The Power of Input: Rules

There are many times that we learn a skill or study a particular subject. We go through around 2 to 3 hours of tutorial and most of the people cannot recall critical points that the lecturer just taught right after. I am reading a book called “The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning”. It mentioned a few ideas that I want to share on Medium as a practicum of what the author wants us to know about how to maximize learning any new skill or subject.

Photo from: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/3-brain-technologies-to-watch-in-2018

The Definition of Input and Output

Nowadays the world is full of information. We look up social media every day and our brain processes thousand of information such as news or trend of heated topics. Nevertheless, how much information do we actually remember? And which of those pieces of information are what we need to improve ourselves?

Input refers to the process of how we hold an information in our memory by reading and listening.

Under the pressure of the modern informatics world, people usually have to learn a new skill or language within a short period of time. We get a lot of related useful materials online and then we spend thousands of hours studying them and revise them again and again. Our brain is experiencing tons of new information and ideas within a short period of time. If we ask one of us to teach or to explain to someone what they have just studied, there is a high chance that the person cannot fully understand what they have just revised or they might forget some part of it. No matter how many materials you go through, a low-quality input process is meaningless and a waste of time. It also leads to a point that both the input quality and the input quantity are important but the quality of input should always come first before the input quantity.

Output refers to the process of how we illustrate what we put in our memory during the input process by speaking and writing.

A good way to examine how much we “put” in our brain is to keep outputting what we just inputted as many as possible. Things such as go through a certain test after studying or to teach someone what you have just learned. These activities cause mental pressure in our brains. Once we face such pressures, our brain will secrete Norepinephrine that helps us to concentrate and increase our memorization, brain reflection, and the ability to judge. This is also one of the reasons why I am writing this post on Medium to make sure I have inputted to my memory efficiently from what I read. By keeping in mind what we have to output after every input process, it allows us to learn more efficiently. The pressure will also allow u to look for key points during the input process passively in your brain.

The brain will indicates what you inpuuted as important information and store it in the Temporal lobe as long-term memory if that information keep repeating the output process more than 3 times within 2 weeks after input.

To Improve our Memory using Neural Mechanisms

If I ask you what have you done at 3 pm last Monday, I doubt that not many of you can answer me directly within 5 seconds. However, if I ask you what have you done on your previous birthday, I am pretty sure many of you can answer me way faster than the first question. But why was that and how our brain can memorize such an activity a long time ago than last Monday? An alternative way to input efficiently is to manipulate our feeling as an output process to memorize important information or skill practice.

The feeling of human emotions such as happy, nervous, fear, loved, e.t.c allow brain secretions such as Dopamin, Norepinephrine, adrenaline, Oxytocin respectively e.t.c to help us Input without any Output process.

I wasn’t that good at coding when I was in the first 3 years in the University and I found it was very struggling to code. Especially looking at those top coders in my class saying I am stupid. I wasn’t enjoying it and somehow I kind of hate it at very first.

I then realized it is very hard to study something you don’t really enjoy for a long period of time. Instead of changing to another major, I tried to adjust my attitude towards the subject during summer break and to appreciate how interesting can coding be, starting from front-end development. Once you develop something and feel a bit of joy and success, the feeling from my brain made me want to study more and more knowledge in computer science. I then felt very motivated to study and practice skills and knowledge in Data Structure and Algorithm by using the LeetCode platform. Eventually, I love to learn and to code every day but not for exam and interview purposes.

3 Rules of Input

There are 3 rules mentioned in the book on how to maximize the input process.

1.) Repeat Input and Output Simultaneously.

Both the input and output processes that I defined previously can actually happen at the same time. Simultaneous input and output allow us to achieve a high-quality study. Any sport ball game is a good example. It is always too late to output on the body in any football game after watching how the other team reacts. Players must keep reacting as output by looking at the changes of the other team made as input. The reinforcement repeating process in between input and output simultaneously allows players to earn experiences and skills within a game. The same theory applies to study a subject or practice any skill. If there is a study partner to study with you (like coding), each other can sees what mistake the other person made and immediately correct you. As a result, it is then faster to study or practice with the same target as people.

2.) You need a plan that includes a direction, a target, and a deadline.

The book has suggested a plantable for the reader to write down key points before starting to practice their skills. First and foremost, a clear target and direction are needed for input to act at the same time. This ensures the time you spend is actually helping you to reach your final goal. We might absorb a lot of useless information on the internet nowadays. Whenever before we input information, a clear goal can help us to decide whether the information is helpful or not.

Second, you need a particular deadline. A deadline allows you to monitor your result towards what you want to achieve. A coding interview is a good example. Once the date is set up, I will then list out the topic to practice on the LeetCode platform and start to finish a list of questions 2 days before the interview. The remaining 2 days allow me to see what topics I am not as familiar with as the others so that I can have a reflection to practice on that topic within the remaining 2 days.

3.) Input consciously with concentration

Don’t just read and highlight! Read it and try to find the main ideas consciously. Repeat the key ideas by re-writing them into a list e.t.c. and output what you have learned to your friends, family, or the same target community. This allows you to let the information flows Into your brain and put it in the Temporal lobe. With the information stores inside your brain and illustrate as output, this is the “real” input.

Conclusion

The above blog post concluded the first chapter of the book “The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning”. I mentioned the definition of both information input and output, as well as the number of ways to improve the input quality and efficiency. Besides, I have also illustrated how important is the output process during any study or skill practice.

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