Learning how to learn: mental models
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Learning how to learn: mental models

A practical philosophy with basic principles for learning, doing and dealing with problems

About the Book

Learning is perhaps one of the key points of existence. We learn so that we can have new or different experiences. Being able to learn means we can do new things or do old things in novel ways. This ability to learn underlies the ability to solve problems. It also underlies the ability to create meaningfully.

Mental models, or more simply models, are what we create when we learn. Whether we are learning something that is outside of ourselves, some system we have to run, build, sell, install, fix or upgrade or whether it is something that directly involves ourselves, mental models are the result of that learning.

A key to effective learning, to understanding, is building these models from two points of view. So that learning is efficient and non-frustrating we can break what we are learning into clearly defined elements and focus on small groups of these in relative isolation.

A further element of learning is indexing the models that our brain builds so that we can call them up without having to think.

An additional key to learning is being able to check what we’ve learned, so that we can improve our models when necessary.

This books details a set of simple concepts, and includes principles (both first principles and basic principles) that can be easily adapted to make learning, problem solving, and creating easier.

These concepts and principles provide a framework for both thinking about how to do things and how to actually do them. 

Learn how to learn, and how to:

  • Build better mental models (and how to scale and modularize them)
  • Make learning efficient, effective and less frustrating
  • Improve problem solving abilities
  • Deal effectively with fear and frustration
  • Use limits to become less limited
  • Utilize mental models for better muscle control and body awareness
  • Improve our understanding and the way that we do things

It all starts with the notion that our brain builds models, mental models, and those models form the foundation of our understanding, intuition and habits. At the same time, we can choose how we construct and index those models thus improving our understanding and the way that we do things.

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About the Author

Neil Keleher
Neil Keleher

Hi, I'm Neil Keleher

When I was sixteen I quit school and enlisted in the British Army.

I spent five years as an armourer while continuing my education by studying math and English via correspondence course.

Moving back to Canada, I studied Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. While there, my dad, uncle and I built a custom Harley and not long after I learned to ride a motorcycle.

I spent three years as an Engineer and then dabbled in acting before spending the next 25 years as a yoga teacher.

Moving to Taiwan, I studied Tai Ji and Chinese calligraphy. I also got so frustrated looking up Chinese characters (I was using a paper dictionary) that I spent 15 years building my own dictionary and designing several indexing systems. In the process I learned how to touch-type Chinese and how to program using Python as well as Node.js.

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Table of Contents

    • 1. Mental models result from learning
      • Acting effectively without thinking
      • Doing the thinking ahead of time
      • Defining the act of thinking
      • Learning to act effectively without thinking
      • Enabling spontaneity
      • Improving models and the process of building them
      • Getting better at handling change
      • Enabling the power of choice
    • 2. Habits allow us to act without thinking
      • Habits can be modularized
      • Habits can help reduce frustration
      • Habits allow us to get on with doing
      • Habits can be simple or complex
      • Habits are housed in map-like structures
      • Habits can be changed…
    • 3. Indexing speeds up access
      • Grouping related things together
      • How our brain indexes
      • Sorting as early as possible
      • Natural indexing
      • Noticing details
      • Noticing the obvious
      • Relationships beyond indexing
    • 4. Short-term memory enables fluid learning
      • From short-term to mid-term memory
      • Short-term memory limits
      • Memorizing brush strokes
      • Not thinking: the fluid mind-state
      • A temporary model repository
      • The importance of clear definitions
      • A memory airlock
      • Mid-term memory
      • Notes on memory limits
      • Embedding in long-term memory
      • Aiding effective indexing
      • Modules, references, and contexts
      • Listening in chunks
      • Sharpening the thinking mind
      • Making choosing easier
      • Learning to ride a motorbike
      • External memory
      • Going over a program
      • Going over a book
      • Making learning joyful
    • 5. Mental models need two points of view
      • Two points of view with calculus
      • Breaking things down
      • Integrating
      • Small arms and practical calculus
      • A benefit of fixed sequencing
      • Manual learning
      • Building a better predictive model
      • Building more effective models
      • Learning effectively while reading
      • If we have the book why learn it?
      • Figuring out what each part is about
      • Figuring out the two points of view
      • Memory techniques
      • Memory palace dual views
      • Laplace transforms
      • Feynman-like understanding
    • 6. Learning is iterative (checking is required)
      • Checking model outputs
      • Fixing the model to fix its outputs
      • Improving a model or its indexing
      • Efficiently correcting problems
      • Dancing with chaos (as modular as possible)
      • Varying start points for math
      • Varying start points for movement
      • Memorizing an initial model
    • 7. Thinking takes time (so do it ahead of time)
      • Limits enable learning
      • Fracticality, choosing a practical scale for break down
      • Writing Chinese characters or understanding them
      • Ignoring the obvious
      • Riding a bike or fixing it
      • Practical fracticality
      • Learning to feel our body
      • A Dauntless approach to learning
      • Dealing with overwhelm
      • Recognizing completion
    • 8. Practicing requires purpose
      • Deciding the purpose of a practice
      • Recognizing completion while practicing
      • Practicing Chinese characters
      • Recognizing completion while prototyping or creating
      • Improving sensitivity and control
      • Practicing mind-state control
      • Practicing thinking
      • Using limits to become less limited
    • 9. Resting is necessary
    • 10. Systems create change
      • Why we learn systems
      • Components
      • Signals
      • Two views
      • Defining and Redefining Systems (and Models)
      • Landmarks (making or using maps)
      • Recognition (and using labels)
      • Indexes as a component view
    • 11. Problem solving requires learning
      • Fault finding a custom built Harley
      • Components and change
      • Checking our solution
      • Learning to feel and control muscles
      • Basic principles for muscle control
      • A model for pain, posture and tightness
      • Stability is a pliable concept
      • The greater the change the greater the required stability
      • Fixing problems with the body
      • Improving a model of the body
    • 12. Prototyping is a different type of learning
      • Creating something real
      • Working towards the change we want to create
      • Building a mental model in reverse
      • Prototypical understanding
      • Building from two points of view
      • Prototypical experiences
      • Specifying what we want
      • Experience from practice and prototyping
    • 13. Ideas are the potential for change
      • Defining an idea
      • Undestanding an idea
      • Systems as ideas
      • Being like water
      • Thinking clearly in terms of ideas
      • Relationships
      • Ideas, Relationships, systems
      • Connection
      • Connections and the flow of change
      • Ideas and relationships as options
    • 14. Mind-states give us dual points of view
      • Two mind-states, two points of view
      • Sensing limits in the fluid mind-state
      • The dangers of thinking
      • Overcoming fear
      • Directing our mind and our senses
      • Riding a river versus watching it
      • Viewing time as a river (it carries us through space)
      • The journey and looking back
      • Stopping to check our map
      • Complex numbers, the root of -1
      • Real and imaginary space
      • How to be like water
    • 15. Sudden knowings, an output of mental models
      • Intuition as a model output
      • Building intuition
      • Inner space
      • Expanding fully into the imaginary or fully into the real
    • 16. Tuning for sensitivity, responsiveness and control
      • Outer and inner environments
      • Sensing our inner environment
      • Sensory horizons and sensory limits
      • Change doesn’t stop
      • Maximizing the sensory horizon
      • Extending our inner environment (expanding our control)
      • Directing our senses externally
      • Configuring to transmit change or dissipate it
    • 17. Mental models allow us to act sensibly
      • Sensing instead of thinking
      • Applying body awareness to motorcycling
      • Recognizing
      • Feeling and controlling weight shifts
      • Recognizing skin contact
      • Sensitivity (and control) is transferable
      • Doing math without thinking
      • Doing Tai Ji without thinking
      • Balancing sensitivity, stability and responsiveness
      • Adjusting to find the middle spot
    • 18. Learning with sensible limits
      • Modelling a medical irradiator
      • Learning body awareness
      • Calibrating for touch and pressure
      • Calibrating internal sensation
      • Elbow sensitivity
      • Improving sensitivity and control
      • Upper arm and forearm sensitivity
      • Practicing arm control in context
      • Scanning
      • Practicing whole body awareness
      • Tuning and adjusting
      • Shoulder rotation
      • Arm adjustments in a context
      • Creating sensation first
      • Two sides of the same coin
      • Creating straightness or length
      • Sensing our body as a whole
      • Sensitivity and responsiveness
      • Creating transferability
      • Becoming less limited
    • 19. Zeroing parallax (or calibrating to account for it)
      • Parallax and chemistry
      • Parallax, pilots, clocks and watches
      • Understanding relationships when drawing
      • Understanding relationships when weight shifting
      • Assessing or controlling relationships
      • A reference for change
    • 20. Principles can make learning and doing easier
      • Know the change we want to create
      • Create stability (a reference for change)
      • Create or find room to sense and create change
      • Room for all
      • Riding a motorcycle: ideas, relationships, and change
      • Augmented first principle thinking
    • 21. Using limits to approach infinity
      • Limits in the thinking mode
      • Limits in the fluid mode
      • Limits for learning to feel and control our body
      • Discerning change
      • Handling change
      • A taste of infinity
    • A practical philosophy: the calculus of why we are here
    • Chapter Index
    • Subchapter Index
    • Paragraph Index
      • 2
      • a
      • b
      • c
      • d
      • e
      • f
      • g
      • h
      • i
      • j
      • k
      • l
      • m
      • n
      • o
      • p
      • r
      • s
      • t
      • u
      • v
      • w
      • z
    • Index
      • A
      • B
      • C
      • D
      • E
      • F
      • G
      • H
      • I
      • J
      • K
      • L
      • M
      • N
      • O
      • P
      • Q
      • R
      • S
      • T
      • U
      • V
      • W
      • Y
      • Z
    • About Neil Keleher
    • More by Neil Keleher

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