Intellectual curiosity is your most valuable skill in a rapidly changing world

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I’m a massive advocate for lifelong learning. I’ve written a lot about it. I think it’s the best way to take charge of your own intellectual growth.

“The “learning engine” is at the core of every lifelong learner,” says Sahil Bloom. I rely on dozens of newsletters, blogs, Twitter accounts, podcasts and a growing collection of books to keep learning. I value learning from smart people. So I deliberately make time for learning.

A learning engine is a set of tools designed to improve how you think, make decisions, work and build a great life. It’s a firm foundation for…


There is no universal rule for creative performance

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Prolific minds keep on giving. Their creative outputs are sometimes beyond comprehension. Many of the world’s best creatives are insanely prolific.

Picasso created 50,000 works of art in his life. He used to paint till 2 am. “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Pablo Picasso said. That mindset can set you up to become a better version of your creative self every day for a very long time.

Picasso devoted his life to art. Every idea had to be captured on canvas. He painted without holding back for years. He was committed to consistent creation. “Action is…


Start with the beginners mindset — curious and eager to know

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If Elon Musk can literally teach himself rocket science by reading books and learning from industry expert, you are more than capable of learning that new skill in record time to improve your life or career.

But it will cost you a lot of time — time is the biggest excuse for a lot of people who want to learn something new. But time is what you need most to take control of your learning deliberately.

I studied Law and Sociology at the university over a decade ago. But in the last five years, learning and writing about different topics…


Reading is not a race — make time to learn, recall and think

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Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thinking in Bets. Skin in the Game. Great Thinkers. The Laws of Human Nature. The Intelligent Investor. Zero to One.

These are great books that require multiple reads to deeply understand the fantastic ideas the authors want us to comprehend.

Reading a lot of great books improves our knowledge, judgment and mental models. But many people rarely engage with the content of their books.

When you aim to read hundreds of books a year with no regard for absorption, you probably won’t get all the knowledge you need from the books. …


Analytical reading improves critical thinking

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Reading is one of the best ways to gain knowledge.

There are two ways to read — active reading and passive reading.

If you are reading for pleasure, you want to enjoy the experience, lose yourself in the book and follow the journey with the author.

I’m not good at that. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books. I am very selective, so I end up with few books.

If you want to acquire new knowledge, the process should be completely different. You want to be able to remember and apply what you are learning. …


People whose expertise spans several subjects are more likely to be successful.

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Success is the ultimate dream. No matter what you do, you want to peak and benefit from your skill. It takes time to master valuable skills. And a lot of time to become the master of a single skill.

Only a small group of skilful people are making a living from a single skill in the world. Athletes take a very long time to reach peak performance. And when they finally nail their skills, they become unstoppable.

The world’s best athletes are the top performers. They’ve spent years, sometimes a decade, mastering their skills. …


At least 70% of your learning time should be spent practicing knowledge

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Knowledge doesn’t automatically make us better. We get results, make progress and acquire skills through practice.

If your goal is to acquire a new skill or make real progress in any area of your life, don’t just aim to gain knowledge — no matter how valuable it is.

Aim to practice, apply what you learn or do something with that knowledge.

Learning something new does not necessarily transform or improve you if you don’t get past the knowledge acquisition phase. You lose what you don’t use, apply or practice. But you gain a lot by doing something with it.

Better…


Building habits in small ways is a sustainable approach that doesn’t overwhelm your brain.

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Building better habits is hard, especially in the beginning. Sprints don’t work. Massive changes hardly work. Aiming for one giant step doesn’t end well.

Many people rely on habit building systems to start new healthy habits.

A great system can give your willpower a break, so you can focus on repeatable behaviours that deliver results-systems applied well will make your habits automatic over time.

But a good system requires time to deliver incremental changes because healthy new habits take time to stick.

The only way to get over the hurdle is to start with a consistency plan too small to…


Make contemplation and reflection a habit before you arrive at conclusions.

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In the age of knowledge abundance, it’s easy to lose your autonomy of thinking for yourself. There are many experts, influencers and authority figures we look to for better and factual knowledge.

But it pays to make sense of all the advice and recommendations you find yourself. Don’t outsource your thinking. Your own thoughts and thinking processes are meant to guide your next steps.

Friedrich Nietzsche thought, “The individual has always to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.”

The best thing we can do to make better decisions is to learn as many thinking tools as possible…


Writing forces you to clarify your thinking

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Writing is thinking in practice — it’s simply sharing your thoughts on paper or online. And that process has many brain benefits.

Improving your writing improves your communication, analytical, critical and reasoning skills at the same time. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” says Einstein.

Learning to become a better writer also improves your metacognition skills — your ability to reflect, analyse, observe and evaluate how you think.

Writing has improved how I think enormously. I read many essays (and selected books), and writing is how I explain the new things I find to…

Thomas Oppong

Writer & Curator | Learning | Habits | Productivity | As seen on Business Insider, Forbes and Pocket. For my popular essays, go here: https://thomasoppong.com

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