Today's episode is all about learning with professional learner Ramses Oudt. In the digital age, where an unlimited amount of information and resources are available at your finger tips, figuring out the most efficient and effective way to learn - and taking advantage of all the information and courses available online - could, literally, change your life. In this episode some of the topics we cover are...
- Ways to optimize language acquisition
- The “professional learner” and “growth” mindsets
- Time management to maximize learning absorption
- The 7 habits of highly effective learners
- How to become a good salesperson
[00:35] Learning with ADHD
[03:46] Professional Learner Mindset
[06:41] Developing Learning Skills
[09:46] 7 Ways to Learn Efficiently
[19:12] Visualization in Learning
[22:50] How to Inspire People to Learn
[26:56] How to Develop a Growth Mindset
[34:23] Predictions for the Future of Remote Work
[36:47] Language Acquisition
[46:25] Full Immersion in Language Acquisition
[48:15] Creating a Foundation in Language Learning
[52:30] Involving Fun in Language Learning
[53:56] How to Become a Good Salesperson
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References throughout the episode:
Josh Kaufman - The First 20 Hours
So you have to keep at it and you will suck in the beginning and just that drive to become better at the process. I think for me, that is a huge motivator. Um, so really looking, trying to look ahead at what's coming at me and how can I best handle it and what, what knowledge or what skills do I need to handle that?
[00:35] Learning with ADHD
Well, thank you so much for coming on, Ramses. Thank you for having me. Yeah. Uh, so I was wondering, maybe let's start with your ADHD, cause you say, cause you say you have ADHD and that, um, it's been a struggle for you to, um, to learn for probably the first two decades of your life or something until something changed.
The question is what changed. Um, I don't know if it's the struggle per se. Like I just have many interests and I always have many interests. And I think until I went to college, it was just, everything was very unstructured. So it was just reading and I was never taking notes or anything. Um, but nobody taught me how to learn really.
So I think that, that, that is just the biggest challenge I always had. Even, even in high school, like nobody told you, Oh, this is how you learn for tests or, uh, this is how you can remember more. But then I, uh, I entered a Spanish language culture program, uh, in college. And obviously you have to learn because you have to speak a language, you have to learn a language.
And a soon I, I noticed, okay, just. Reading, every reading my, my, my technique approach until then wasn't working, wasn't making the learn Spanish. And then I thought, Oh, we'll just listen. Let's just listen. Nothing else. Uh, that wasn't helped. Well, it was helping somewhat, but not it wasn't making me conversationally fluids, although it did help, but I needed, I needed more.
So that's actually, when I started to go out and look for learning advice and see, okay, what works? How does the brain work? Um, and then with my ADHD, I don't see it as a, as a problem because when I'm interested in something I enter hyper-focus. So I can study for, I don't know, eight, nine hours. It just treat and I forget everything.
I forget to get water, to go to the toilet until like hours later, like with pain, I bled, I'm thinking, why do I feel so bad? Oh, I have to have to drink some water. I have to eat something or I have to go to the toilet. So, um, yeah, I think, I think that that is the, the, the biggest challenge I've I've had, but now I don't really see it as some, I don't see it as something negative per se.
Um, it's, I've, I've found so many ways to, to guide my attention and to program my attention that, um, now I'm, I'm okay with it. Now. My problem is more okay. I have too many interests and yeah. How, how, how can I, how can I channel that? I think that's more of a challenge for me now. Well, let's talk about that.
[03:46] Professional Learner Mindset
How do you, um, how do you like channel your, your energy, your interests? How do you focus. Yeah. Uh, so I have this concept that I call the professional learner because when I started look at my career a few years ago and looked back and how it was able to do everything was always learning. That was the central theme.
So officially I'm an, I'm a knowledge worker. So, um, I've been in consulting, I've been in a Cod management and then, uh, I've done product management and it's all about organizing, capturing knowledge and making sure that other people, uh, understand it. So for example, if you're, if you're working in a product organization, you have to train people in new features, for example.
Um, so. When it comes to the professional learner, um, thing, I always look ahead. Okay, what is coming up in my job? What challenges am I going to face? It's not always possible, but for example, uh, just take a very concrete example two jobs ago. Um, I'd, uh, I switched to a quite technical role. I'd been in sales, um, all those years and I became a technical onboarding specialist.
So I had to, to help, uh, our clients on board, but then the, the product team decided, okay, we're going to add a, an API so people can connect to our platform for me. Like I knew what an API was, but I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know how it worked, the technology, nothing. So I had to really. Learn quickly.
How does an API work, how do you talk to developers about an API? Um, how do you explain it? Uh, what does API documentation look like? I had to write the documentation without having ever having written any technical documentation before. So that's why I set out that some courses on my own, like in my free hours, if I had time at work, I would just learn documents, take notes.
Right, right. And that's actually how I approach learning projects too, to make sure, okay. I have this challenge coming up in my job and now it's up to me to come up to, to get up to speed. Um, so really looking, trying to look ahead at what's coming at me and how can I best handle it and what, what knowledge or what skills do I need to have.
[06:41] Developing Learning Skills
And it seems like you. Uh, you've developed sort of a, a meta skill learning how to learn, which yeah. Not everyone, not everyone does. So can you maybe talk about that a bit and how you've developed it? Yes, because obviously when you're a knowledge worker, you have to, you have to learn so much. It's not just, Oh, I am going to work with programmers and I need to know what an API is.
And I need to explain it. Sometimes it's very simple. It's something like we're going to use a new system. How am I going to use this new system could be, could be just an HR system. Could be, uh, could be, even be Photoshop. Hey, you have a new responsibility. Now you have to create something in Photoshop.
How do you do that? And I think that the core skill for knowledge workers it's, you cannot rely on things like, uh, like, uh, Excel spread your Excel spreadsheet skills, uh, for the rest of your life, or just, uh, you, you have math, PowerPoint skills, just a few apps you, you need to know in your career and you're good to go.
And you can just go along, uh, slowly learning. No, you have to quickly learn and it can be, can also be something very complex, like, um, um, you have to run a new project and you have to understand all these different moving parts. And I think if you are aware of how your brain learns, you can hack into that.
So instead of, um, Just, just take one principle of learning. It's it's space out your practice. It makes learning deeper instead of mass practice where you just drill, drill thrill. But most people that the natural instincts, like the intuition tells them. If I just, if I just cram, I know it right now and it feels like I know it.
So this is working. So a lot of things that feel good for learning are very, um, are like intuitively feel good. Aren't really good. So I think if you are aware of how your brain works of how it learns, if you'd know, Oh, I don't need five hours now to study. I've just bought a course on that. I need five hours now to study.
No, just set aside 20, 30 minutes every morning, and then you learn better. So maybe you can spend less time on the course. And I think. If people realize that if they become aware of that, of how they learn. And there are just a few principles that apply to almost everyone because learning styles, it has already been debunked that you, that like some people only can only learn with audio or can only learn by doing, you need all, all the, all the different, uh, sub sub skills to, uh, to learn.
And if you know how to do that, if you know how to hack into that, you can learn so much so quickly that it, I think people under estimate that the, the possibilities there are in this information age, if you know how to learn, and you can just learn new digital skills quickly. Can you give us another couple of those?
Uh, You know, um, I guess meta skills or things to know prior, one thing you just said is like space out your learning. What are another couple of things for like someone that's maybe new to learning or someone that's maybe struggling with learning. This is like, you know, here are three things or five things.
[09:46] 7 Ways to Learn Efficiently
If you do them, you're going to learn much better. I'm actually writing a sort of thread about, um, some goats call, uh, the seven principles of highly effective learners. Just let me quickly. Um, yeah. So the, the seven habits of highly effective learners, um, it, what I see now, a days they're there seven and I will mention them and then we can, we can go through them.
Let's do it quickly. So I've as the first one I've generation. So it means, um, instead of first learn, seeing a problem and then learning, uh, the answer and then memorizing that answer, you see a problem, and then you try to figure it out on your own, even when you don't have any tools yet to get, get to it.
So it could be an automation problem, but you don't even know how to code yet. So you can just, you force yourself to think, how would you solve this if you were a programmer and then there's interleaving. So for example, if you have different things you want to, uh, to learn could be something very specific video editing.
If you want to become better at transitions, better at a clip that's transitions, you can try to. And we talked about it before. It's ma that it would be mass practice. If you say, okay, I'm going to practice creating a hundred video transitions in a row. But if you just added one clip in it's in it's entirety, you do a clip transition.
Then maybe somewhere you, you cut out a little bit somewhere else, you clean up the audio and then again, Oh, I have to do another clip transition. So you interleave it with other little skills you have to do. And it's more effortful. And because it's more effortful because you, you forget a little bit how you did it, even though it's just a few seconds ago.
Um, or if you go back to video, video editing after a few, few days break, you will notice, Hey. It feels a little bit more effortful, but after a few times, I I'm actually better at it. So this, this time, and again, it also has to do with space repetition. This time allows for, um, some forgetting and the effort, the extra effort comes in, causes us better learning.
Um, then there is obviously space repetition that has to do with it. So you don't just interleave different topics, but you also space about time there's elaboration. So for example, you learn something, you learn an idea. It's so easy to just accept it and to say, to tell yourself, Oh, I know, I know no, this idea.
But if you force yourself to explain it, and I prefer writing, if you force yourself to explain it and elaborate on it. So what other ideas are connected, you will better remember and understand the idea. Um, feedback is also very important. So if you are elaborating on an idea, if you're trying to make sense of an idea, and again, something very concrete could be, could be for example, a programming paradigm.
So you're, you're used to one programming paradigm, and now you're going to, uh, switching to functional programming and you're trying to make sense of what it means. So you explain it to yourself and a feedback component could be that you show your explanation to either your teacher, but you can also just publish it in, in public, on Twitter, and then people who.
Who know more about the subject, they can correct you. They can say, Hey, um, you have misinterpreted, uh, interpreted this, or, uh, you are making a mental shortcut here because you need to always keep this in mind. Um, also has to do with reflection. So if you elaborate on something and then I like to keep also kind of a journal, so I explain ideas to myself, then I try something out and then I reflect on how well did it go?
So reflection is very important. So you describe to yourself what you did and what the result was. And it's, uh, it's almost like the scientific method. So you, you come up with an hypothesis for example. Oh, if I do this, um, um, it's like, Maybe come back to the video editing. If I, if I do these five clicks that I have the transition that I want.
Um, but then you reflect on it and you say it takes, it takes 30 seconds, those five clicks and I keep forgetting them. Isn't there an easier way. Can I do a script for example, or can I record the sequence of clicks? So you're always looking for something to do with better, um, retrieval. Um, that, that is the final principle.
I would say. Uh, number three, it's really making your, your learning active. So you can say I'm creating flashcards. For example, if you want to have some very specific knowledge and you should, you should make flashcards in a way that challenge you. So instead of show, like making it easy on yourself and that you can just think, Oh yeah, this is the answer.
Yes. Make it, for example, that you have to supply the answer. So instead of just writing down the answer on the back side, maybe have a close deletion. So you leave out part of the crucial part of an explanation, and then you have to supply that crucial part of the, the, uh, explanation. So those are a few ways you can challenge yourself.
And I think it's basically, if you want to have just a few, um, principles to condense it down to it's make learning active. So challenge yourself, try before you learn it. So that's, that's like the, uh, the generation and then space out your practice over time. So make it active, challenge yourself, make it effortful.
And then the. What also makes it effortful is if you space it out and if you sort of leave it with it with different topics, I hope I, I make sense because for me, these principles are so logical and they've been with me for so many years. They make sense when I explain them now, I think it makes total sense.
I'm, you know, aware of them as well. Uh, but if not, you know, people, you know, you can tweet at us, email us, uh, let us know if this, uh, you know, doesn't make sense and we'll be happy. Ramps is especially to explain. Um, so one thing that really shines through here is your love for learning. It really comes across.
Oh, really? Yeah. It really does. It really does. And then my question would be like, how do you get that love for learning? And then the follow-up question is like, for a lot of people that may be. Didn't have, you know, your, your circumstances growing up or maybe don't have your quote unquote intrinsic love for learning.
I don't know what you say. Your learning is intrinsic. The love for learning, or maybe it's cultivated habit, but how do we cultivate this love for learning in people in general? Um, for me, I feel like it has always been there. Um, and I think so to come back to, to what you started with ADHD, I see it as an asset because for me that I think that causes my love for learning to a large extent, because I have so many interests and I just want to understand it.
So I see something and I think, wow, I want, I want to know more about it. Hey, there's a 10 part. That's like series a documentary series about this topic. Yes. And I'll be watching it. That will be taking notes. Um, However in high school, when people would, when my teacher told me, Oh, you know, you have to take French.
And I was like, I don't want to learn French. I have no use for it. So, uh, yeah, I, I think and add, did horrible at French in high school. So, uh, that's also why it's erotic what I told my family, Hey, I'm enrolling in a Spanish language program and they were like, but you hated French. I said, yes, I hated French.
[19:12] Visualization in Learning
I donate Spanish. It's more exotic. So I always liked the exotic. So for me, it was really like that the motivation and, uh, visualization has been very important component for some to learn Spanish because I was enrolled in a four-year program, which also included, you know, teaching methodology because it wasn't just.
Spanish, but I enrolled in it for Spanish so I could endure all the other, all the other classes, like the psychology classes, which I wasn't particularly interested in back then. Um, as again, uh, um, like a way or a path to me being able to become a teacher and teach this awesome language. So visualization, it was for me really.
Okay. I picture myself living in Spain that became a reality. I pictured myself in front of a class and be engaged with students and my students thinking, wow, okay. I love this language. How is it possible that I love this language? So I was always keeping that in mind. Um, so visualization is also very.
Was very important for me, but I think that the most important factor in the end was developing a love for the process because it's so easy to, to obsess over the results. Um, but for example, learning a language or learning a hard skill, for example, programming or any other knowledge, skill, video editing, um, even just note taking or learning, taking good notes.
It's, it's an art, so you have to keep at it and you will suck in the beginning and just that drive to become better at the process. I think for me, that is a huge motivator, but then obviously also to the skill I'm learning, I need to have a use for it. So I started with Python, um, a few years ago and. I was dabbling a little bit with it, but it wasn't until I gained new repo responsibilities and I had to do more data analysis that it really became useful for me.
And then I became more motivated to actually learn the damn language and learn to use it instead of thinking, Oh, I will do it tutorial. If you, if you have something specific you have to solve. If you have two weeks to, to, to deliver on a bunch of reports, you will learn really quickly. So, um, yeah, that, that, that has always been a motivator for me, just looking at the result, being very aware of it, visualizing it, but at the same time, really falling in love with the process, because if I don't feel fall in love with the process it's, it's done, um, I'm not going to do it because the drive just for the results.
On its own. It's not enough done enough for me at least. Yeah. Uh, I've had, uh, I personally don't have kids, but I've heard from a bunch of friends who have kids that during this, you know, pandemic, um, zoom based, uh, basic zoom based classes. Most people were, you know, uh, stuck at home. Kids were doing, um, uh, classes over zoom, um, that it was really the kids that were interested in the subject to begin with.
They were flourishing and the kids that didn't care to begin with, they, they were just totally lost. Um, which just kind of goes to show that online learning can be. Fantastic for people that are engaged, um, but can also be pretty much useless for people that don't care. And this is something I've been thinking about a lot because obviously to get a great education online education into the hands of, you know, millions, ideally billions of people, uh, we need this to, I mean, online education is scalable, but, um, basically the question is how do we scale this intrinsic thirst for knowledge and this, this just this yearning for, you know, for learning and for getting better because a lot of people just don't seem to care, frankly.
[22:50] How to Inspire People to Learn
Hmm. You know, it's, uh, I always say so. So I write a lot and I often joke I don't like to write, but I'd like to have written. And I think most people are like that. They want the results without putting in the work and. Would you also mention, so learning via zoom, especially for kids is it's very difficult.
And I think there are also some needs that are unmet, especially when you're a small kid, you need to play and you need to play face to face. She needs a social interaction, but then also zoom learning via zoom. It's more challenging. It's if you have a question, if you don't know the answer, it's way more difficult to, to ask help or to be noticed.
And many people will give up and lately I've been really diving into the research of growth mindset. And I think if you have a growth, growth mindset, which means you enjoy the challenges that come with learning and you don't see it as a problem, and you don't mind looking like a fool, you think, Oh, good.
A challenge. Yes. You become motivated by the challenge itself. So you become motivated by it by the process. Whereas if you have a fixed mindset and you think I should notice, and then you don't know it and you don't want to look like a fool, I think it's also much easier to fall through the cracks. If you have the kind of mindset and you are alone on mute in a zoom call with your teacher and 10 other people, um, I think that the fixed mindset people will be happy that they can get away with, uh, not having to show if they can, that they can or cannot do something because at least they, they, they won't look like a fool.
Whereas the, the, the people with a growth mindset, they will think, Oh, this is a new challenge. This is a new circumstance. And, um, so I, I think it's a, it's a nuance. It's a complex answer. It's not that. If you are interested in something, that's the whole story, because I think if you, if you believe that you, if you believe you can grow, if you believe that challenge is part of the, of the deal to, to, to gain a skill, you'll be, you will be fired up when you encounter a challenge because you, you will see, or you will think this is, this is the moment I'm learning.
I'm having a challenge. Now, now I'm learning. Whereas someone with a fixed mindset will think I have I'm walking as against the challenge. I will just abandon the task. I'm not going to try it. Then my teacher will ask me why I haven't done the homework and I. I would just say, Oh, I forgot. So it's easier.
[26:56] How to Develop a Growth Mindset
I think. Let me give you, let me give you a little pushback on this though. Yeah. So what about if you know, your mom is working two jobs, you have five siblings. Uh, your dad is, I don't know, in a rough situation, you don't have any, you know, role models around you. You don't have, um, you know, people showing you, uh, you know, a growth mindset.
Um, how do you develop a growth mindset in that situation? It's very difficult. It's a, it's a real challenge. And, uh, It absolutely has to do also with how you grow up. So I didn't have, um, that, that environment until, uh, um, later in high school. So I, I grew up in a, I would say, dysfunctional family. So my mom died pretty young.
My dad couldn't handle it. So I was that kid. I was a before high school and even in high school, I wasn't, uh, I was surviving, I would say, uh, w when it comes to my marks it to my grades. So I had to work really hard. And my dad would just ask, have you done your homework? He wouldn't sit down with me. He would, even though he was perfectly capable of learning, but he has had his own shit to deal with.
So. Yes. I've been in that situation. And I think that's also one reason why it wasn't until college. When I said I'm struggling with learning and teacher said, dude, let's see what we can do to help you. And that was the first time that, that a teacher told me, okay, man, I'm going to help you. And let's just, uh, let's find a way.
And I think that also made me so much more motivated to become a teacher myself. And once I started to teach that I became more of a coach and I was always interested in the meta skills because most of my colleagues, they were like, Oh, these students, they are horrible at Spanish. I'm like, they're not horrible at Spanish.
They just don't know how to acquire a language. We first help them. Set the mindset make them believe in themselves and then in their capabilities. And I always, I always started, you already have the tools to learn Spanish. You already, you're all you're already, you're already. Okay. And people are like, why we haven't demonstrated anything.
It's like, please speak your native language. And they're like, yeah, sure. Whatever. It's like, no, it's true. You speak one language. Like you're not, your brain is ready for language. It's not like you're, you're, you're, you're uh, you have a disability, right? Anything you can speak in native language and heck you can speak really good English as well, because many young people in the melon speak, speak good English, and you would just see people like, Oh shit, he's right.
And that it's so much just that little, that little, uh, joke almost helped many people because they thought. Oh, that is cool. Or I would tell my, my own story. I would say I grew up like this and, uh, I, uh, I spoke English like this. I would, I would overdo it, uh, in front of the class until I learned how to properly learn languages.
And this is how I started. I would speaking Spanish at, I didn't know, Spanish so years ago and here I am teaching you Spanish and we're like, Oh, this is possible. So I think teachers play very important role as well, but it's always starts with the parents and yeah, it's, it's very difficult. It hurt it. It hurts me when I see kids who say, I can not do this and give up because I was that kid as well.
Um, it's, it's, it's tough. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I feel like sadly, when it comes to, uh, role models and also to mental health, by the way, um, As of 2021, the internet can only do so much. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I, um, yeah, I think, I think there, there is definitely a place for, uh, just looking at each other in the eye.
Um, and especially when it comes to, uh, I think to group learning in companies, so to, to, to get to, to group learning. Um, so I had a corporate job until September last year and we were doing a huge group learning projects because we were, uh, implementing a new ERP system and we had to learn all the different ways of working that people were doing with all these different systems.
And we had to consolidate it into one system. So we had to learn how people do their work and then. Try to get to some coherence standard and then implement that and then teach people how to actually use that system. And once COVID hit, we, like we could still work because most of our work was already digital.
So we would have like brainstorm sessions and we would have like sprints planning in front of a board with post-its and everything. And that changed. So we, we switched to digital tools, but it was still different because we had to make tough decisions, system decisions, where we had to disappoint people who had been asking overwhelmingly for certain features.
So we could, we couldn't deliver on them yet. So we had to find a way to communicate it also to management. And it's way easier to come to, to, to a decision when you're in the same room where you can feel each other's energy. Um, and it's yeah, it's. I think, but I think we, we are going to be able to learn better online also in a group, but we are still in transition.
And I think we really need to change our mindset and take more ownership ourselves because when you're in a meeting or in the brainstorm session in, um, just face to face, it's there different dynamic than there when there's a, an online discussion. But I think once you get used to it, or once you adapt your, your way of working.
So for example, the, the Rome team, it's a distributed team, the Rome research team, and they, they have their meetings just by typing in a. In, in a multiplayer, uh, database. So instead of talking to each other, they discuss things by a text. So think that that is not something common, but they are raving about it.
And that they are saying our thinking is so much clearer. Our discussions are better. Uh, we come to better decisions. So I think once more people try to explore these new ways of communicating. And again, it's a learning process because you have to try something out, test it out, wait a little bit, get back to it.
So again, it's, it's like, interleaving, it's like, you're elaborate on it. You gather feedback. So this in itself, finding a good way to work with your team. It's a learning process in itself. So you have to, you have to plan, you have to reflect, you have to gather feedback. Uh, it, it, there's so many, so many ways that learning can help people in teams.
[34:23] Predictions for the Future of Remote Work
I think. Yeah, for sure. Um, huh. Yeah. I still don't know whether we're going to be, uh, you know, mostly remote in, you know, over the next five to 10 years or whether we're going to have like a hybrid or whether a lot of people will be like, Oh no, COVID is over now. Let's go back to how things were in 2019.
It's going to be interesting. Well, I mean, I don't go to shops anymore. Almost. I, I order everything online. Um, I know many people who were very fanatic in the beginning, like, uh, former colleagues, uh, or former managers who told me in the past, Oh, you cannot work from home. It's, that's not, that's not, um, I need to be able to reach you.
And now they've been working for, for, for a year, uh, from home and they're telling me, man, I may be going back to the office one or two days a week. Not, not, not anything more. And I think people are getting used to this and there's still for certain conversations and certain decisions. I think I still think it's better to be face-to-face for much work.
I think it's a blessing also because you. It allows you to do more deep work because personally in an office, I cannot, I cannot do deep work. Like even when I'm with my headphones on people interrupt me. They're like, Oh, quick question. There are no quick questions because it's always difficult to, to get back to the task.
So I, I see so many possibilities that are not used yet that I'm, I'm hopeful for where we can, can go. And I think as collaboration tools are getting better and also online facilitation is getting better because especially when you have online meetings, you need good facilitators. I think, um, there, there are companies that will, that will say we are remote only, and there are already many companies doing that and their success stressful, very successful.
[36:47] Language Acquisition
So yeah. I don't know, but then obviously there's always a place for, for face-to-face context. Yeah. Like always it's complex. Yeah. I know. I know there's no like black or white answer there really isn't, let's talk more about language learning because I'm in language geek myself and, you know, I learned English, French, um, you know, your, your, your most favorite language.
Um, also, um, so I grew up, uh, speaking Russian, but not that great to be honest, because I was born and raised in Germany. Um, so then I had to actually actively, uh, teach myself a lot of Russian to get to the point where. I could say, okay, I'm actually fluent in Russian. I was sorta like, you know, just by, you know, immersion, um, osmosis, uh, I got to like a, you know, medium sort of level.
And then I had to also teach myself to get to a better level. So I have a fair amount of experience with language learning. So talk to me about how you learned Spanish and a couple of maybe skills, techniques, methods, strategies, um, yeah. Uh, do, do you have three hours? I will. I will. I will try. I will try to condense it.
Uh, I think many of the principles, uh, that, that I just mentioned before also come in play with language, learning how I learned language, uh, our learned Spanish, um, was, so I first tried the, the grammar approach, just how. Call it a prescribed it. So you have the grammar, the verb conjugation tables, and you have the word lists and the textbooks and everything.
And I did everything religiously. I was, Oh my goodness. I was cramming those, those, those conjugation tables. It's, it's horrible, but it didn't, it didn't make me fluent. It didn't didn't improve my understanding, which was scary for me because I thought, okay, as long as I can at least can understand something.
I will be more motivated. Um, and it wasn't happening. So I stumbled upon all Japanese all the time, which is a block by this crazy Kenyan dude call. He calls himself a cutsie Moto, and he taught himself Japanese in about 18 months without going to classes, describes it on his blog at it's essentially.
[46:25] Full Immersion in Language Acquisition
Immersion as much as she can. So home immersion by watching television cartoons, movies, um, mostly stuff you already know may be in your native language. So there, for example, there are many movies I know by heart in English. And then in my case, I would just get the ducts version in Spanish. So if you're learning a language that those dubbing, then your sets, because you will have access to so much engaging content that you already somewhat know that it becomes a lot easier.
Um, and then next to it, I was very heavy on the flashcards. So I had on the front of the card, I had the sentence always sentences. I had a sentence in Spanish and then the back of the card, I started out with the translation in Dutch, but as my. Language skills grew. I started to only do you definitions of unknown words in Spanish on the backside.
So I would see the sentence, I would say it out loud and I would test myself. Okay. What does it mean? And then, um, while I turned the card, I used this a five card program on key. And like when I graduated, I think it had about 5,000 flashcards that, that deck, and it was just sentences that I mind. So to say from television, from movies, books dictate
So I would just scribbled down worse that I saw repeatedly and just couldn't figure out the context, uh, the demeaning from the context. So we'd write them down and then I would get like four or five dictionary sentences. And then I would add those two to my flashcard deck. And then obviously many of my classes were in Spanish.
So I was just immersing myself as much as I could in, in the language, not giving myself a break. So getting up in the morning, my alarm clock would play Spanish rap music. I would be in the train, listen again to Spanish music. Well, maybe reading, um, like a comic book in Spanish. And then my classes were mostly in Spanish.
And if I had days that I had. No Spanish classes are no classes in Spanish. I would hang out as much as I could with my Spanish speaking, male native, Spanish speaking classmates, instead of the, the Dutch guys. Uh, um, and so I had all these little hacks just to get more Spanish in my, in my life. I even ended up going to Spanish church for a while, just, just to absorb it as much as I could.
And, um, getting contact with native speakers. Because for me that was, that was really motivating. I really like, uh, Latin American culture and it's very diverse. So I discovered, Oh, people from the, from, from Venezuela is so different from Argentinian. So for me, there was, it was like a, an adventure game almost like I get to, I get to learn these new foods or these Ida items or these, uh, little expressions that people have.
For me, that, that, that, that was just, it was one big game to always improve, to always learn something, to always add a new card to my, to my space repetition system. It was really challenging myself and making it a game and trying and trying to ascend, uh, that the, the, the, my, well, the, the level of, of, of proficiency.
Hmm. Yeah, one thing I've found with, uh, English and friends for friends, French, French for instance, is that it's really hard to get from knowing zero French to maybe like a two B one level, so a sort of intermediate level. And then all of a sudden, you're in a place where you can watch movies. You can read books, you'll maybe understand only 50%, but that's fine.
Like you're at the, you know, you're, you're in this place where you're able to just consume, uh, native content. And that's huge because then you can just. Whatever you're into, you know, whether it's, you know, nature documentaries or I don't know, cryptocurrency stuff, you can learn about that in, in, in that language.
And that makes it so much easier. And, um, yeah, I would say I started out with native content and I would say everyone should start out with native content because I hated, I hated my textbooks. And what'd you say it's absolutely true, because at some point I was just getting fed up, watching toy story for the 50th time, because I I've watched horror stories so many times since, but that's, that's a movie I really liked as a kid and I had warm feelings, warm, fuzzy feelings, watching that movie in Dutch.
And, uh, I could just rewatch it and there, there was some other movies that, uh, like. Super bad, for example, have you every wetsuit, but it's so funny. It's so quick. He and I would, I had seen that movie so many times in English, so I couldn't see it anymore in English, but then I watch it in Spanish. I was like, Oh my goodness.
It's even funnier in Spanish because they're, to me certain expressions, it well for Spanish person that they're very normal. But to me, they sound very funny. So that, that kept me motivated. Um, and there was one, at some point I grew impatient and I thought I'm just going to watch Spanish shows even though I don't understand them at all.
And because, you know, dubbing, it's more, it's cleaner. It's uh, and especially like I said, I already knew most of the content, but I remember I was watching this spinous show. And at the end of the show at the up the episode, I thought. What the fuck I understood the entire story was as if someone had flipped on the light switch in my mind.
And I realized in that moment, I was like, I understand Spanish, native, Spanish Spaniards. How is this possible? So it was the first time I've realized that I was, I was proficient enough to keep up with full, like full speed Spaniards speaking as they speak. And that was another motivator for me. But I think you can get there pretty quickly because sometimes it's just a single phrase that you understand.
And then it's like, Oh, I understood that phrase. So you have these little, these little wins that I think are very motivating. Uh, at least they were for me. Yeah. Oh, totally, totally. And I think I'm a huge fan of a full immersion and obviously not a lot of people are in a position where they can, you know, pull, you know, uh, like a Benny Lewis or like a Scott Young and just go like, you know, three months or six months full immersion doing it eight hours a day, 10 hours a day.
But that's definitely the most effective way of doing it. And, um, I don't know. I didn't know because no, I I've. Well, I know Benny personally and, uh, we, we buried, buried the hatchet many years ago, but we had like a, Oh, he was way more successful, always with this blog, but we had a little bit competing blogs when he just started out.
And, uh, I was running it with a friend of mine called Matt. And he was, uh, he taught himself French up until very high level. And now we use a tech Korean, and we were completely obsessed with this input first method. And at Ben, he said, no, you just need three months. And we, so we said, that's completely unrealistic because how many people can move to the country.
But then also I think what he does, although it's, it's great. And he has a great life doing it. And. Power to him, but it's still mass practice. So you go to the country and you jam three months of learning, um, in, in, in one block and instead of spreading it out. So if you spread out the same effort over one or two years, I think you would become more fluent than, um, those guys in three months, they will probably say, say, say something else.
They will say, Oh, spreading it out too much. It will. It will, uh, instill a fear of speaking in you and, and nonsense like that. No, no, no. I agree. I agree with this. It's just like, I found that the, the, the part of language learning that just sucks is to go from zero to one to go from, like I know to, like, I can kind of make myself understood that that just sucks.
[48:15] Creating a Foundation in Language Learning
And if you can, just that sense. Absolutely. Absolutely. I think, I think if you, if you have like a. A ramp up period where you go really hard at an extreme, um, it, it, it could really help. Yeah. I'd never considered that actually, um, to, to, to go really hardcore in the beginning that you have yes. Like a foundational basis.
That's an interesting thought. I haven't really contemplated it. This is how I've always seen it because like, basically we can have like a long discussion about this. I mean, we are, but, um, but like it's the whole, like, right. So let's just say, okay, a person being fluent in the language is like B two, or maybe it's be one, but it's definitely, it'd be two.
And, um, and then the question is like, how do I, how do I get there ASAP? Because getting there is like the sucky part and once I'm there, it's fun. And once I'm there, I can talk to people like in, you know, I, I like about more than just the weather, you know, I can actually have discussions and, um, and it's, and it's super fun.
So in that sense, it's great to be like, okay, I'll take maybe actually the perfect, as far as your effort based, uh, approach, maybe actually the perfect, you know, um, the, the MVP, if you will, maybe it's four weeks, you know, four weeks of total immersion. And then it's like, maybe it's an hour a day. And then if you do an hour a day, every day after that initial, whatever four week or six week, uh on-ramp then probably within a year, you're going to be again, depending on how skilled a language learner yard.
Cause like, obviously if I were to learn Spanish, now I could totally learn it in a couple of months because I know French, I know English, I've learned multiple languages already. Um, So then probably for me within a year, it's fair to say my Spanish would for sure, BB too, if not higher. Um, so yeah, yeah, that's fair.
And it reminds me of, of, uh, Josh Kaufman's the first 20 hours. He has written a book, rapid skill acquisition, and I think he, so his approach, it's very close to just deconstructing a skill. So really identifying whether the different parts and then in what order should I learn them and then recalibrate as you go along.
So again, gather feedback and then see, okay, what is my weak spot? And then maybe have a creative drill for it. Um, and then drill that weak spot and then go on. So yeah, I think, I think there's, yeah, there's probably something to say for that. Um, although I only know one speed, so that's extreme. Sometimes, sometimes people ask me, um, they, they explain their situation and, uh, for example, they, they, they're moving to Taiwan and they say, okay, in six months, I'm going to move to Taiwan, but I only have one hour per day.
Uh, how should I go at it? How am my one hour a day? I don't know how to make best use of one hour a day. If you told me you have four hours a day, I could tell you a little bit more like two hours of television watching. Yeah. It's um, um, maybe that's also my personality. I tend to go to extremes. So I will, I really liked to, to, to get stuck in something and then, uh, get myself work hard to get myself out of it.
[52:30] Involving Fun in Language Learning
So, uh, Yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm a little bit of extreme learner, I think in that sense, but I, I liked, I liked that it, it probably is to first go extreme and then like pull back a little bit on the, uh, intensity. So you can, so you can build on that foundation. That's, that's a very interesting concept. Yeah. And then as a, as a learner, you're also able to, um, just have fun in that language, like the person, right.
That only has an hour a day, um, to learn Chinese, um, you know, maybe they're really into some sort of, I don't know, a TV show, right. I'm sure there's a Chinese version of it somewhere. And like, if you get, if you go hard for whatever, the first couple of months, you're able to watch that TV show and then it's fun.
And then it's like, you're watching that TV show anyways, you might as well watch it in Chinese to have fun, you know? Yeah, that that's, that's really how I stuck to Spanish because in the end, for example, I remember just following some shows and I was, instead of watching them on the Dutch television with subtitles, uh, in, in the original audio, I would wait until I could download the, the dubs version somewhere.
And I would just follow the shows in Spanish because I was so used also to like their voices that when I heard the original, I was like, Oh, it sounds weird. So yeah, that's, that's, that's, it's a good point that, that you, that it just becomes normal for you. It's just the thing you do. So, Oh, you're learning Spanish.
[53:56] How to Become a Good Salesperson
Well, you just watch Spanish television. You don't even think about it. It's just, it's just, yeah, for sure. For sure. I have one last, uh, maybe question to tackle, which is sales. So, cause I know basically you started out as a teacher and then you ended up in sales and, um, very successfully. So if I might ask if I might add, and then basically the question is like, uh, as far as the learning, uh, is concerned, how, how do you, how do you become a good sales person?
Basically again, I, uh, I wasn't a perfect situation because, um, yeah, I graduated in 2011 and there was still an economic crisis going on, uh, budget cuts and I couldn't find a full-time job as teachers. So, and that's common in the Netherlands that you work at two or three schools? Uh, I didn't, I didn't want that because I already have trouble keeping up with one student body, let alone three, my goodness.
So, uh, uh, yeah, I, uh, I talked to a friend, he said, Oh, I think, I think you would be a good salesperson. Like you're energetic. And you, you, you like to teach, sell things to two people. So what about teaching someone a product or, or, um, how to solve a problem? And it's like, Hmm. Okay. So I ended up in a, uh, I ended up as a telemarketer.
There's no other word to, to flip it. It, I was supposed to leave for the first two years of my professional career. After graduating, I was a telemarketer. So eight hours a day, I would call it managers to set appointments for my accounts manager colleagues. So, uh, and we were, we were hired as a telemarketer.
So it wasn't like I was working for one company in the morning. I would be a telemarketer for Dell. And in the afternoon I would be a telemarketer for HP, for example, and because it could be the same product. So in the morning, it's, uh, it's Dell servers and then afternoon is HP servers. So I had to learn different.
We all had to learn different solutions and it was really faking it until we were making it because I knew something about it, but didn't know anything about. You know, it infrastructure or vendors or distributors or resellers, whatever it's was completely unknown role for me. And that's where I really learned how to take good notes because we had these briefings like four hour briefings about this, this, this, uh, project we were doing.
So for example, I would be calling for 10 days for Dell, for new type of server. And I had to understand what is the problem that this new solution solves and how can I recognize what questions can I ask that people to discover? Are they a fit or two to talk with my colleague, uh, or not? And then while I was having all these phone calls, I was always typing away.
It was always taking notes. And then after that, after each conversation, I had to turn those notes into a coherent piece that I could give to the account manager that was going to visit that, uh, that potential clients. So for me, I already learned a little bit how to take notes during lectures, but in that two year period, I was just writing notes for almost eight hours a day while I was on the phone.
And I would ask a question and if I had an, a report, some guys could, could launch into a five, five minute answer, and I just had to write a blog and I had to. So I was writing down stuff also that I didn't know anything about. So they would mention the specific technologies or standards that they were using or, um, you know, security standards.
And they would be like, yeah. So currently we're upgrading our data center to this ISO certification and I would be like, Oh really what I certification? And they would mention it. It's like, Oh, that's pretty strict. I had no fucking idea, but I would just write it down and I would just look it up. And then by writing those notes and by trying to give an impression of the conversation that I had, I learned the skills that would, that still helped me because when I, when I take notes now for simple people, tell me how are you able to take these notes from a live lecture?
Because for example, sometimes I, uh, Uh, I offered to take notes for four live sessions and I just directly, after the session ends, I sent them to people like, how is this possible? But that, that is exactly the practice I had. And again, it's learning, it's doing something for eight hours a day for two years, refine it, listen back to recordings.
So that's the feedback. Take notes. Have, um, try out questions to ask. So for example, I would never have a script. I would only have a bunch of questions. I would do my intro. I would ask a few questions to gauge. Okay. Do you even have time for me? Are they even a little bit interested in this topic? And then I would do a short pitch and then it would have a few more questions to qualify them to see.
Okay. Is there a real need or are we just going to drink coffee and talk nonsense or you with my colleague? So. I became better at asking questions and I became better at writing down those answers in a detailed but condensed form. And I think that's that's yeah, that's really where I learned how to take good notes.
How do you get, yeah, sorry. No, sorry. Um, how do you get them to, uh, to not hang up on you? Just like that? Oh yeah, that's difficult. It's uh, I would say rapport and it's always like, for me, I was always very aware of there's a human on the other side. So once I went into, so I went further into seals and then made the transition to more technical roles.
I was at the other side of the, of the line and like, I was called by five people a day, trying to sell me something or trying to get an appointment, uh, with me. Just like I tried five, six years before, but I could always hear the tone of their voice, um, that they were not really, they were not really interested.
They were just thinking of, Oh, I need to just closest guy. I need to get a, an appointment with this guy, but I learned very quickly how to, how to talk to people because I would just write down, start up with the pitch doesn't work. And I would do that maybe five times in a row of five, four out of five times, people would hang up on me, uh, when I was in to pitch.
And it was like, okay, there's no, not a report. They don't give me permission yet to take 30 seconds from their time to tell them why I'm I'm, uh, I'm calling. So in the end, I became really good at. Keeping it a little bit vague, why it was calling and then like two, three minutes in people would ask, Hey man, but we're having a cool conversation, but why are you calling like, Oh, okay.
So I have to ask and then I could do my pitch. So it was always trial and error. It was always treating them as humans, uh, respecting their time respecting, uh, the situation they were in. So for example, if I called someone at four o'clock in the afternoon, I knew he had been called so many times that day because the average it manager in the Netherlands, they are called between 10 and maybe 15 times a day, just by telemarketers, just trying to sell them something or get an appointment.
So I was very aware of that. And, uh, I think if, if you are, and you you're very deliberate about your approach. And I was very deliberate that learning, um, I would, I would reflect every day and I would feel like shit, if I didn't have an appointment, I would sit down with, uh, like my manager and I would, he would be like, why do you take it so seriously?
It's like, I feel today. And then I feel today. Now we're at the beginning of the month, you have enough time to get up to speed. Like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Today just was shit. And then I would try to reflect, I would try to talk with him about, okay, I did this and this was the reaction I got. So always very deliberate in analyzing, what am I doing?
What is the response? And how can I try something else again? It's it's, it's a sign, different method. It's forming a hypothesis and test it. Hmm. And, and, uh, did you have the same sort of opener or hook, um, to get people to never, it was always different, always different. Uh, yeah. And, uh, it was even, even if I, so at some point you, like when you call a company, you always end up with a receptionist.
Uh, so you introduce yourself and the Netherlands is you introduce yourself with your name that comes to your calling, uh, from, and the person you're looking for. And then sometimes why are you calling? And that moment already is very important, but at some moment, like your introduction, like, okay, this is from society from Dell speaking, how can I speak with this?
And this person, my manager would come in and spec me, smack the back of my head and say, you are sounding like you you've done this a hundred times. You've set this a hundred times today. I said, but I have said this a hundred times a day, like. Right. And now you're not getting, getting connected. You will, you will see it's like, Oh.
And there was like, Oh yeah, uh, uh, the person is not available. And then I would hear five times in a row. The person is not available, even though I knew, like I had spoken to them in the morning. Um, and they will, they, they told me, Oh, call me at four. And then the receptionist wouldn't let me through. And I knew it has to do with my, my intonation.
So it it's always mixing it up and keeping it natural. And, uh, even though you're doing something a hundred times, um, make it, make it look natural. And, uh, and that's really hard, I would say, yes,
you know what I'm asking you because I've done this before and as well. And I would say I failed miserably at this. Yeah, it's a, it's, it's tough. Like I've seen that people come in and leave literally crying after three days. And, uh, and it was funny to see like the veterans in that company. Like there was one guy who had been there.
When I, when I joined, he was already there for two years. He was just so good. And he was so slick. I thought, how is this? And the guy said, Oh man, I was a robot when I came in, I was signing the same every time. But now it's like, I keep it playful. I, I, uh, sometimes I don't like you something different every time to keep yourself on your toes and you build in little challenges.
So for example, um, At one time we had a sales coach who said, you guys are talking too much after you close. So you do the proposal for the appointment and then you should shut up. And we were just, uh, doing little competitions about, uh, about who can shut up the longest, this, this one veteran guy. He, I, and we've recorded some of our conversations.
There was one instance, like he shut up for 30 seconds. I couldn't do it. I, for me, it's so difficult. I want to fill the silence. And that guy just had all these techniques. Like he would put it on mute and he would put his little stress ball and he would just smile there deliberately is just like, and I was like, why do you do that?
It was good. And he said, That prevents me from interrupting them. Like it's on mute, I'm away from the phone. I can not do anything. So it's up to them to respond first. It's like, wow, that's genius. But that's that, that comes with experience. But then also doing the same thing over and over again that you just want to shake things up a little bit and, and you have all these little tricks that you, that you learn.
So it's, again, it's it's practice and it's active practice. So you're not listening to successful own conversations. No, you are doing it yourself. So you're practicing, practicing, practicing, and then you're listening back to your own conversation. So we're always listening back to our own conversation and, uh, learn to critique our conversations and then always a little challenges too, to keep your main motivation going.
Um, At some point we had like a, we, we crowned every month, the, the person who had the most appointments in that month, and we had a whole ceremony where like, we were kneeling in front of each other and stuff like that. And that really made you not want to lose.
Okay. So yeah, that that's, I think really that's, that's how you learn to, to keep it, to keep it playful, but be very deliberate about it. See, to sum it up, I think, yeah. I think this is a great, um, point where we can, you know, finish, finish up the recording. Um, do you have any final words and work if people find you online ramps?
Um, so people can find me online on Twitter mostly. So my handle is our, our outs and, um, I'm sure you will put a link somewhere. And, uh, my personal blog dot blog, where I write irregularly and they can sign up there for my Sunday school newsletters. So I have a newsletter, a bi-weekly news newsletter that is sent out, um, about essentially learning skills.
So very wide ranging, anything that has to do with note-taking to flashcards, to mindsets. Uh, I cover it all. And, um, yeah. W w what else to say, it's a learning. Yeah, you, you, you, you asked me at the beginning, so what, how are you said this is a meta skill and I really want to, to Henry to hammer it home that yeah, learning is a Metta skill.
And I believe that if you know how to learn, if you get to love the learning process, anything is possible in the information age, especially if you're a knowledge worker, if you're digital worker, anything is possible, uh, as long as you, uh, put in the time and effort. Yeah. Yeah. Amen to that for sure.
Oh, man. This was so great. Thank you so much. You're welcome. Thanks for the conversation. Thanks so much for listening. If you like the podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Spotify and share the episode with someone. You know, it really helped me out a ton. New podcasts coming out every Monday.
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