Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

We’ve all heard the insulting phrase, “Those who can’t, teach.”

I read a fascinating article earlier today, Memory & Learning Breakthrough: It Turns Out the Ancients Were Right, that illustrates in multiple ways how wrong that phrase is.

It’s a tremendously interesting article, though long.

To summarize: To learn, teach.

It’s amazing the disdain heaped on teachers at the same time as Americans claim to love education, which seems to be reflected in teacher salaries.

Yet when you read interviews with leaders from fields as diverse as investing (Warren Buffet) to the NFL (Payton) nearly everyone thinks of themselves as a teacher.

Strange tension there.

I’ve never devoted much thought to it, beyond thinking that purported aphorism about teaching was a bit rude, but as I read the piece I realized that the topics I have the most mastery of are the ones I’ve helped others do — writing/editing/marketing. I became a slightly better driver (not that it stuck) while teaching my daughters to drive because I had to pay attention to what I was doing and not just do it.

Teaching reinforces knowledge. It forces you to look for weaknesses in your own knowledge, sparks creative thought, and helps you further improve your mastery of a topic.

I wish I could work in a Kung Fu movie angle in here, but I can’t quite do it. So I’ll just ham-handedly add that in. 🙂 Where does the “student becomes the master” fall in on the teaching/learning continuum? And if you’re teaching, why should the student ever exceed you? Is natural aptitude involved here as well? Anyway.

I also realized that there are learning techniques that I should attempt to learn. I’ve always attacked things with brute force. I’m no genius, but fairly smart. A lot of times, things will just click. Dunno why, they just do. Always have accepted that.

As I read the article (and bookmarked a few additional pieces to read), started think that I’m tying half my brain behind my back with that approach. On the one hand, it’s comfy and familiar and it’s what I’ve always done. The brain is lazy. It’s learned some bad habits that work well enough. Change takes effort. On the other, learning how to learn will allow me to learn more.

And I love to learn stuff. Been a tough year and over time a desire to learn or experience new ideas outside of a shrinking box has begun to constrict how I think. Used to be fascinated by many different topics. Maybe discovering a few different mental models and seeing which works best for me will help me recapture that love of learning.

As the G.I. Joe PSA’s always ended:

“And now we know.”

“And knowing is half the battle.”

Time to stop losing the battle before it begins!

One of the 30 odd GI Joe public service announcements. Had forgotten that “knowing was half the battle” was from these. There was a LOT of GI Joe (also Thundercats and He-Man) in the background of my teenage years because of my brother and cousin.

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