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How to Learn Faster and Increase Focus with Self-Teaching (Episode 81)

By the age of 13, Joshua Wohle had attended five different schools, until his family moved to Switzerland. He went through the public schooling system, which meant everything was in French, but he knew no French at the time. Joshua recalls the difficulty of learning and self-teaching mathematics in French, when he didn’t understand the mathematics nor the French.

He started and dropped out of university twice, once in business management and once in economics. He then moved to London and actually finished a degree in computer science, and continued his next degree remotely over a four or five-year period.

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Learning How to Learn

At his core, Joshua is a self-taught developer. He was building apps and websites for years before he ever studied, even forming businesses out of this. These life experiences were what created Joshua’s firm belief that you can and should learn anything you want online.

The internet has so much to offer, and Joshua believes, through his experience in online and self-education, traditional learning can’t come close to the results that other methods produce.

This led him to a question: What if we could make that experience more approachable and usable for everyone? What if you could take the experience of self-learning, develop it, and extend it – building a platform where people could become lawyers, and experts in whatever field they choose.

The second catalyst for Joshua’s interest in online education was when he began to have financial freedom. Rather than thinking about where the next paycheck was coming from, he was asking himself:

  • “Where do I want to go with my career?”
  • “Where do I want to spend my time solving problems?”
  • “Where can I have the biggest impact?”

For Joshua, there were two industries that he believed had true potential to impact the world: (1) Healthcare and (2) Education.

Adventures in Education

After spending a few months diving into both, he quickly realized that healthcare was not for him. That’s when Joshua decided to double down and figure out how to start in education.

If you’re able to help people learn better, you’re going to have an impact with multiple layers down the road. People who know how to learn can teach how to learn. Once Joshua wrapped his head around this, his next step was clear.

If he wanted to move into education, what area would make the biggest impact?

One of the resources that first began influencing his perspective was How We Learn by Benedict Carey, a New York Times science journalist. This book combines all we know about the brain and how it works, and summarizes it in an easy to read format. Which techniques work better than others, and why?

Joshua read the book and was surprised at how simple some of the concepts really were, and yet how little he knew about them before reading the book. Why were these things not common knowledge?

He began sharing this information with anyone who would listen, including education experts, and realized how few education specialists knew about the concepts in the book.

This was a huge “aha” moment. As a society, we know more about how the brain works, we know how we can improve the way people learn, but it’s not being applied in educational contexts.

There was a disconnect between this important information that could make everyone’s lives better, and the application. Now Joshua had a new question:

Can we bridge that gap?

That was the start of everything, around 2018.

This is how Mindstone was born.

Mindstone

Mindstone is all about building a collection of learning resources: increasing your focus, creating papers, writing up reports, and then developing shared insights.

The initial concept, which they’re still working toward, is to give access to countless resources to anyone who wants to learn in a non-traditional way through self-teaching.

Imagine being able to take the 50 best posts, videos, and podcasts on micro-economics, and then create a micro-economics 101 course out of this content that already exists, using methods to help people learn faster and remember more. Not only this, but at the end of that course, students can actually have a record of their learning, a certificate, or something that they can take to an employer, whether they’re currently employed and hoping for a promotion, or looking for a new job.

The product that Joshua and his team currently have is the first step.

In Mindstone, you’re able to highlight, categorize your highlights, add comments, and have discussions around the piece of content. Whether it’s a video, an article, or a podcast online, you can add notes and have a centralized repository of all your thoughts, highlights and other important notes.

You’re not just consuming these pieces of content, but you actually have an annotation engine that sits underneath to automatically extract the transcript, so you can then annotate the transcript.

This creates a learning experience rather than a watching experience, unlike current online learning, which is closer to a Netflix-style platform.

The Myth of Learning Styles

While every person might have a way they can personally understand information easier, the truth is, everybody learns better when multiple senses are stimulated at the same time.

Many people think that if they’re an “audio-learner”, they can only learn from audio. Maybe you like audio, and it’s very important to know that to help with motivation, but if you were able to find a way to motivate yourself to use both visual and auditory stimulation at the same time, you’d actually learn faster.

Joshua and his team try to provide the best experience they can to unlock the learning potential of their clients, and bring their gifts and interests to the forefront.

Becoming a Better You with Self-Teaching

There are two main groups of people who tend to benefit the most from Mindstone.

The first group consists of those who are trying to make sense of a particular topic, and want to have an experience that allows them to dive deep and cultivate the learning for themselves, while still having some structure that’s provided by somebody else.

These people choose to go through a course because someone has done the curation work for them, and they want to be able to take that end result (some kind of certification) to use in a new job, or to elevate themselves in their current interests.

The second group are those who are self-directed and very inquisitive.

They are already going online and self-teaching themselves various topics. They have to consume a lot of information and make sense of it on a day to day basis.

In short, both of these groups are looking to become the best version of themselves.

Mindstone can cut that work in half, allowing them to access, import, and organize their findings in their own workspace. They are able to engage with it at a much deeper level, and more importantly, to get back to the information when they need to.

When you are looking for that particularly interesting section that you read three weeks ago, in an article that you forgot, you can simply head over to Mindstone and look through your highlights in a category over the last week. You can instantly go back to the source of the article and locate all the thoughts you had at the time. You could even share that resource with somebody else and ask them to share their thoughts in the relevant comments.

Exposure and Retention Outside of Marketing

People who are already self-teaching can often get burned out and struggle with prioritizing. Aside from this, it becomes difficult to retain, and to know where to go next once your line of studies seems at its end.

Mindstone helps people organize their resources and make sure they’re not overwhelmed, not just because they wanted to create yet another platform, but because of the science behind it.

There is an ideal frequency at which your brain is exposed to information in order to optimize for the retention of that information. Interestingly enough, we have known this in marketing for a very long time: you want to see a brand just enough times in the same weekend, during the same month to make sure that the brand name sticks in your head.

For some reason, we’re not applying this when we actually want to remember something. On the platform, when you’ve come across something that you want to remember, you can just highlight that particular item, and alert the system that you want to remember this.

The platform then creates a flashcard for you: a space repetition algorithm, which is that frequency that allows you to remember it.

The second part of this is recall.

These flashcards don’t simply ask you to reread the particular passage, they ask questions, use fill-in-the-blanks, and other methods to force your brain to remember everything it can about that specific concept.

Finally, the third part is creating a network of information: contexts, drawing links between different pieces of information. The way that your brain learns is by connecting new information with existing information. Various parts of the platform allow you to draw links between different content, and take note of how they are connected from your perspective.

Hitting the Books

Joshua and his team are taking neuroscience, educational research and technology, and combining them to amplify and accelerate the learning process.

We’re now in an age where everyone must be a lifetime learner. We all think that, once we’ve finished university we’ve finally arrived, and can continue in a successful career. With the immense amount of information that is constantly being poured out globally, these studies and degrees don’t stay 100% relevant for the rest of your life. You must keep updated, and continue learning.

Above all, Joshua encourages entrepreneurs and self-teaching learners alike to persist, and that the only true mistake you can make is giving up just before you make your breakthrough.

Their big vision is to build a world where everyone is empowered to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want, and leveraging the power of the internet to do that.

To find out more about Mindstone, you can start here, or contact Joshua via Twitter.

For more content like this, head over to The Jeff Bullas Show and start listening!