Download several books containing strategies for a physical skill you wish to acquire (eg improve golf swing) or information for a specific purpose (eg quiz night). Continue with your normal activities (playing golf, taking part in the quiz) and notice improvements.
“When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.” Christopher Morley, Writer
Direct learning means downloading books to gain specific skills or results without doing anything to bring the information to conscious awareness. It relies on the power of the non-conscious mind to recognise and implement the information or skill you need without the intervention of the conscious mind. Savant syndrome is a good example of how some individuals use direct learning.
HOW TO do it
- Identify the skill you want to improve. Set that as your purpose, eg “To have a strong tennis backhand.” “To make better decisions at work.”
- Close your eyes and visualise yourself with the desired outcome (this helps clarify your purpose – and means you’ll know when you’ve achieved it).
- Preview several books and find the two or three that are most likely to teach you the skill – make sure they give practical instructions and not just theoretical information.
- Download all the books. (The immediate feeling is that you don’t consciously know anything from the books.)
- Put the skill into practice without thinking about it, ie carry on with your normal activities involving the skill (play tennis, take part in quizzes)
- Over time notice improvements
The usual stages of learning
Normally, learning is a conscious process and learning a new skill goes through the stages of:
1. Unconscious incompetence
You don’t know what it is you don’t know. (You have no idea how to drive a car.)
2. Conscious incompetence
You learn what it is you don’t know, but you can’t actually do it yet. (You start taking driving lessons and you become aware of what is involved.)
3. Conscious competence
Practice, practice and more practice! (You can drive, but you’re not confident and still need to concentrate.)
4. Unconscious competence
You are proficient and able to use the new skill without thinking about it.
By the way …If you have been putting into practice the spd rdng skills in the book so far, you are almost certainly at the conscious competence stage. With a bit more practice, you’ll be spd rdng ‘automatically’ every time you pick up a book without having to think about all the individual techniques as you do so.
The usual learning sequence
Usually, when you learn something new in a sport, things get worse before they get better because you are consciously trying to remember and put into practice things you have learnt. But when a tennis ball is coming towards you, there isn’t time consciously to decide what stroke to play, move your body into the correct place, take your arm back and swing the racquet forwards at the exact fraction of a second required to hit it back. As you practise more, the movements get into ‘body memory’ and you do them ‘automatically’ – this is known as ‘unconscious competence’.
Direct learning bypasses the conscious mind and goes directly to unconscious competence – you can do it, but you don’t know how. You still need to use the skill and you probably won’t become an expert overnight. Malcolm Gladwell quotes in his book ‘Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice (about 10 years) to become an outstanding, world-class expert. With direct learning and speed-reading techniques, you can achieve a normal level of expertise much more quickly – but you need to apply your chosen skill.
How direct learning worked for some people
Poor circulation Ania was doing an exercise to see how much information she could glean just from downloading a book – the cover, contents and title pages had been removed. When she’d finished downloading, she thought she was getting a cold because she was feeling very hot – and she did indeed look flushed. After lunch when she picked up the book again, she immediately got the sensation of heat. When she checked, she discovered that the book was ‘Beyond the relaxation response’ by Herbert Benson. In it he describes a practice called ‘fierce woman’ in which Tibetan monks strip and sit out in the Himalayas in sub-zero temperatures and cover themselves with wet sheets. They dry the sheets by generating heat, starting in their abdomen. (The winner is the one who dries the most sheets – what those monks will do for fun!) The point of the story, though, is that Ania had always had poor circulation, and suffered from cold hands and feet. Her non-conscious mind had picked up on this technique as a useful one for improving her circulation – which it did. And the effect lasted.
Bad back Ania’s second experience was when she had a bad back. She didn’t have time to go to an osteopath, so she downloaded a book on osteopathy – during the course of which something ‘clicked’ in her spine and she was fine. It was possibly helpful that she was herself an experienced osteopath, so she was simply reminding her body, via her non-conscious mind, that it knew what to do to be well. But nonetheless, there was no way that she could have consciously manipulated her own spine in order to achieve the desired result.
Fixing the computer Jan transferred all his data to a new computer – which promptly stopped working. He spent a couple of hours on the phone with expert technicians, who eventually advised him that the computer must be broken. Jan really needed the computer to work, so he downloaded the manual. Then he had a cup of coffee (to relax), played a game on his mobile phone (to remind himself that he could work things out), then sat down and started playing with the computer. Within 10 minutes it was working again – but he doesn’t know what he did to fix it.
Job interview Howard wanted a job doing video editing – which he knew very little about although he was an enthusiastic amateur. He did our Spd Rdng course at the weekend, downloaded appropriate books on Monday morning, went for the interview in the afternoon – and got the job.
Golfing A group of golfers who came on the course specifically to learn the direct learning technique all downloaded a range of golf books. Over the course of the next few weeks, many of them said that their golf had improved significantly.
Exams One man who’d done very little work at university downloaded all his coursework in the final week before the exam and passed. (We don’t recommend this!)
Language learning Jan was planning to attend a seminar on hypnosis in Spain and decided that three months would be enough time to learn enough Spanish to attend the course. Things didn’t work out that way and he’d done nothing about learning Spanish, so on the three-hour flight he downloaded a lot of books, worked through an article in the bilingual in-flight magazine, and listened to a Michel Thomas language-learning tape. Jan understood about 80% of the seminar. He didn’t get the jokes, but he understood the seminar enough to get the information he’d gone for.
Pub quiz In 2008, there was a TV showing of a Derren Brown programme in which Derren Brown taught a man his version of the downloading technique. The man downloaded numerous books of information he thought might be appropriate for a pub quiz. He entered the quiz. He was alone, even though the quiz was for teams, and he came second.
By the way …People frequently ask how we use spd rdng techniques to deal with mathematical formulae. While it can be very effective to download mathematical books which explain the formulae in context, it is also necessary to work with a formula in order to understand it fully. Certain memory techniques might also be useful in the early days.
DO IT NOW
Whether or not you did it at the end of the previous section, download this Spd Rdng book (again) with the intention of letting go of your attachment to traditional reading habits and becoming an efficient and effective spd rdr.