INTRODUCTION: Here at 7 Speed Reading we love talking to people who are as passionate about reading and self-improvement as we are. Ludvig Sunstrom admits that reading “has literally changed my life over the last 4 years” and he has used what he has learned from reading to improve his physical, mental, and professional status. He’s got a lot to share with readers at his website, Start Gaining Momentum (or SGM), and with readers here at the 7 Speed Reading blog as well.
7SR: You’re known for having developed some rather unique learning methods. Can you explain, briefly, how you went about developing them?
Sure. When I was in school I thought I didn’t like to learn things (confusing ?learning? with the course subjects). But…
…when I started university, I became extremely interested in all sorts of things (again, unrelated to my course subjects) and I realized that I would need to become better–much better–at learning. So I started reading “how to study” type books.
After experimenting with that for a few months I found what worked for me. Here are the 3 fundamentals of my framework for learning:
1) To create a digital commonplace book (an overarching information system for every area of your life; OneNote or Evernote are good softwares).
2)To create a book summary book (physical or digital) where you summarize the key takeaways from what you read. This improves your ability to distil information into actionable knowledge.
3) To create a note-taking system where each color/symbol corresponds to a specific type of information.This makes it easier for going through notes later, and improves your ability to categorize information.
7SR: Do you have any general tips for readers on how they could apply these tips, provided that your individual approach does not fit them?
Yeah. Instead of looking at what I’m doing (my specific solution), look at why I’ve done this (the root problem).
So, let’s reverse-engineer just what I’ve done here:
a) Start by finding out what learning type you are; do you learn best by reading? Writing? Executing? Analysing and reflecting? Personally, I’m a mix of these, with a slight bend towards reading and writing. (This can take you a while to find out. You must experiment.)
b) After you know your learning type, think about this: How can you create habits that improve this natural talent of yours? For example, creating positive daily habits like reading, writing, listening to audio books, and then summarizing what you’ve learned at the end of each day. This stuff really, really, adds up over time.
c) The next step (after you have established good learning habits) is to use systems/technology to achieve scale. Look around for technology and software (apps, programs, gadgets) that can be used to MULTIPLY your natural talent. My commonplace does this for me. What can you use? This is the hardest part, because it requires creativity. This is what separates elite learners from good/great learners. (The same can be said about earners too.)
7SR: In the research for your upcoming book, “Breaking out of Homeostasis,” what were some of the things you thought about? And, out of curiosity, can you give an estimate of how many books you read during the research phase of the writing project?
–A lot of things!
My biggest dilemma was probably in how to structure and present the content.
If you want a book to sell well (to have mainstream appeal) you need to “dumb it down” quite a lot, and frame the content in terms of ordinary problems that the average person might struggle with (losing weight, being more attractive, making more money, spending more time with family, etc).
This is very hard to do while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the content (A.K.A not coming across as bland). So I’ve chosen not to do it.
I’ve instead taken the more polarizing long-tail approach of targeting a very specific niche of people, and hoping that BOOH will be extraordinary helpful to those people.
And how many books did I read? Hmm. Definitely over 100 books. Probably around 150. But not more than 200.
7SR: You also mention that you’ve discovered how to improve on your framework of learning. What do you mean by that?
I just mean that I’m attuned to how my overall “system” for learning things (as explained above) needs to be adjusted from time to time to become better.
Here are two brief, unrelated examples just to give you an idea of what I mean:
1) When I was first starting my book summary book 3 years ago, I wrote down every book I read super detailed. Now that I’m much better at filtering out useless info from useful info, I only do that with a few really good books.
2) Recently I changed my commonplace system to automate parts of my life related to business (with checklists and processes). That helps me save time not having to do certain menial and repetitive tasks, leaving me more time to learn interesting stuff.
7SR: You’ve got a great article on your site titled “The Art of Optimal Reading.” What’s the difference between speed reading and optimal reading?
The difference–in my opinion–is that speed reading should only be used for filtering out useless info and finding useful info. For example, by looking at a book’s TOC, jacket, and seemingly interesting chapters.
Then, once you find something actually worth reading/learning, you spend the time actually learning that stuff thoroughly. Thoroughly.
How? By going through as much of your framework for learning as you decide that specific information is worth.
It comes down to individual judgment: how accurately do you valuate [insert specific information]? It’s the same mentality as the investor has.
–I call this having an eye for ideas. Most people don’t have it. It takes practice.
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