084: Jonathan Levi is Superhuman

The Only Skill That Matters

Jonathan Levi is a serial entrepreneur, bestselling author, and keynote speaker born and raised in Silicon Valley. He is the host of the SuperHuman Academy Podcast.

Since 2014, Jonathan has been one of the top-performing instructors on the online learning platform, Udemy. He is the author of the bestselling “Become a SuperLearner®”. He also runs two online training portals: SuperHuman Academy® and Branding You™ Academy.

Today, he talks about different concepts including some learning strategies, speed reading tips, learning a new language, utilizing visualization to boost memory, and some survival guide we can learn from our ancestors.

What We Discuss with Jonathan Levi:

  • The concept behind his TED Talk
  • His learning journey and his struggles at school
  • From contemplating suicide to discovering his self-worth
  • How our ancestors learned to survive
  • You could learn anything if you want to! How do you do it?
  • Changing the narrative from doing to being
  • Some efficient and fast learning strategies
  • A practical view into speed reading
  • The two main elements in learning a new language
  • The power of visualization to improve your memory
  • Attention-management to increase your productivity

[01:30] Some Takeaways from Jonathan’s TED Talk

The traditional education system. Schools teach us all these valuable skills, but they don’t teach us the most important skill which is how to learn.

The world’s most successful and effective learners don’t learn the way we’re taught in school. What if schools taught us how our brains work and how to leverage them to learn more effectively?

[03:40] Jonathan’s Early Learning Journey and Challenges

Early life of depression. Jonathan used to struggle with his studies and had been diagnosed with ADD when he was 8 years old. Eventually, he went into deep depression and self-hatred.

He was struggling both inside and outside of the classroom that he even came to the point of contemplating suicide at 13-14 years old.

[06:28] Discovering Real-World Superpowers

Knowing your worth. Jonathan ultimately acknowledged he was never going to be an A student (although he did). But he knew he had something he was good at and could excel at.

Getting the needed help. Before he began business school, Jonathan hired a husband-and-wife team. They coached problem students in accelerated learning, memory, and speed reading.

Anyone can learn what he did. Jonathan started down this path of “re-education” of what is truly possible for the human mind and the human body.

[09:00] Learning Like a Caveman

Imagine how your ancestors lived from a learning and knowledge perspective. They actually knew more than we do in terms of plants, animals, seasonal migrations, and medicinal therapies. They had long, vast oral traditions and family history. If writing had not been invented, you’d be storing it all in your memory.

A visual way of learning. What they didn’t know was how to read and write. All their knowledge was transmitted in a visual and experiential way. Everything was visual for them. Our visualization and location give us a huge survival advantage.

The Picture Superiority Effect: In our minds, whether we know it or believe it, pictures are vastly superior to many other forms of memory

Visualization is the third-best sense. Smell and taste are more important for survival. While they’re actually much older senses in the brain wired directly into the reptilian brain, visualization is third-best. You can learn to visualize anything.

[13:20] Empowerment and Learning

You can learn anything if you want to. As you learn new things, you become more and more empowered.

Treat everything in your life as a learning challenge. Your relationship with your problem changes. And that changes everything!

[19:00] Learning a New Way of Learning

We’re taught not to break the status quo. Most of the school is designed for future academia. Unfortunately, less than 5% even becomes academic. The rest of it is for compliance for people to be trained in the factory. Don’t disrupt.

It all comes down to memory. Memory gets a bad rap, however, there’s no learning without memory. You can’t change everything at once. But at the end of the day, there are things you need to commit to memory.

Memorize the right way. Knowing how to memorize information effectively becomes fun and entertaining. It becomes a creative exercise. It becomes fast and easy.

[25:00] A Practical View Into Speed Reading

Research shows that the most effective readers do a few different things. 

1. You move your eyes less. When you’re taking in groups of words on a line, you’re actually spending less time with your optic nerves. This way, you’re able to take in more information.

2. You can train your mind to pay attention to blurry stuff. You want to try to reduce the amount you’re hearing in the mind’s voice. The way our brains process language is predominantly vocal and auditory. You’re always going to hear some of the words in your mind’s voice. The smaller the proportion you hear, the faster you can go.

3. Our brains are really fast at identifying visual symbols. 

  • We can understand spoken text at a maximum of 350-400 words per minute. But we can take in images so much faster.
  • We can recognize a complex image in 13 milliseconds (0.013 seconds). We can also recognize the face of someone we know and assess the emotion on that face for 150 milliseconds.
  • Train your brain to look at reading as just taking in these visual symbols. You can learn to take in chunks at a time.

[29:42] Strategies for Learning New Languages

The two main elements in learning a new language are vocabulary and grammatical structure. Vocabulary is much easier to learn. In learning grammatical structure, for instance, you can create a memory palace methodology where you can load all of the grammatical rules into a memory palace.

Speak from Day 1. You cannot learn languages from a textbook or listening to YouTube videos. Go out and test your knowledge in a feedback loop. The most effective learners apply their learning immediately. You get so much more feedback because you’re able to constantly test your own knowledge.

Fluency is being able to dance in a language. There’s a big difference between knowing something and knowing how to use something. Fluency is when you can do wordplay in a language. You can express anything in that language. You can think in the language without being hindered or held back.

[34:54] Visualization as It Applies to Memory

Use your preexisting knowledge. Create a visualization comprised of your existing memories.

For anything you want to memorize, come up with a mental picture. There are systems to make this easier. However, it all comes down to making pictures in your head.

Some rules to make your visualizations more likely to work:

  • It should be highly visual.
  • Ideally, it should be connected to your existing knowledge.
  • It should be bizarre, sexual, violent, weird, and attractive. Be as detailed in your visualization as possible.

[44:55] The Writing Process

Writing a book is different than writing a blog or a course. Apparently, there is a very delicate balance between stories, narrative, entertainment, and content that people can actually apply.

Episode Resources:

Watch Jonathan’s TED Talk: What if Schools Taught Us How to Learn

New Book: superhumanacademy.com/book

Jonathan’s website: superhumanacademy.com

Our subscription program: https://superhumanacademy.com/squa

Follow Jonathan on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Check out Jonathan on YouTube.

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