Tag Archives: music

Basic Guide To Learning

This is not a comprehensive guide to the mastery of any subject (as the title implies). It’s just a set of three principles that it’s good to keep in mind every time we try to acquire some new knowledge.

Learning principle number 1: Everything is connected.

Politics is really Psychology. Psychology is really Biology. Biology is really Chemistry. Chemistry is really Physics. Physics is really Maths.

Have you ever wondered why so many great minds are multidisciplinary? Take a look at  Leonardo da Vinci: “Italian polymath: painter, sculptor,architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer”. Well, turns out, every area of knowledge is connected with all the others. maths can teach you how to paint.

This is especially evident with languages. The more languages you know, the easier it is for you to learn new ones. This is where I discovered the importance of learning all those technical names for the words we already know how to use.

This is why I find it hard to believe that some scientists subscribe to the argument “you can’t apply the scientific method to religion and morals, it’s based on faith”. You either apply the scientific method, or you don’t. There is no such thing as unrelated areas. If you can affirm something is true without evidence in religion, you may be just as willing to do that in physics (my advice: be consistent!).

For further insights on this topic check out Holistic Learning(.pdf) and The Loom of Language(book).

Learning principle number 2:  Background matters.

“I study and study, but I can’t possibly pass this subject! How can it be, if it’s my favourite?”.

While it is a fact that some people are smarter than others, I believe the most important factor that differentiates a dedicated C student from a dedicated A student is when they started caring.

The people who is doing best in my class these high school years happen to be the ones that were interested in the subjects since they were very little. They read books, they asked questions. They have been building a knowledge base for their lifetimes.

On the other hand, some students have recently started caring about the subject at the same level than their A-obtainer counterparts. They probably used to study by repetition, not really understanding the content. They lack understanding of the most basic concepts of the matter, and thus have it extremely difficult to understand the more complex ones.

According to the first principle, the base you need to build for a new area of interest must be wide and comprehend several other areas. For example, if you want to learn Swahili, it’s not enough to learn the basic syntax and pronunciation. It’s also important to learn the history of the language and the culture of the people who speak it, among other things.

Learning principle number 3: Learning is organic.

“School is like Britannica. Learning is like Wikipedia”.

The educational system we have is linear. That means that you start at one point and you follow a line of increasingly complex concepts until someday you know enough and  get a diploma. The content is sorted in complexity order the same way the words are sorted in alphabetical order in a classical encyclopaedia.

There is no traced line from beginning to mastery of a subject or skill. You should not start learning by the basics, if the basics are not what interest you most. Learning must be a pleasant experience, always. Learning is like navigating Wikipedia. You see something you like, so you learn about it. While learning about it, you see related concepts that interest you, so you learn about them. Repeat.

When you learn in a non-linear way (organic if you will), the principle of background matters applies itself. You will not understand the most complex ideas so you will expand your knowledge until you do.

Note that this is closely related to “everything is connected” (as is should be, ’cause everything is connected ;))

For further insights on this topic check out Bring On The Learning Revolution(video), Math Class Needs a Makeover(video) and The Learning Revolution(Facebook Group).

I apologize for the made-up quotes on principles 2 and 3. I don’t know any quote that fits there! 🙂

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5 Lessons From 5 Great Film Characters

Cosmo Brown (Singin’ in the Rain)

Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite an elite, and you could charm the critics and have nothing to eat, just slip on a banana peel the world’s at your feet! Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh!

“Make ’em laugh” is effectively what I learnt from this character. I’ve discovered that a witty line can make a point, and a funny story can win an audience.

Maria (The Sound of Music)

Now children, Do Re Mi Fa So and so on are only the tools you use to build a song. Once you have these notes in your heads you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up.

From Maria I learnt that there was much more to music that I previously thought. After watching this film, I listen to music in a completely different way. I appreciate music much more now, to the point of taking singing and piano lessons.

Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

“Okay, pep talk! You can do this, but to be more accurate, you probably can’t. You’re way out of practice and she’s way too hot for you. So, remember, it’s not about scoring. It’s about believing you can do it, even though you probably can’t. Go get ’em, tiger!”

I love this quote because it reflects exactly how hard it is to explain to someone the power of confidence and positive thinking. It sounds like you are deluding yourself with a confidence overload, and in fact you are, but that’s the only way to unleash the power. If I had to pick only one thing to be successful, it’s this one. Believe in yourself.

Trip Tucker (Star Trek: Enterprise)

[about flying an alien vessel] How difficult can it be? Up, down, forward, reverse. I’ll figure it out.


Nothing is that complicated. This character made me change the way I look at things. You don’t have to focus on the problem and try to eliminate it, you have to focus on the purpose and find a way there. This may not look like it, but it was a major shift in my thinking triggered by an Enterprise episode when I was twelve.

Captain Kirk (Star Trek)

The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.

The quote above has nothing to do with the lesson, but I like it. What I learnt from Captain Kirk (although it’s displayed by almost every character in the Star Trek franchise) is that you can be smart, athletic and many other things at the same time and it’s not only OK but preferred. I consider myself lucky to have learnt the importance of being well-rounded at an early age (I watched Star Trek for the first time when I was about eight) because I was able to break free from my maths nerd stereotype an enrich my life enormously.

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What is an adventure?

A cold dictionary definition is “a wild and exciting undertaking”. But that’s all dictionaries know about adventures. Let’s ask the experts about the subject:

Helen Keller, educator who was born deaf and blind:

“Life is either a great adventure, or nothing”.

G.K. Chesterson, writer:

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.

Jacques Costeau, explorer and scientist:

“The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.

Wilfred Peterson, writer:

A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints

But the most perfect definition I’ve heard of this word is the one by Cornelius Hackl, the charming character from the film The Matchmaker(1958):

“The feeling of an adventure is when you’re in the middle of the big city and you say ‘Oh God I’m in the middle of an awful mess, I wish I was sitting quietly at home!’ And the sign that something is wrong with you is when you’re sitting quietly at home, wishing you were having an adventure.”

You have to watch this film.

We are all familiar with the fictional concepts of  ” the superhero”, “the one” and such. I’m a big fan of superheroes. But these tags have a dark side. They separate fiction from reality a bit too much. They make you think that in order to have an adventure, you have to either be the one, have superpowers or be lucky enough to encounter the alien ship that just crashed.

Those things don’t happen in real life. Therefore we think that adventures don’t happen in real life, to people like us. But films like The Matchmaker send the opposite message: you have to get your own adventures. That is exactly what Cornelius does. He says he’s going to have an adventure and gets moving. This is not an adventure film. It’s a film about adventure.

In this blog I will explore the lives of real and fictional adventurers who got their own fun: their character, lifestyle, professions and actions. What exactly makes them so special?

The musical version, Hello, Dolly!(1968) is great too:

Thanks for reading, have a good time!

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