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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Learning

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A lesson from the pope (sort of) that taught me how to understand everything better

Photo: Jorge Zapata/Unsplash

I was working at magazine a little over a decade ago when I received an incredibly valuable lesson about learning and research. A senior editor gave us interns an assignment to find out how much money the pope makes. We interviewed some Catholic academics and historians at big-name universities who gave us their best estimates, and then submitted our research file.

Our editor took one look at the file and pulled us all into the conference room. “Guys, no,” he said, shaking his head. “You call the fucking Vatican.”

“Call the fucking Vatican.” In the years since, it’s become…


🤔 Today’s tip: To be more productive, ask yourself if you’re a reader or a listener.

Figuring out how you can unlock a new path to productivity and success might starts when you understand the answer to this question: What’s your preferred mode of gathering and processing information?

In other words, would you rather read a book, and slowly absorb nuances about a subject? Or would you rather listen to someone speak, taking cues from their voice and facial expressions? …


What happens when you acknowledge all aspects of yourself — even the flaws

Confident senior woman in green against a violet background throwing up a confident pose.
Confident senior woman in green against a violet background throwing up a confident pose.
Photo: Flashpop/Getty Images

Over the years, I’ve encountered my fair share of trolling, and what I’ve learned is that it’s an art. What the finest trolls know is that in order to get under someone’s skin, the attack must fulfill two conditions: 1) some tiny part of the person believes the message is true; and 2) they’re ashamed of it.

Suppose you tell me you’d rather eat dirt than my cooking. That’s , but I’m not going to get defensive. This is because I’m not ashamed of my cooking: I the insides of my pots are scorched from many a kitchen…


Fragment it. Fuse it. Feel it.

Rear view of a man playing piano in an outdoor park.
Rear view of a man playing piano in an outdoor park.
Photo: Josh Appel/Unsplash

Practice makes perfect, right? So why is it that countless people practice certain skills for hours on end, but very few ever become world-class? What matters is how we practice.

In his book , Daniel Coyle discusses “deep practice,” a method used by world-class musicians, athletes, writers, and other masters of their craft. The idea is that the more new mistakes you can fix in a relatively short period of time, the faster you’ll make progress.

The trick, then, is to aggressively make…


A guide to challenging your assumptions

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Some of our mistakes are easier to admit to than others. If you underestimated, say, the amount of time it would take to change a tire? Most people probably wouldn’t have a problem saying so.

But when it comes to our deep-rooted beliefs and worldviews, we have a stake in remaining steadfast in what we’ve told ourselves is true. Most folks see being wrong as a mark of shame instead of a prerequisite to self-improvement. As the journalist Kathryn Schulz wrote in her book ,we often see errors as “evidence of our gravest social, intellectual, and moral failures.”


In times of struggle, an inner life brings us power

An archival black and white photo of Malcolm X giving a speech.
An archival black and white photo of Malcolm X giving a speech.
Malcolm X. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

So often in our careers and relationships, knowledge is exchanged for money or for power, for approval or for a sense of belonging, to mark out superiority in status or to feel important. But a human being is more than his or her social uses. Our intellectual growth matters all on its own. Literature, philosophy, or mathematics can enlighten and console us when nothing else will. Connecting with others shapes relationships that reach our depths. This is why an inner life is worth cultivating.

Learning for its own sake is a way to recover one’s real value. It opens vistas…


‘Structured thinking’ is about building a big answer by asking many small questions

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

How much toilet paper is sold in France each year? How many miles of train tracks are there in Germany? What percentage of people are standing up versus sitting or lying down at 9:45 a.m. in the United States?

In job interviews, you may face a brain teaser like one of these. “What’s the point of guessing the answer to a question when you can just take five seconds and Google it?” you might wonder. …


A strategy for actually getting through that course you just signed up for

A woman wearing headphones and working on her laptop takes notes.
A woman wearing headphones and working on her laptop takes notes.
Photo: damircudic/E+/Getty Images

While a pandemic is not a sabbatical, your time in isolation can be a unique opportunity to learn something new or improve your skills. But if you’re one of the many people currently trying out online education (Coursera is seeing a 300% increase in students right now compared to this time last year), you’ll quickly realize it’s not quite like regular school. With an online class, it’s easy to get distracted (no one will scold you if you decide to text your friends or stream a Netflix show while watching a lecture), there’s little or no face-to-face interaction with teachers…


Now you have the time

Credit: Nico De Pasquale Photography/Getty Images

Want to learn something new? With the coronavirus spreading across the globe and forcing us into a state of self-isolation, now is as good a time as any. And there’s no shortage of low-cost or completely free resources you can access from the comfort of your couch: online courses, podcasts, videos, and e-books.

To inspire you on this journey of self-education, I’ve gathered all the best resources I know of. I’ve also made a list of some specific topics you might like to indulge in, and I included a few tips on the best ways to learn. Let’s dive in.


The unexpected upsides to studying numbers

Photo by David Dai

Picture a mathematician. What do you see?

I’ll conjure up a popular image. It’s late at night. A figure is hunched over a desk scribbling into a notebook. The room smells like graphite dust, eraser shavings and body odor. Numbers and symbols gleam in the lamplight, and a calculator sits idle nearby towering textbooks.

It’s not an entirely unjust stereotype. Math attracts its fair share of cave dwellers. (I should know, since I had lecture with them.) …

Forge

A publication from Medium on personal development.

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