The 5 Learning How To Learn Myths That Are Destroying Your Success


Over the last 10 years, I've spent thousands of hours mastering the skill of learning how to learn. I've co-created the largest learning how to learn community in the world. And, I've coached hundreds of people to learn faster.

While learning how to learn is an in-demand skill, it's still very new. As a result, there are a lot of misconceptions. I wrote this article to clear the big ones up...

1. Learning is not linear. It's paradigmatic.

“Major breakthroughs often come after major breakdowns.” — Matshona Dhliwayo

It is not a smooth, one step ahead of the other process.

Sometimes it's a plateau. Other times, it is sudden & surprising. Other times, you know you're ready for a shift, but you're not sure how. We develop by jumping from one paradigm to another.

Why This Matters: People often give up on learning a new skill because (1) it takes longer than they thought or (2) they stop improving. As a result, they think something is wrong with them, and they lose confidence that they can ever get to mastery. By understanding the contours of the journey, you'll know what to do at each step. When you hit a challenge, you'll think to yourself, "This is just part of the process."

I spell out my 14 laws for navigating paradigm shifts in this tweetstorm.

2. Learning is not about skills. It's about transformation.


Learning is not about stacking one skill upon another.

Rather, it is more fundamentally about transformation. About becoming someone new. Someone with new goals, values, perspectives, and ways of making meaning. In the world of adult development, this is known as a stage. Just as children go through sequential stages, so too do adults. This was only really accepted 50 years ago or so.

To accomplish big goals like getting fit, starting a business, writing a book, having a healthy marriage, finding the person of your dreams, and being a great parent all require transformation into new stages—not just skills.

In other words, the person who ultimately accomplishes a big goal is not the same person who set the goal.

Why This Matters: This realization is critical, because it influences how you invest in your learning and growth. If you believe that your core challenge is skills, then you focus on consuming content (reading books or courses that only consist of pre-recorded videos). If you believe that the core challenge is transformation, you invest a lot of time and money participating in transformative experiential programs and working world-class coaches who can give you repeated expert feedback personalized for you. You look for someone who sees your blindspots and skillfully helps you work through them.

I write about this more in Studies Show That People Who Have High “Integrative Complexity” Are More Likely To Be Successful.

3. Learning is not about memorization and speed-reading. It's about results.

We first learn how to learn in the context of school where the main goal is passing a test. As a result, when many people think about learning how to learn, they think it means "memorization" and "speed-reading."

But, learning in the real world is not about test-taking. Professional learning is about being transformed and then getting new results that weren't previously possible.

Learning faster by speed reading is like trying to become a great novelist by learning how to type faster. Sure, typing faster may help you write faster, but it won't help you write Moby Dick.

I share one of my favorite learning hacks for getting results from what you read in this video...

4. Learning is not just about knowledge. It's more about mindset.

Over my years of studying learning how to learn and individually coaching hundreds of people, I can very clearly see that what stops people from getting the transformative results they want from learning is mindset, and it's not even close.


Here's what I see happen. Different emotions get triggered at different steps in the learning process...

And mindset determines how those emotions are interpreted. For learning how to learn novices, difficult emotions are signs that something is wrong with you, that you will never get mastery, and you should stop trying. For learning how to learn experts, difficult emotions are a sign that you're about to have a breakthrough. Same emotions, but polar opposite responses.

5. Learning a new skill always takes longer than you think.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect tells you everything you need to know about learning disillusionment.


When we learn a new skill, we tend to be overly optimistic at first. The reason is we don't know all of the mini-skills that are required to gain mastery, and we don't know how much practice it takes to gain those skills. As a result, we vastly under-estimate the work required to be an expert and we over-estimate our current abilities.

As we wade into learning a skill, we realize just how much further we have to go. This disillusionment leads many to give up.

Why This Matters: To become world-class at any skill typically takes years of deliberate practice and support from a coach. By being aware of this, you won't be disillusioned, and you won't give up prematurely.

If you're interested in learning about some of my best learning how learn strategies and hacks, then join our 300,000+ person online community for free.