The way to succeed in learning. The power of knowledge Michal Ryszard Wojcik
December 2000
This article is a simple-language interpretation of Dr Wozniak's: Six steps to excellent memory. It is intended to help you improve your memory. It is written for people who are interested in building knowledge, knowledge that will stay in memory, knowledge that will not be forgotten. Some parts of this article will be obvious to you. Other parts will be new to you. You will find many links to other articles on this website, which give additional information. This text was written in a language that I believe should be understood by everyone. If you do not understand part of this text write to me: M. R. Wojcik. I will try to explain and improve this text

You are probably one of the people who believe in the power of knowledge, and who understand that humans could solve their problems if they understood the world better. More and more people in the world suffer from Information Fatigue Syndrome - stress from too much information.

This text shows you how to manage information and knowledge. There are no fantastic miracles. Everything in this article is based on facts and science.

For 18 years, Dr Wozniak has been working on the problem of effective learning. As a student of molecular biology, he understood how he could improve the quality of his actions if he could remember more. He needed to improve his ability to remember what he studied for exams (and not only for exams).

Now, he wants to share his experience with you. He wants many people to enjoy the power of knowledge. He believes that we can build a better world, if we can learn and understand more. He represent a commercial company, but you don't need to spend a penny. You can improve your learning ability by reading this article. Spend 20 minutes on this article and you will learn how to learn more effectively.

The first three points may be obvious to you. Please don't stop reading.

  1. Get hungry for knowledge! If your motivation to learn is weak, you can stop reading this text, this advice will not work. Your motivation cannot be shallow. For example, if you only want to pass an exam or impress your boss, then your motivation is shallow. You must see the connection between knowledge and the value that it brings to life. Do you like science programs? Do you want to know how your computer works? Do you look for news on the Internet? If the answer is yes, you are probably on the right way. Can you spend more than 30 minutes talking about something unimportant, or being lazy doing nothing? If so, you will have a problem with learning. The hunger for knowledge grows as you learn. The more you know, the more you want to know, and you also notice how little you know. If you need motivation to learn, simply start learning and you will soon want to know more, and your motivation will grow. Scientists discovered that strong motivation is more important than IQ
  2. Find what you really need. You must know which areas of knowledge are most important to you. There is much more to learn than you can learn in your life. If you understand this, you will see that sometimes three pieces of knowledge, which are carefully chosen, can be more valuable than a whole textbook of facts. You must decide how much time you can spend on learning. Most people cannot learn more than an hour a day. If you are one of them, the problem of choosing what to learn, is very important. Do not choose only one subject to learn. You need much general knowledge about health, sociology, history, natural sciences, etc. Only people with wide education can be truly successful
  3. Find sources of information. If you are not a student, you probably cannot spend much time reading whole books. Did you discover the power of the Internet? You can find many answers on the net. There are many articles like this: short, free, and, I hope, inspiring. TV, news magazines and libraries are still useful. See also Reading the Internet to learn more about how to use the Internet to get knowledge
  4. Formulate your knowledge in such a way that you can repeat it actively. This is the first point on the list that I need to defend. You may not agree with it at first: you must review your material regularly in order to learn effectively. If you don't review, you will forget. Do not believe in theories saying that you can remember something for ever without repeating it! Everything that you remember is repeated from time to time, even if you do not notice the repetition. This is how your memory works. You must repeat to remember. Active recall is the name for the method of formulating knowledge that lets you repeat your knowledge actively. When you repeat, your brain must generate the answer to a question. Repetition cannot be passive. It is not enough to read that George Washington was the first US president. You need a question! For example, Who was the first US president? Most sources of information in the world do not use active recall! Usually, you will have to formulate your knowledge for active recall yourself. You will gather your knowledge from many sources, for example CNN, the Internet, Newsweek, encyclopedias, business journals, science journals, etc. They are only sources for information. This information is not formulated for active recall. You will have to reformulate it. The time you spend on formulating your knowledge will be returned in the future. You will see that it's not a waste of time, but an investment. To better understanding the relationship between knowledge and remembering, see: The 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning
  5. Repeat the material at proper times. This point can improve your learning ability even if you are already a very good learner. As I said earlier, you must repeat the material if you want to keep it in memory. The problem is: when to repeat, how often to repeat, and what to repeat. This problem is solved for you. The solution is called SuperMemo. SuperMemo is the name of the method of choosing the time for repetitions. The name means "super memory". You can start using SuperMemo even today. You have three options (two are free):
      1. you can read Using SuperMemo without a computer and start using the method today
      2. you can download older versions of SuperMemo freeware
      3. if you have a credit card, you can order and download the newest version for Windows in minutes (there are also versions for Windows CE and Palm)

    If you learn how to use SuperMemo, you will never have a problem with remembering your knowledge. You can tell the computer what part of your knowledge you want to keep in memory (you can choose any number between 90% and 99%)

  6. Keep managing your knowledge. Constantly pay attention to the knowledge you have in your SuperMemo collection. Your needs will change. Maybe after some time, you will need to change parts of your collection. You should do repetitions every day. This should become your habit. You will spend your time effectively if all the facts in your collection are worthy. They should be useful, up-to-date, and they should be properly formulated. You can save 70-90% of your time if you delete the most difficult 5% of your material. Read Learning Decalog if you want to learn more about effective learning based on active recall

In this article, I described an effective approach to learning. This method requires spending some time before you can see the results. To use this method you will have to change your ways of thinking about learning. You will have to have a different attitude. Maybe you don't believe that this method works. Maybe you have the following doubts:

  • Is knowledge so important in my life?
  • Is active recall so important in learning? Is it important to reformulate everything I learn? Isn't this a waste of time?
  • Do I have to use the SuperMemo method? Maybe my current methods are good enough?

Reading articles, learning new methods, installing new software, and spending money can be reasons for you not to try. Maybe you will find it hard to do regular repetitions every day?

Dr Wozniak has spent all his professional life promoting the presented method. He designed it and improved it over many years. I guarantee good results. If you really want to try and and if you are really determined to continue, then you will see good result for sure. If you have any doubts, please write to me: Michal Ryszard Wojcik

Further reading

ole.jpg (68159 bytes)
(Six Steps mind map generated in Mind Manager 3.5, imported to SuperMemo 99, courtesy of John England, TeamLink Australia Pty Ltd)