Recently in a few conversations with different people I came to realise a new way of learning that has developed for me in the last five to six months. This way of learning seems very natural and happened unintentionally, but has proven unexpectedly powerful.
Books and courses
I find these traditional ways of learning new information still very useful, but there are some problems with each of them, problems I haven’t found yet with this new method.
Books are normally very good for detailed and in-depth information. However, since I am a slow reader they are a real challenge for me (yet I still try to read regularly). Moreover, once we read a book we forget a lot of the information very often. It can be because it is very detailed, or just because we consume it in a short amount of time, but for me there are only some key essentials that stay from the books I read. Of course this varies with the book, subject and my engagement, but there is that pattern nevertheless.
Courses are similar to books in some regards. You develop a skill and learn new information, but if you don’t act on that information within two weeks of completing them most will be forgotten.
They are also very time consuming and you need to dedicate your attention over a longer span of time to get most out of courses.
So what’s the freakin’ method?
Yes, it’s not the biggest revelation you might have expected, but let me explain.
In the last five to six months I started subscribing to different people’s newsletters. The first one was suggested to me by a friend. Following that newsletter I heard about another one, etc. I don’t even know how many I am following now, but they have create an incredible learning system for me.
The first information channels I started following were related to my work, they are professionals and expects in the field. However, over time I expanded the network and started to follow streams that were not directly related to what I do. It always felt that these newsletters might not be very useful and could simply spam me but I went on anyway telling myself “Well, I can always unsubscribe”. It prove to be very powerful. Why?
Each person that I follow has a unique perspective on life and work that is developed through their experiences. When you read someone for a few months you realise they basically talk about the same things, or at least describe the same worldview. Why is this useful? Because all they do is repeat core principles in different forms and from different angles. This in turn is an incredible learning resource, because we learn through repetition.
Basically, newsletters allow you to saturate your view over time with the experience and knowledge of other people but without having to overload yourself in one go.
There are also other benefits to this method. It requires little time, because normally you can read an article in an email for around five to ten minutes.
You don’t have to remember to read about it, because you are automatically reminded of it – it arrives in your email which you will check anyway.
It’s not critical in the sense that even if you miss and not read few newsletters it won’t change much, because as I mentioned, these people will be talking about their worldview and any articles that follow will still describe the same thing.
There are however, some things to take into consideration. It won’t work if you have too many newsletters going to your inbox every week (especially at the same day). I would suggest to follow between 10-30 maximum if you want to still feel motivated to follow them and not get snowed under a mass of unread ones.
Most of the information that I have really understood and learned has come through newsletters in the last few months. But more than specific information, I am following people that are role models in different spheres of life. I am short-cutting my learning by “picking their brains”.
Newsletters are short, don’t take a lot of time, they remind you to learn new things but it is also ok if you skip some when you are too busy. I also don’t always read all of them, normally just skim through and read more thoroughly if I find that particular one interesting.
Learning through newsletters is a very organic way to consume the lasts from a field you are interested in, and to develop a deeper understanding over time without having to strain yourself in a single effort.
I assume that not everyone would like to know my specific preferences as they can vary depending on interests, but if I can suggest a single newsletter to follow I would recommend Seth Godin’s Typehead. If you want to know any others please just reply and I will send them.