Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Only Skill That Matters by Jonathan Levi

But the truth is that while it's great to have enthusiasm for learning, enthusiasm without planning cna do more harm than good.

The subtitle of this book -- "The proven methodology to read faster, remember more, and become a superlearner" -- immediately attracted me. I usually only read one or two nonfiction books in a year but wish I read more, especially for personal and professional development. Never mind my perpetual yearning to learn another language or be more adept at some of my woo hobbies.

The Only Skill That Matters by Jonathan Levi
Lioncrest Publishing, 2019
Source via publisher, thanks to TLC Book Tours

I was unfamiliar with Levi and his SuperLearner empire, but found his book to be easy to engage with and understand. At the center of this book is a particular practice of priming one's self for learning and a particular way of studying; and honestly, I wish I had had this book when I was in college. I managed to do well in high school without learning how to learn or study, and college was a real struggle for me. Even if I used Levi's suggestions sloppily, I think I would have done better than I did.

Whether you want to be one of his "superlearners" or not, Levi's book sketches techniques that I think many would find useful. Culling from decades of studies on learning, neuroscience, and other fields related to how we become proficient in something, Levi boils it down to some seemingly simple practices: priming the mind before learning, strengthening our memorization skills, pre-reading, and other tactics to help one learn in a more meaningful, efficient manner.

My only complaint about this book is that I found some of the how-to for the practices to be a bit thin; for example, Levi's section on memory palaces felt very introductory and I started the next chapter assuming there'd be a deep dive in to how one would use it for learning language or a new hobby, but the book skips on to another practice. (Perhaps it really is that simple and I just need to try more!) But other sections felt very robust, and Levi offers free worksheets on his website to help deepen one's learning work.

Like some other kinds of self-help books, this has a slightly hype-y feel to it and is packed with many anecdotes; unlike other self-help books, Levi actually has videos of the interviews he references, so readers can make their own judgments about the people who gush about Levi and his "SuperLearner" practices.

Levi identifies as someone who struggled greatly to learn when younger, so I think this book might appeal to a wide range of folks: already successful students might find new techniques or practices to help them be more effective while those who are curious but aren't good at "school" might find avenues for preparing to learn or study that make it less onerous or stressful. If Levi's writing style and "superlearner" ideas click, he has an enormous community to geek out with and plenty of freebies to keep growing one's abilities.