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How I Remember Everything I Learn

If you’re anything like me, you love studying deep concepts.

But, there’s a dissonance.

You feel like you could never be as deep, insightful, or impactful as your favorite authors, speakers, or even the people you follow on social media.

As an 18 year old that got arrested for smoking pot in a college parking garage, I took a chance on reading The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

I read closely.

I practiced the meditations.

I opened my mind to the possibility of the notion of God (that I had closed myself off to as a rebellious teen).

That book changed everything for me. It eased my worries about getting a potential felony charge. It helped me calm down and be less reactive toward those I don’t agree with.

I didn’t remember everything from that book, but I learned 10x more than any other book I was told to read in school.

Why did I remember so much of that book?

1) Having An Intention

I am big on goal setting, whether you write it down or not.

When I read the book, it was the perfect fit for my situation in life.

I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I either had to go to court for smoking the devil’s lettuce and possibly be convicted of a felony, or hand over $10,000 to take a diversion program and get called to randomly pee in a cup every week.

As a 19-year-old going into my second year of college, this freaked me out, clearly. I didn’t have the money and there was no way in hell I was going to tell my parents.

So, when The Power Of Now was recommended to me, I had the intent to apply its teachings to the phase of life I was in.

I was willing to do anything – and read with a radically open mind – to allow the teachings to transform my mental state.

2) Genuine Curiosity

I first heard about the book from Matt Ogus.

For those unaware of the golden era of fitness on YouTube, Matt Ogus is one of the original fitness vloggers.

He was someone I aspired to be like. One of my first digital mentors (and he doesn’t even know it).

He had recommended the book many times in his videos, and I had a genuine curiosity to learn what this whole “spirituality” thing was about.

I normally wouldn’t have read the book, but I trusted Matt, like I’m sure some of you trust me.

Curiosity forced me to read slow, meticulous, and aim to understand what was being said – especially in the areas that were difficult to understand.

3) Reducing The Execution Gap

Now, when I read the book, if there was something to practice, I would put the book down immediately.

I remember sitting outside on the porch with my coffee, trying to tap into all of my 5 senses, and doing multiple meditative practices.

Since the ideas were fresh in my head, it was easier to notice when something as intangible as meditation was working.

Becoming aware that it was working solidified the idea in my head.

I had direct experience to back the idea.

I took the words and grounded them in reality.

Having an intention, genuine curiosity, and reducing the execution gap is an incredible way to retain more of what you study – but we can do better than that.

Over the years, here’s what I’ve discovered to 10X the power of whatever I choose to read, research, or study.

What Are You Building?

Praxis (noun) — practice, as distinguished from theory.

The modern problem is abundance of information.

We love to horde theory, orthodoxy, and conceptual understanding of things without direct experience. Because that means we have to do something we perceive as uncomfortable, when we’ve been conditioned into perceived comfort.

Life doesn’t work that way, and nobody wants to be “that” guy in the Instagram comments. You know, the one that gives a book’s worth of lifting (or business) advice while looking like he’s never been within a 10-foot radius of a barbell (or customer).

What you’ll find in most domains is that true experts rarely need guidance. They used science, theory, and advice to get to the intermediate stage, but learn that intuition and direct experience trump all once you get into the advanced stage.

Aside from posting, I don’t log on to social media anymore. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but 99.99% of the advice doesn’t apply to me. All it does is make me second guess myself in my mental, physical, financial, and spiritual training. My praxis, which is backed by my personal philosophy, that was forged through experience.

So, how do we balance practice with theory?

By becoming a builder.

That is, always having a project to build in alignment with the theory you are learning about.

When I was learning Photoshop, I started by watching endless tutorials on how to use the software. This only led to getting stuck in tutorial hell.

When it came time to create something, I knew nothing.

I had to supplement what I was building with specific tutorials.

Once I realized how much I retained from this style of learning — having a project to apply my knowledge to — I switched to this method exclusively.

If I wanted to learn how to build a website, I wouldn’t start learning first. I would pick a software to build the website on, then watch a long tutorial on how to build the website.

I wouldn’t follow the tutorial exactly, because I didn’t want to create the same thing. I took what I was learning and struggled to create my own website. The struggle primed my brain to “lock in” the lesson.

Now, why does this method work for retaining information?

1) Forced Synchronicity

Novelty, pattern recognition, and the dopamine involved in both are crucial for learning.

When our ancestors noticed something new, they would remember it, especially when it aligned with their survival.

Like if they pass by a bare bush they had seen many times, meaning it was nothing new, it didn’t serve their survival. But when it grew new berries, they noticed that it was new, and remembered that it had berries because it may help at some point in their life.

When you start with a project to build, your mind expands to notice things that will aid in that project’s survival.

Like how The Power Of Now was relevant to my situation in life. The lessons registered in my awareness. The dopamine from that novel discovery gave me the excitement to implement immediately.

If you don’t pay attention, you don’t see.

Having a project to focus your attention allows you to see what you normally wouldn’t.

This isn’t just a learning hack, it is a quality-of-life hack, which we will enhance 10-fold in the next section.

2) The Law Of Inspired Action

I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning. — William Faulkner

Everyone knows that they act better on inspiration.

People love to watch “best chest workout” videos before training chest at the gym.

I love reading the authors that inspire me before I sit down to write.

With a project, you are enticed to learn in accordance with it.

If you are building a business, you will naturally gravitate toward the information that gives you inspiration for building said business.

But you have to start building the damn business.

3) Specific Knowledge

If you’ve been on this newsletter for a bit, you know that I’m a fan of this advice:

Start, then learn.

When you start, even when you don’t know what you’re doing, you will encounter problems.

These problems will induce struggle and prime your mind to learn.

These problems will also give you something specific to research.

You won’t be learning blindly, without context, or from somebody who isn’t teaching you how to do exactly what you want to do. When you learn blindly, you gain too much information fat. Like when you do a dirty bulk vs a lean bulk when trying to gain muscle… eventually you’ll feel slow, tired, and groggy to the point of cutting the fat.

Don’t ask questions. Don’t learn blindly. Start building something, then ask or research to solve the specific problems that pop up.

Then repeat for a decade.

You Are The Project — Tying It All Together

Let’s take it up a notch.

Building helps you retain more knowledge.

But teaching helps you retain even more. Teaching is another modality that locks in the experience you gain from building.

So, why not combine the two so that we create a life of serendipity, synchronicity, and good dopamine?

We do this by turning you into the project.

This implies holistic development.

Personal development doesn’t only come from improving yourself, it comes from the impact you make on the world.

In other words, your business.

Or for those that “resonate” with the term business, exchange that it for your life’s work, your calling, or how you plan to leave the world better than you left it.

The polarity of selfishness and selflessness.

Improving yourself, then helping others improve. Sending the elevator back down. Climbing the mountain and leaving a trail behind you that others can follow.

Documenting your journey so others can evolve faster.

Doing your part to raise the collective consciousness.

That’s what “business” is, yet many mistake it for some mega-corporation that sucks the life out of well… your life.

I’ve done this (and helped thousands of others) turn themselves into a business so they can study their interests, pass down their findings, and have a creative income leaning into their nature as a builder and teacher.

So, let’s tie everything we’ve learned into 6 steps:

1) Set An Intention

Set a goal. Create a purpose. Think about your why. However you want to frame it.

Make an intention to improve your life, to actualize your potential.

This sets your focus on the future while encouraging you to channel energy toward that vision. The energy you channel comes from your daily actions.

Everything you consume starts to fuel your vision.

2) Schedule A Creativity Block

Everyone and their mother knows that they should schedule time for focused work, but what fuels that focused work?

If you are a creative, are you hunting for ideas in your free time? Or are you “creating” on an empty tank?

Do you value the spontaneous nature of creativity, or are you a slave to regimented work and productivity apps?

I’m not telling you to rid yourself of routine, efficiency, and productivity. I’m telling you that it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Schedule a 30-minute walk every day.

On this walk, you can:

  • Listen to an audiobook or podcast related to your intention
  • Contemplate your future and let your mind work through problems
  • Get yourself away from the distractions that would keep you in a non-creative state

When you shift your focus from external to internal, the Default Mode Network (a psychology term) comes into play. This is when your mind starts munching on the information you’ve consumed to bring new discoveries to your conscious mind. (The opposite of living in a state of stress-induced narrow focus).

3) Create A Note Taking System

I could write an entire book on proper note-taking, so instead of writing it here, just download my free note-taking system (and 7-day challenge to use it most effectively).

What will you be writing down in your notes?

Any information, insight, or discovery that will fuel your efforts to build.

When your mind is set on a goal for the future, your field of awareness expands. You begin to filter signal from noise, whether it feels like you are or not.

Like when you discover a car for the first time. You’ve never paid close attention to it, but you love the way it looks. Then, like magic, you start to notice that car everywhere.

My friend and editor Devan has hated the Jeep Gladiator since it came to market, now he’s cursed with seeing them 3 to 4 times a day.

Imagine if you loved the idea of improving your mind, body, and finances — you would start to spot opportunities every single day (that would normally slip right under your nose).

4) Build Every Aspect Of Your Life

You have to understand that you are building.

How long would it take to build a mansion by yourself?

20 years? A lifetime?

That’s exactly the point.

Fall in love with infinite games.

Try everything that interests you. Then double down on the thing that you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Yes, this takes time, experimentation, and 6-12 months of patience.

If you don’t like the sound of that, sit down and think of what the other option is. I bet you won’t like the sound of that even more.

Snap yourself out of the instant gratification mindset. You must actively construct your life on a daily basis.

Start with 30-60 minutes.

What do you do during that time?

Hit the gym. Write for the sake of digital leverage and income. Self-educate when you don’t have clarity on the problem you encountered while building.

If you don’t make time to build, you are assigned time to build for someone else.

5) Teach What You Know

As we discussed, building is an incredible way to retain specific knowledge in alignment with the life you are trying to build.

To retain even more of what you learn, let me introduce you to the Protégé Effect.

In short, it’s “learning by teaching.”

When you pair genuine curiosity with building a project, then teaching what you’ve learned, you increase your level of articulation more than any other method.

Clearly, my favorite way to encapsulate all of these is by stepping into the digital arena.

Employers are hiring based on your public resume (social media account). You can teach what you learn to build digital leverage in the form of an audience. And when you’re ready, you can create a product or service to turn your interests into income.

When you teach about your passions, you tap into a new level of serendipity in everyday life.

6) Turn It Into Your Life’s Work

The amount of serendipity that will occur in your life, your Luck Surface Area, is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to who this is effectively communicated. — Jason Roberts

Work is a necessary part of life, and for most, it consumes a large percentage of their waking hours.

For many, this work lacks interest. They took the conventional path that was laid out for them and live in a state of slightly elevated stress (which is terrible for your creative problem-solving).

Is this what you want?

If the duality of work and rest is to be maintained — meaning “retirement” is a dream where you will still work on something — do you want 70% of your life to be consumed doing something you hate, or even slightly dislike?

No? Here’s what I would do.

  • Research what you feel pulled to research.
  • Don’t get distracted. Let it pull you deep into a rabbit hole of discovery.
  • Understand that sustained curiosity + excitement = passion
  • Practice sustaining that passion with everything we’ve talked about here.
  • Note down your findings, build a project, and begin teaching others.

I’ve talked about productizing yourself via the one person business multiple times as well as becoming a value creator.

What many don’t realize is that products start off as projects.

If you ARE the project, when you put yourself in public, you become a product that people will want to invest in.

Projectize yourself, then productize yourself.

Now, understand that you don’t launch a product when it’s perfect, that’s an impossible goal.

Entrepreneurs launch MVPs. Minimum Viable Products. A project that provides value enough to charge for, launch, and continue improving it with time.

You are your life’s work.

Your minimum viable product was created at birth.

Launch, build, teach.

— Dan Koe

What Happened This Week

First, if you’re looking to incorporate everything we’ve discussed in this letter — Digital Economics is open for enrollment until November 23rd. This is only for the Masters curriculum.

Join here if you want to secure your future as a value creator.

Last week, I posted a YouTube video about the 11 things I wish I knew when I started my one person business. Tomorrow, I will be posting “The Power Of Being Alone,” which will help you become your authentic self.

Watch both here.

In Modern Mastery, we had incredible discussions on monetizing from the start when building an audience (not waiting until some imaginary follower number to make an income). We’ve grown by over 250 members in the last week. The Discord has been more active than ever. I will be posting a training this week on ‘The Art Of Broad Specificity.’ In other words, how to make your niche interests interesting to a broad amount of people (so you actually get engagement and grow with your content).

Readers can join for $5.

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Dan Koe

Who Is Dan Koe?

I am a writer & brand advisor for 6-7 figure creators. I am obsessed with dissecting human potential, lifestyle design, and one-person businesses.

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