Learning how to learn: Mental models
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Learning how to learn: Mental models

A practical philosophy (with simple 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 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 where 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

I’ve been a yoga teacher for about 20 years.

I have a degree in systems design engineering from the University of Waterloo.

Prior to that I served for five years in the British army as an armourer.

As a yoga teacher I teach my students how to feel and control their body. In this context I’m like a driving instructor for your body.

One of my other hats is “indexing specialist”. One of my current ongoing projects under this hat is designing an easy to use indexing system for Chinese characters.

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Table of Contents

    • 1. Habits are the outputs of mental models
      • Automating effectiveness with mental models and their habits
      • Mental models allow us to automate as much as possible
      • Why improve our model building processes
      • Why learn how to learn
    • 2. Habits allow us to act without thinking
      • Modularizing with Micro habits
      • Using habits to reduce frustration
      • A repository of models
    • 3. The importance of indexing
      • How our brain indexes
      • Sorting as early as possible (to speed things up)
      • Natural indexing (and noticing how things relate)
      • Examples of noticing the obvious
      • Noticing how things relate isn’t just relevant for indexing
    • 4. Calculus, contexting, components and signals
      • Resting to get a handle on something new
      • Differentiation
      • Integration
      • SA80s, SLRs, Bren Guns and GPMGs (Practical calculus)
      • An important benefit of fixed sequencing
      • Disassembling and reassembling by hand
      • Learning a sequence of yoga poses
      • Some simple guidelines for memory work
      • Providing context
      • Memory techniques
      • Memory palace components and signals
      • A model with two points of view
    • 5. Grouping, the thinking mind-state, short term memory limits, the fluid mind-state
      • Short term, mid-term and long term memory
      • Overstuffing short-term memory, the signs and what to do about it
      • Memorizing brush strokes for Chinese characters
      • The fluid mind-state and the experience of not thinking
      • A temporary model repository
      • The importance of clear definitions
      • A memory airlock
      • Mid-term memory
      • Notes on memory limits
      • Working towards long-term memory storage
      • Aiding effective indexing
      • Using references to previously learned models
      • Listening in chunks
      • Sharpening the thinking mind
      • Making choosing easier
      • Learning to ride a motorbike
      • External memory
      • Going over a program or a book
    • 6. Checking model outputs
      • Fixing the model instead of fixing mistakes
      • Improving the model or improving its indexing
      • Efficiently correcting problems
      • Dancing with chaos
      • Improving indexing by practicing from different starting points
      • Practicing yoga sequences or Tai Ji from different start points
      • Memorizing an initial model
    • 7. Practice
      • Deciding the purpose of a particular practice
      • Defining Practice (so that we can recognize completion)
      • Improving sensitivity and control
      • Practicing mind-state control
      • Practicing thinking
      • Using limits to approach limitlessness
    • 8. Two mind-states, imaginary space and the real
      • A rough equivalent to mind-states for external systems
      • Mutual exclusivity
      • Dual mind-states allow us to build models from two points of view
      • Riding the river versus watching it pass us by
      • Riding rivers of time through space
      • Cycling between mind-states (From the sky to the center of the earth and back again)
      • How to be like water
      • Thinking in imaginary space and being fluid in the real
      • Justifying mind-states with complex number theory
    • 9. Two points of view (viewing time as a wave travelling through space)
      • Laplace transforms
      • A Feynman-like view of understanding
      • An example of effective model building from two points of view
      • Building more effective models
      • Becoming a better reader (how to learn effectively while reading)
      • Why learn a book if we have the book itself?
      • Figuring out what each part is about
    • 10. Defining (or recognizing) systems, components and signals
      • Components
      • Signals
      • The component view and signal view
      • Defining and Redefining Systems (and Models)
      • Landmarks for making maps or using them
      • Identity and Recognition
      • Indexes as a component view
    • 11. Detecting hinderances to the flow of change (aka fixing problems)
      • Fault finding a custom built Harley
      • Components and the change that should be transmitted
      • Checking our solution
      • Fixing our own body (principles for muscle control)
      • Developing a model for pain, posture and tightness
      • Examples of fixing problems with the body
      • Improving a model of the body
    • 12. Sudden knowings and a taste of infinity
      • Intuition as the output of our models
      • Inner space
      • Expanding fully into the imaginary or fully into the real
    • 13. Sensing and not thinking
      • Sensing instead of thinking
      • Sensing change externally or internally
      • Recognizing
      • Feeling weight shifts and controlling them
      • Recognizing skin contact (no pressure)
      • Sensitivity (and control) is transferable
      • Doing math without thinking
      • Doing Tai Ji without thinking
    • 14. Maximizing sensitivity and responsiveness
      • The dangers of thinking
      • Overcoming fear
      • Directing our senses
      • Outer and inner environments
      • Sensing our inner environment
      • Sensory horizons and sensory limits
      • Staying alert for further change
      • Maximizing the sensory horizon
      • Extending our inner environment (expanding our control)
      • Directing our senses externally
      • Change doesn’t stop
      • Configuring for responsiveness
      • Transmitting change or dissipating it
      • Balancing sensitivity, stability and responsiveness
    • 15. Choosing sensible limits (Recognition and understanding)
      • Defining movements
      • Enjoyably Tai Ji as a sequence of defined and recognizable weight shifts
    • 16. Prototyping
      • The reverse of building a mental model
      • To create a desired change we need a foundation
      • Prototypical understanding
      • Building from two points of view
    • 17. Resting
    • 18. Fracticality (aka: practical scaling)
      • Writing Chinese characters or understanding them
      • Ignoring the obvious
      • Riding a bike or fixing it
      • Restricting differentiation to what we can actually work on or fix
      • Learning to feel our body
      • Transferability
      • A Dauntless approach to modeling systems
      • Dealing with overwhelm
      • Recognizing completion
    • 19. Ideas, Relationships, Connection and Change
      • Defining an idea
      • Undestanding an idea
      • Systems as ideas
      • Being like water
      • Thinking clearly
      • Relationships
      • Connection
      • Ideas and relationships are fracticality optional
    • 20. Zeroing parallax (or calibrating to account for it)
      • Chemistry, pilots, clocks and watches
      • Understanding relationships when drawing or weight shifting
      • Assessing relationships or controlling them
    • 21. Basic principles, relationships and augmented first principle thinking
      • Know the change we are trying to create
      • References
      • Room to sense change and room to create it
      • Connections create relationships
      • Creating change
      • Riding a motorcycle as an idea and as a relationship (and as a process of dealing with change)
      • Augmenting first principles
    • 22. Body awareness (limiting learning for infinite expression)
      • Elbow sensitivity
      • Upper arm and forearm sensitivity
      • Practicing arm control in context
      • Discarding the limits (gradually improving awareness)
      • Tuning and adjusting
      • Shoulder rotation
      • Sequenced arm adjustments in a context
      • Creating sensation first
      • Creating straightness or length
      • Adding sensation to our body as a whole
      • Sensitivity and responsiveness
      • Tuning our body for instantaneous responsiveness
      • Creating transferability
    • 23. Limits and limitlessness: approaching infinity
      • Limits in the thinking mode
      • Limits in the fluid mode
      • Handling change
      • Creating
    • 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 building an index for this book
      • Creating anchors
      • Parsing sentences to create a table of words
      • Working on index layout
      • Benefits (costs) and possible next steps
    • About Neil Keleher
      • More by Neil Keleher

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