How to Achieve Mastery: Learn the Principles

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Effortless" by Greg McKeown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to achieve mastery of a skill or subject? Is there a secret formula that can help you go from zero to a pro?

The key to achieving mastery of any skill or subject is to study its fundamental elements. When you understand the underlying principles—as opposed to simply memorizing the information—you’ll never forget it. It’s just like riding a bicycle.

Here’s how to master anything that you learn.

How to Achieve Effortless Mastery

In order to learn how to achieve mastery, you should aim to understand the fundamentals behind the knowledge. Understanding the fundamentals will save you time and effort in the future. 

If you understand how something works, you’ll retain the information longer, and you won’t waste time relearning things over and over again. If you understand why something happened, you can apply the information to other areas of your life and more easily make connections between various subjects.

A classic example of this is understanding the principles of what you’re studying rather than simply memorizing the information. Memorizing may help you pass the test, but you’ll quickly forget it, and it won’t have a lasting effect on your understanding of the world. 

How to Apply Knowledge 

McKeown contends that learning principles helps you more effectively use information in the future. The authors of Make It Stick give tips on how to identify the underlying principles and connect them to prior knowledge. If you struggle to identify key concepts, try looking at multiple examples or problems together and finding the common threads. Comparing and contrasting can illuminate principles that may not be obvious at first glance. For example, it may be easier to understand whether the United States is headed in the wrong direction when you look at the fall of the Roman empire.

To more easily make connections between principles, as McKeown recommends, the authors of Make It Stick provide two methods:
– When taking in new information, stop at regular intervals and ask yourself what the main takeaways are. 
-Reflect on how you apply knowledge in certain situations. This may help you discover how expertise in certain areas can be applied elsewhere.

How to Achieve Mastery: Learn the Principles

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  • Why you don't need to hustle and burn out to achieve your goals
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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