Here is one of the most important things you can learn about learning: It’s much easier to learn about something you care about.
The more you care about something, the faster you will learn about it.
The holy grail of education is motivation. I’m going to show you how to solve that problem by avoiding it altogether.
Educators have been searching for it for decades but it’s never been found.
Motivation is not something that everyone is good at forcing.
Even if a person is good at forcing (or faking) it, it’s not as effective as a genuine motivation.
If you want to learn any subject significantly faster then you have to solve this motivation problem for yourself.
Articles have gone over a number of different methods of solving it throughout this blog (and the previous blog) but I consider this method to be one of the most powerful.
Tangential learning is about finding a single point of motivation in any subject. Ignore the “important” parts as deemed by your teacher. Find what interests you.
If a particular subject was a planet then your space shuttle of interest could just scrape the surface of its orbit.
For example, you could learn math to better understand baseball statistics. Baseball statistics are based on math but it’s only a tiny fraction of the required information for a math class.
Learning it still helps in a number of ways.
The first and most important way is tangential motivation.
Motivation of Tangents
A student that hates math often hates math because they don’t have a practical use for it in their life.
Sure, not everyone that has a practical use for something loves the subject but virtually everyone that uses math daily doesn’t hate the math that they use.
When a student learns baseball statistics because they love baseball, they also get to learn a little bit of math.
More importantly, they learn how a better understanding of math could be helpful to them in the long run.
This doesn’t completely change the average person’s motivation instantly.
It’s just a small change in perspective that makes future growth in math easier.
If a student can find one good use for math then they’re much more likely to accept there is probably another good use for it.
Learning a subject tangentially doesn’t necessarily help in test scores immediately but this long term change in perspective that’s possible can change everything. If learning the subject tangentially adds just a sliver of motivation then it can increase grades year after year.
One of the most useful ways a student can milk tangential learning for everything it’s worth is to use it in subjects you’re already motivated about.
Let’s face it.
Even the most ardent of history buffs get a little irritated at the prospect of reading the average history textbook.
When you’re required to learn a subject for class, learning it from the textbook can be a painful process.
A list of facts is not good for memorization, entertainment, or virtually anything.
It’s better to learn the subject tangentially through an alternative source that you actually find entertaining.
If you’re supposed to read a textbook chapter on the fall of the Roman empire then, instead of, or in conjunction with, reading the textbook, you might find a more entertaining book, podcast, or documentary on the subject.
One of the most important things to take note of with this strategy is that you’re not learning the basic stuff through anything but the textbook.
You may miss out on important information that your textbook mentions and your source doesn’t mention. You may also learn a ton of information that your textbook would never tell you.
This is a negative because the time you’re learning stuff you don’t need appears to be a waste.
That being said, the motivation can provide a surprising boost to your productive studying.
Reading boring textbooks may give you all the required information but it will take a superhuman feat of discipline to remember it all for the test.
When you’re working with a less academic source of information, you may not get the exact information but the information you hear is going to stick with you much more effectively.
There is one more important means of using tangentials to consider.
There is an old comedy movie that has a wonderful example of effectively using guided tangentials.
One of the characters is headed back to his college to take a major philosophy test. To prepare that character for the test, another character tells the history of philosophy as a metaphor using professional wrestling. (This philosopher is this wrestler… etc.)
This is a really awesome method for learning something.
There are a few problems.
First of all, you need an awesome source of information to provide it.
It’s hard to create these complex metaphors on the fly.
Second, you need to know where the metaphor starts and where it stops.
To pull this off, you may have to do the creation of the metaphor yourself.
It can be a real challenge.
The reason I mention this is not to get you to try and create your own metaphors but to introduce the possibility in case you stumble on any.
If you’re reading a subject and think, “wow, this is just like…” run with that thought pattern and see what comes up.
That’s your brain doing what it does best.
It’s taking facts in your brain and linking them up to make everything in your brain significantly more accessible.
Sometimes you don’t need to focus on individuals facts to learn most effectively.
Sometimes the tangents are where you can make the most out of your education.
They allow your brain to use it’s most efficient methods for learning the things you need to learn.
This is an absolutely essential read for anyone on this blog.
I’m about 4 hours away from something big.
The story began a decade ago when I first started to share my study strategies with other students.
I had figured out the Holy Grail of academic optimization strategies – and every intermediate step to get to it. Using this strategy, I pulled a nearly 4.0 GPA while running a double course load in college – and once I started sharing it.
Droves of them.
And then teachers noticed.
Most of the teachers that were looking out for their student’s best interest got what I was saying and supported the cause. Others… well… not everyone has the student’s best interest at heart.
Early on (even before Smart Student Secrets,) I started writing for average students.
I knew… I was NEVER one of the “smart kids”. I was mediocre at best. And I knew, if these strategies worked for me then they could work for just about anybody. And that’s who I wanted to connect with.
But… There was a problem…
I built an audience giving these strategies away. Sure…
And I’d get messages from them. And we’d talk. And I’d hear their stories.
I’d hear from A+ students that cut their study time by 90%.
I’d hear from B students that took their grades up to A’s.
I’d hear from teachers that were sharing my strategies with their students.
I’d hear from older students how these strategies changed their life.
I love it. I love introducing these strategies that changed my life to other people.
But there was always this… but…
What about the C students?
What about the D students?
What about the students that are currently failing?
Sure… Some would reach out.. but…
They never followed through… They’d take a small step. They’d sign up. They’d learn some killer strategies. Seeing right there how powerful they were going to be…
And then… life kicks in. They lose sight of their goals.
And it’s gone.
Student’s came to this site to improve their life. They see the possibilities. But then… they move on.
In about 4 hours, I’m going to be introducing something – an email subscriber exclusive – that can help change that.
It’s going to make more Smart Students than at any other time in this site’s history.
If you’re ready to take your academic game to the next level – if you want to see it for yourself.
Write your email in the box. Check the confirmation you want emails. Confirm your email. And see for yourself.