What you do not learn at school: how to learn

4 min readFeb 9, 2021


Welcome to my humble attempt to raise my and your awareness about how to learn. I do not pretend to know anything, however!

Knowing how to learn is one of the most valuable life skills. Unfortunately, little effort is applied to teach this, surprisingly.

Frequently, we assume that we know, but in reality, we do not.

Nassim Taleb defines this as Epistemic Arrogance, also, he designates an Epistemocrat as someone of epistemic humility, who holds his own knowledge in greatest suspicion.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

— Socrates

On the other hand, we are a highly social animal and by stating in public that you do not know something, it can harm you or, more precisely, your ego. You have to free yourself from your ego to maximize learning.

We are slaves to ourselves. And we think that we are free. The greatest freedom that we have is the freedom to walk away from ourselves.

— Kapil Gupta

Once you are free from ego and aware that you know nothing, you are like a Blank Slate.

Information is abundant

Even today, what to study and how to study it are more important than where to study it and for how long. The best teachers are on the Internet. The best books are on the Internet. The best peers are on the Internet. The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

— Naval Ravikant

But it is not enough, in our days of massive data and therefore noise, one must know how to filter signals from noise.

A concrete example is in nutrition: always go to the source of knowledge, scientific evidence, read the papers. Do not trust anyone saying “you should eat such food” without science, especially if they do not eat it themselves, this kind of person has no Skin in the Game¹.

The best sources of information

It is true, there is plenty of high-quality information on The Internet, but books very often contain the best signals.

It takes years to write a book. It goes through plenty of reviews and improvements. It is just like the process of evolution in nature but here for ideas. On the other hand, Internet content is often merely one person’s thoughts, it did not go through evolution.

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process.

— Schopenhauer

The Lindy Effect² is a pretty good heuristic to choose which book to read and which to avoid.

One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind. In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.

— Schopenhauer

Compound Knowledge

All the benefits in life come from compound interest — money, relationships, habits — anything of importance.

— Naval Ravikant

One powerful heuristic in modern society is compound knowledge. If you spend all your time learning narrow and volatile knowledge, how to use WordPress, how to use some tool, you will end up knowing nothing.

Learn the fundamentals, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Game Theory, Computing.

Skills that transfer: street fights, off-path hiking, seduction, broad erudition. Skills that don’t: school, games, sports, laboratory — what’s reduced and organized.

— Nassim Taleb

Knowledge has to be built from a bottom-up approach, from first principles.

We often try to run, without knowing how to walk.


Think? Is it obvious? The problem is it seems very few people know how to properly think.

How to think then?

  1. No noise (no notifications, any form of such data, similar to if you meditated, you could sit, close your eyes and make your brain work)
  2. Write
  3. Read in the topic to trigger insights
  4. Walk, tinker, workout, give time for new insights
  5. Repeat

Embrace your curiosity

Learning works best when it is related to your topics of interest. Let us say you want to learn to code and you are into painting: try to code a website to display paints.

Further reading

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_in_the_Game_(book)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_effect




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