strict or authoritarian parenting on one extreme ( such as one prescribed by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed) to an extremely liberal one on the other (Let the Child take the path he wants to). Not to mention, most parents keep swinging between these two polls. The debate between the two approaches to learning, and everything in between, is unending. Hence, lets keep debating.

Quick LearningA new book is reported to have arrived, which doesn’t want you or your kids to toil hard (hard work) , cram, slack or grind. In How We Learn, Benedict Carey tells us that there’s an easier way to learning that hard work. That’s you can easily take breaks in between studies, get a good night’s sleep, day dream, never cram a single word, and still succeed. The idea is to study smarter, not harder.

Benedict Carey, a New York Times science reporter, had once been a hard working student. Although he managed to study Mathematics and journalism at Higher education, he increasingly kept feeling that there must be a more effective way of learning. And in his opinion, Hard work is surely not the one. That’s why he devoted his journalism career (started with The Times in 2004) to look for new ways of effective learning. His area of research is constantly looking for the scientific basis of how learning actually occurs and how we can make the most of our brain’s natural powers.

Learning is a complex subject. It’s difficult to make fixed opinions about it. From my own experience, there’s no one approach to effective learning. But one thing can be said for sure : Learning can be quick only for those who have the disposition and willingness to work hard. And hence the approach to Learning must be the middle path, with the balance more tilted towards hard work. What do you Say? How Do You learn?