Adopting a Hyper-Learning Mindset
To engage in Hyper-Learning, it is likely that you will have to change fundamental behaviors related to how you learn, how you manage your thinking and emotions, and how you relate to others. Before you can do that, however, you have to change your mindset, your deeply ingrained attitude about those things. According to renowned developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, “Mindsets shape thinking and feeling, so changing mindsets needs to involve the head and the heart.”28
To identify possible qualities of a Hyper-Learning Mindset, we’re going to explore the science of mindset, relevant psychological theories, ancient and modern philosophies, and the advice of leading thinkers and successful business leaders. What you will discover are fascinating overlaps in this wisdom across history and discipline about how the world works and how best to learn, manage the self, and relate to others.
This exploration will help you unpack your own assumptions and beliefs about relevant questions so you may start to cultivate an attitude more conducive to Hyper-Learning. The chapter prompts you to identify your own reasons for becoming a Hyper-Learner and to create your own checklist of Hyper-Learning Mindset principles to refer to every day in the pursuit of Hyper-Learning.
This chapter is designed for active learning, not just reading.
It is a learning by doing chapter.
This chapter is the hardest chapter in the book because of the breadth of content. It will not be a quick read.
Its purpose is to help you adopt a foundational mindset that will help you become a Hyper-Learner.
I know that this approach will work if you put in the effort. You do not have to do it all at one time. In fact, I recommend you do it over a couple of days. Approach this entire chapter as an exploration and discovery exercise during the course of which you will craft and describe for yourself the Hyper-Learning Mindset you desire.
I want it to be a JOY for you—a joyous learning experience. I truly mean that.
The psychologist Carl Rogers, who developed client-centric counseling, believed that “the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning. Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another.”29
Think deeply about each theory and approach that I present. Please take notes as you go in your Learning Journal.
Look for consistencies. Be open-minded. Which belief or principle might be a game changer for you?
As you read, make a list of principles or approaches that feel right for you.
Please take into account how many times each of those principles appears in the readings.
You should find overlap among the principles espoused by ancient philosophers and modern thinkers. I find that fascinating and so helpful!
Why would I find that so helpful?
Why would consistency or longevity of a principle be valuable or important? What does that say to you?
To become a Hyper-Learner, you must engage in the making-meaning process that is so vital to behavior change. The method here is the same one I have successfully used in my consulting practice for years. It works. Trust me.
The Inner Peace that you learned to cultivate in the last chapter will make you more receptive to changing your mindset in this manner, and it is a virtuous circle. Actively cultivating a Hyper-Learning Mindset will further enable Inner Peace and ultimately, as you’ll learn in the next chapter, the behaviors needed to engage in Hyper-Learning.
As a foundation, we start with two mindset theories that all of my consulting clients have found helpful. Both are designed to enable personal growth and learning throughout one’s life. One could call these two mindsets lifelong learning mindsets.
A great starting point for mindset change is to consider Carol Dweck’s landmark growth mindset theory.30 Dweck is a Stanford psychology professor and a researcher of human motivation. Her work delineates what it means to have a fixed versus a growth mindset. I love her work. It is so powerful yet so simple.
According to her theory, you have a fixed mindset if you believe that intelligence is innate and fixed, that the level of intelligence you are born with is your destiny and can’t get any higher. According to Dweck, a fixed mindset limits your motivation and, thus, your ability to learn. If you have a fixed mindset you might say, “I have reached my potential, so why should I try?”
If you adopt a growth mindset, however, you believe your intelligence is not fixed at birth and that you have the capacity to learn and get smarter. According to Dweck, a growth mindset motivates you to learn and persevere even when you struggle or fail.
We now know that intellectual capacities are not fixed in stone at birth because the human brain has plasticity. Everyone has higher potential and can learn more, improve their skills, and grow. It makes more sense to have a growth mindset because then you rightfully believe that you can develop new skills and new ways to think and that you can learn from your mistakes. If you believe you can be better, then it will be easier to motivate yourself to do the work required to be better.
You can learn no matter what your IQ score is.
What do you think? Are you going to adopt a growth mindset?
If you do not currently have a growth mindset belief, should you add a sentence about having a growth mindset to your Daily Intentions and reflect on it every day?
Should you record what you learned yesterday in your Learning Journal? That journal could be your evidence that you can grow and continue to learn.
The next idea to consider in cultivating your own Hyper-Learning Mindset is a concept called NewSmart that I put forward in my last book along with my co-author, Katherine Ludwig. The idea is to reframe what it means to be smart in order to mitigate the learning inhibitors (closed-mindedness, emotional defensiveness, and ego) that accompany an old-school understanding of smart.
Think about it.
How did you learn in school that you were smart?
In what grade did you learn you were smart?
Who told you? How did it feel? How was your smartness determined?
For most people I have talked to, it happened in early elementary school when their teachers told them they were smart because they made very high grades on tests or projects. That was evidence that they knew a lot and made few mistakes. As a young student, it probably felt good being singled out as smart. That reinforcement can put people on a journey to achieving high grades by knowing the most and making the fewest mistakes in school and at work.
Quite likely, your definition of smart fits into that story. It’s a definition based on quantity methodology—knowing more and making fewer mistakes than other people. In many cases, when people identify themselves as smart in this way, their egos get tied up in those high grades and making few mistakes, and they identify or define themselves by what they know and how much they know. Well, that is a problem for Hyper-Learning.
First, as the digital age advances, smart technology will come to know much more information than any human being and be able to continually update and recall that information quickly and accurately.
As the digital age advances, humans won’t be needed for knowledge accumulation and recall but for thinking in ways that computers can’t think—ways that involve exploration, discovery, imagination, morals, creativity, innovation, and critical thinking when there are lots of unknowns or little data.
To be good at those tasks, you have to be open-minded, a good reflective listener, and an outstanding collaborator. You have to adapt and believe that healthy debates generate better answers. You have to believe in an idea meritocracy.
Think about that for a minute. How does innovation occur? Innovation in most cases comes about from an experimental process of testing an idea and learning from the results. Rarely is an innovation or a new scientific experiment right on the first trial. You experiment to learn and then you modify your idea and retest it. Mistakes are learning opportunities in the real world, so long as you do not make the same mistake over and over, because that would not be learning.
How would you define what it means to be smart in that environment?
Will your old-school definition based on knowing more than others work in that environment or will it impede your success?
Do you need a new definition of smart?
I believe many people do. That is the purpose of NewSmart.
Let’s look at the five principles of NewSmart.31
1. I’m defined not by what I know or how much I know, but by the quality of my thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating.
2. My mental models are not reality—they are only my generalized stories of how my world works.
3. I’m not my ideas, and I must decouple my beliefs (not values) from my ego.
4. I must be open-minded and treat my beliefs (not values) as hypotheses to be constantly tested and subject to modification by better data.
5. My mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn.
Underlying these principles is the work of Richard Paul and Linda Elder as set forth in their book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life; learnings from Ed Catmull of Pixar Animation Studios as described in his book Creativity, Inc.; the well-known scientific method; and Ray Dalio’s approach to seeking the truth as set forth in his book Principles.
What do the NewSmart principles mean to you?
Which principles enable open-mindedness?
Which ones would make it easier to have thoughtful debate?
Which ones could mitigate ego? Why?
Which ones could make you a better learner?
How could you combine these principles with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset?
Which principles are made easier by having a Quiet Ego?
A Quiet Mind?
A Positive Emotional State?
I invite you to reflect on each principle and visualize how you would operationalize each principle in a work meeting.
The primary reason for developing the idea of NewSmart was to help people not personally identify with or have their self-worth and ego all wrapped up in what they think they know. If you do that, it is very hard to constantly update your mental models. It is very hard to become a Hyper-Learner. In fact, it is nearly impossible.
One big change for many of us will be this: we need to be good at not knowing as opposed to being good at knowing.
MODERN THINKERS AND ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS
Now we are going on a learning journey across thousands of years and many disciplines. I have assembled principles, theories, and ideas about how the world works and how to manage ourselves from leading psychologists, scientists, business leaders, and ancient and modern philosophers. I believe all of these ideas are relevant to and persuasive in creating a Hyper-Learning Mindset.
In presenting the philosophers and thinkers below, I provide only short lists of quotes and brief, bullet-pointed descriptions of what I’ve learned from them. That’s because your processing and interpretations of the philosophies and theories will be much more effective than any analysis I could provide.
You must evaluate the core concepts on your own. You must “try them on” to see how they feel to you and visualize using them to truly inform or change what’s in your head and heart.
Remember the purpose here: to learn how deep thinkers and wise people approach the world (i.e., their mindsets). How do they view learning and how do they approach managing self?
I’ve included some direct quotes from these wise thinkers, but most of the bullet-pointed content amounts to paraphrases or my own descriptions of core concepts learned from each authority. You will find the original sources for all such paraphrases and descriptions in a general note for each authority and for all direct quotes in a specific note with page number. A couple of times, I synthesized the authority’s work into an even higher-level interpretation, and I clearly identify when I have done so.
HOW TO MAKE MEANING OF THIS CHAPTER
For each entry below, ask yourself how the quotes and concepts relate to cultivating a Hyper-Learning Mindset. Consider which ones are worthy of your further reflection.
Please put a checkmark next to those quotes and concepts that most resonate with you.
Treat each authority as a stand-alone read—by that I mean if you like a belief or concept in one part and see the same concept or belief in a latter part, put a checkmark every time you see that concept.
After you read all the authorities, please make a master list of your checked beliefs or concepts—with the number of times that the specific belief was checked by you.
You will use that information to define your Hyper-Learning Mindset by identifying 10 to 15 underlying principles.
Please note that I have taken the liberty of making various quotes non–gender specific because they apply to everyone.
Albert Einstein32 was a Nobel laureate and physicist who developed relativity theory and created the equation for energy.
According to Einstein:
■The most important thing is to continually ask questions. Curiosity is a requirement for learning.
■Imagination is more important than knowing. Rational thinking does not lead to new discoveries.
■“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and sense in which he has attained liberation from self.”33
■“Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus of improving man’s outward and inner life.”34
■Our consciousness can be a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few loved ones. Free yourself from the “prison of your mind” by having compassion for all living creatures and the innate beauty of nature.
■The measure of your intelligence is determined by your ability to continually change.
■We need to think differently to solve our problems.
Did you reflect on each point?
Did you put a checkmark by the ones that resonate with you?
Carl Rogers35 developed and advocated for what he called client-centered therapy and is one of the founders of humanistic psychology.
According to Rogers:
■“We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are.”36
■Understanding another person requires us to listen to understand as opposed to listening to critique or judge. Do I understand what he or she truly means?
■“Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.”37
■“The only [person] who is educated is the [person] who has learned how to learn; the [person] who has learned how to adapt and change; the [person] who has realized that no knowledge is secure, and that the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security.”38
■Our goals should be to liberate ourselves—to be curious, ask questions, discover, and embrace the fact that life is change, that life is an ongoing process and a journey of learning that should never end. That journey requires an open mind, not a closed mind, and it requires being fully present.
Did you reflect on each point?
Did you put a checkmark by the ones that resonated with you?
I will not remind you every time to reflect and put checkmarks, but that is your task.
William James39 was a philosopher and psychologist and is considered by many to be the father of American psychology.
According to James:
■“There is an everlasting struggle in every mind between the tendency to keep unchanged, and the tendency to renovate, its ideas.”40
■“Objects which violate our established habits of ‘apperceptions’ are simply not taken account of at all.”41
■The genius is a person who has learned how to think with an open mind and has freed himself or herself from his or her habitual ways of thinking.
Warren Bennis42 was a pioneer and legend in the development of leadership studies.
According to Bennis:
■Great effective leaders will be those who treat people not as underlings but rather as valued associates and collaborators.
■“But the one competence that I now realize is absolutely essential for leaders—the key competence—is adaptive capacity.”43
■“That is why true learning begins with unlearning—and why unlearning is one of the recurring themes of our story.”44
■Writing is the best way of learning who you really are and what you truly believe.
Please remember your checkmarks.
Charlie Munger45 is vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a legendary investor.
According to Munger:
■“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero.”46
■“Develop into a life-long self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.”47
■Use a “lattice-work of mental models,” such as the redundancy/backup system model from engineering, compound interest from mathematics, the breakpoint/tipping-point/autocatalysis models from chemistry and physics, the modern Darwinism synthesis model from biology, and cognitive misjudgment models from psychology.48
■If you want to get smart, continually ask why; seek out and reconcile disconfirming evidence.
■Think forward and backward.
■Continually update your mental models as new good information dictates.
I suggest you take a break now. This chapter will take longer for you to digest than any other chapter. You need to take your time. You can only learn so much at any one sitting. If you can, go outside and take a walk.
Let the wisdom of these people sink in.
When you come back, I invite you to continue taking notes as you read. What makes sense to you? Which stated beliefs would it be helpful to read on a daily basis?
Continue making checkmarks for concepts that feel right for you.
Now I want to introduce you to another amazing person because I believe his approach to personal and institutional transformation is powerful. Notice his key principles and themes.
JOHN L. HENNESSY
John L. Hennessy is a computer scientist who has been an Endowed Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, chair of the Department of Computer Science, dean of the School of Engineering, and provost and president of Stanford University. In addition, he started two technology companies and now serves as chairman of the Board of Alphabet, Inc., and serves on other Silicon Valley boards. He has been honored with many awards. He has been an academic, entrepreneur, and business leader.
An amazingly successful diverse career. Would you agree?
He wrote one of the best leadership books: Leading Matters: Lessons from My Journey.49 The book is about the leadership principles he believes are necessary to be a transformative leader. I want to share with you the table of contents from that book because I believe it provides a lot to learn.
His first chapters are about the foundational building blocks of leadership:
■Chapter 1: Humility: The Basis for Effective Leadership
■Chapter 2: Authenticity and Trust: The Essential Ingredients for Effective Leadership
■Chapter 3: Leadership as Service: Understanding Who Works for Whom
■Chapter 4: Empathy: How It Shapes a Leader and an Institution
■Chapter 5: Courage: Standing Up for the Institution and the Community
He then focuses on the methods to create transformational change:
■Chapter 6: Collaboration and Teamwork: You Cannot Do It Alone
■Chapter 7: Innovation: The Key to Success in Industry and Academia
■Chapter 8: Intellectual Curiosity: Why Being a Lifelong Learner Is Crucial
■Chapter 9: Storytelling: Communicating a Vision
■Chapter 10: Legacy: What You Leave Behind
Are his chapters about behaviors?
Are his chapters an approach to living each day?
Could they be how he defines one’s Best Self?
Jonathan Haidt50 is a professor at New York University and a thought leader in social psychology.
According to Haidt:
■The Golden Rule is fundamental to engaging with others.
■We can’t be happy without friends and meaningful relationships with other people.
■Recent research finds that most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, as a career, or as a calling. If you see your work as a job, you do it primarily to support yourself and your family. If you see your work as a career, you generally are climbing the ladder to more pay, perks, prestige, and power. If you see your work as a calling, you find your work intrinsically fulfilling, purposeful, and meaningful in and of itself.
■“Work at its best, then, is about connection, engagement and commitment. As the poet Kahlil Gibran said, ‘Work is love made visible.’”51
■Vital engagement, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first identified the psychological concept of flow, and his student Jeanne Nakamura, is a “relationship to the world that is characterized both by experiences of flow (enjoyed absorption) and by meaning (subjective significance).”52
Is your work a job, a career, or a calling?
Please do not forget to put checkmarks by what resonates with you.
As previously discussed, Ray Dalio53 is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest and one of the most successful hedge funds in the world.
I met Ray Dalio in 2013 when he agreed to let me “inside” his hedge fund to study how he had designed a culture and behavioral system intended to mitigate ego and fear so that co-workers could engage in thoughtful disagreement in high-quality conversations that would lead to better thinking and better performance. What a journey that was, and it led me to write a 50-page chapter about Bridgewater in my book Learn or Die where I discussed in detail his “striving for truth and excellence with great people.”54
Since then, Ray has described his approach to life and lifelong earning in his best-selling book Principles. He recently published a much shorter illustrated version called Principles for Success, and I highly recommend that you watch his 30-minute YouTube video in which he discusses his approach. You will find other talks by him on YouTube that are also very much worth your time.
Ray has also posted this link on LinkedIn that gives you access to his work, including summaries of his principles: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-i-have-offer-you-ray-dalio-1f/.
I encourage you to accept Ray’s offer in the link and to take the time to explore Ray’s principles through his talks and links. Please do that before moving on. There are many learnings there for all of us. Please make a list of his principles that resonate with you. How would they influence your Hyper-Learning Mindset?
As you know from my meditation story, I believe Ray Dalio has created an amazing thinking and learning approach to life. He confronts head-on the two big learning obstacles: ego and fear. His book Principles is a wonderful learning journey. Dalio’s principles are similar in many ways to some basic Stoic and Buddhist principles and practices. In my opinion, Ray is a modern-day Socrates.
WILLIAM B. TURNER
William B. Turner55 was a servant leader, business builder, philanthropist, and corporate director.
Bill Turner’s story involves a transformational lifelong learning journey. He served for decades on the board of the Coca-Cola Company, helped build three great companies, donated to tens of colleges and universities to fund servant leadership centers, and was a caring man dedicated to his family, his community, and his religion. Bill was instrumental in funding an experiential MBA student leadership development program that I created at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, which still thrives today.
Bill was the most humble wealthy man I have ever met.
Here are two self-tests from Bill’s book with Delane Chappell called The Learning of Love: A Journey Toward Servant Leadership. Why not take the opportunity to do some self-assessment? Please have your work behavior hat on when you take these tests.
For both of these excerpts, ask yourself this question: “Do I?”
|The Deadly Ps|
|Pride||Do you have a hard time admitting you are wrong? Do you have to win every argument? Do you blame others when things go wrong? Do you take credit for the good things that happen?|
|Prejudice||Are there people whom you look down on and think are inferior? Are there people whom you fear?|
|Position||Do you want the choice position at functions? Do you want to be recognized? Do you name-drop? Do you want to meet and be associated with famous people?|
|Popularity||Do you hold back your thoughts, flatter, or curry favor with people? Do you act in ways to seek approval from others or act in a different way with different crowds?|
|Possessions||Do you judge yourself and others by their clothes, jewelry, cars, or house? Do you try to possess people rather than serve them?|
|Power||Do you want to be in control? Do you try to use power to coerce others?56|
What do you think? With this list, is Bill asking us how we define ourselves?
Is he asking us what we have our ego invested in?
Is he asking us how we approach our day?
How can your answers help you create your Hyper-Learning Mindset?
I once met Bill in his office in Columbus, Georgia. He had a small office with furniture that was decades old, and it was filled with mementos from his engagement with many colleges and businesses. We were talking and I said to him, “You have built successful businesses, served for decades on the board of Coca-Cola, built leadership centers, and been a philanthropist in your home town and state. What is the secret of leadership?”
Bill rocked back in his chair and then leaned toward me and said,
“Son, it is simple. Everyone just wants to be loved.”
I have replayed that conversation many times over the last 14 years because I think deeply caring about people is mission critical to creating a sustainable business.
Maybe Bill was right. Maybe it really is all about love. When you read the personal stories by Susan Sweeney and Marvin Riley, keep Bill’s statement in mind.
Here is Bill’s approach to love (at work) based on 1 Corinthians 13. Again, please ask yourself, “Do I?”
■Love is patient. Do you keep your cool when people disagree with you?
■Love is kind. Do you share your time and concern with others? Do you try to be thoughtful of those around you?
■Love is not jealous. Are you threatened by others’ talents? Do you get upset when others are recognized for their performance?
■Love is not conceited. Do you focus attention on yourself or try to make yourself look good at the expense of others?
■Love is not proud. Do you know your limitations and ask for help when you need it?
■Love is not ill mannered. Is your conversation polite and supportive, or do you put others down to make yourself look good?
■Love is not irritable. Are you touchy, defensive, or supersensitive? Or are you easy to approach?
■Love keeps no record of wrongs. Are you quick to forgive when someone hurts you?
■Love is not happy with evil. Do you delight when someone slips up or fails? Do you ignore evil unless it touches you?
■Love is happy with the truth. Do you try to be an open, real person even if it shows your weakness? Are you willing to admit your mistakes?
■Love never gives up. Do you continually look for ways to love, care, and help?57
I do not know about you, but I have some work to do in the love area.
Dear Bill, thank you for coming into my life and sharing your good soul with me. May you rest in peace.
What did you learn from Bill?
What did you learn about yourself?
How will you incorporate that learning into your Hyper-Learning Mindset?
Do you need to amend your Daily Intentions?
Twyla Tharp is a renowned choreographer who created dances for her company as well as the Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London Royal Ballet, Denmark’s Royal Danish Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. She has won Emmys and a Tony award, was a Mac-Arthur Fellow, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. These lessons come from two of her authored books: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life and Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life. Her book on creativity is an outstanding read.
According to Tharp:
■“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.”58
■“No one starts a creative endeavor without a certain amount of fear; the key is to learn how to keep free-floating fears from paralyzing you before you’ve begun.”59
The person you will be in five years depends on whom you meet and what you read over those five years. It takes ideas—lots of ideas—to create, and creativity always involves more than one idea.
VIKTOR E. FRANKL
Viktor E. Frankl60 was a Holocaust survivor who went on to create the psychology of logotherapy as espoused in his book The Will to Meaning. Because of his personal experience, he knew that humans could overcome severe situations by adopting the right attitude and response. His field of psychology is about choice and the search for meaning.
As you will read, the Stoic and Greek philosophers were on the same journey, trying to unlock how we imperfect human beings can find meaning through our way of being. We will see that many Buddhist traditions try to do the same. What is so fascinating to me is the consistency of approaches across the different philosophies.
Like Buddhists, Frankl’s approach was to focus on human suffering. We all suffer. The difference is how and to what degree. Sometimes the pain comes from external events that are real. Sometimes the pain comes from how we think and how we deal with our emotions. Frankl was convinced that, in any event, how we respond to our suffering is the determining factor. He said, “Logotherapy teaches that pain must be avoided as long as it is possible to avoid it. But as soon as a painful fate cannot be changed, it not only must be accepted but may be transmuted into something meaningful, into an achievement.”61
What did Frankl mean in that quote? Is he suggesting that we have a choice over how we react to pain and negative events? How can you transform pain into an achievement? How can you mentally conquer your pain?
ABRAHAM H. MASLOW
Abraham H. Maslow62 is considered one of the fathers of humanistic psychology.
According to Maslow:
■“Only the flexible creative person can really manage [the] future, only the one who can face novelty with confidence and without fear.”63
■A person “reaches out to the environment in wonder and interest, and expresses whatever skills he has, to the extent that he is not crippled by fear, to the extent that he feels safe enough to dare.”64
MARY CATHERINE BATESON
Mary Catherine Bateson65 is a noted author and cultural anthropologist. She is also Margaret Mead’s daughter. Decades ago, I was given her book Composing a Life by an executive recruiter who had determined that I was one of the top two finalists to become CEO of a major private real estate company in Washington, D.C. He told me that I was the best candidate, but he could not recommend me because I was so ambitious that he did not think I would stay very long with his client. He said, “You will never be satisfied. You will always be wanting to climb a bigger mountain.” I was floored. He gave me that book and said he would buy me lunch after I read it.
In her book, Bateson stated that women leaders do not invest all of their energy and being in one area but rather use a “patchwork quilt” approach: doing many different things to meet their needs for meaning and purpose. Most men leaders, by contrast, invest all of themselves in their work. The message resonated with me because I was so success oriented that I had lost my way from a personal viewpoint. I had defined myself by my work, my position, my salary.
Bateson wrote a follow-up book, Composing a Further Life, which has some ideas that I think apply to our journey together. In it she says:
“I like to think of men and women as artists of their own lives, working with what comes to hand through accident or talent to compose and re-compose a pattern in time that expresses who they are and what they believe in—making meaning even as they are studying and working and raising children, creating and re-creating themselves.”66
How does her statement relate to the one by Yuval Noah Harari included in the prologue, in which he says that we all will have to reinvent ourselves over and over again in the digital age?
Bateson goes on to state that wisdom is not a noun:
“It may be that the word wisdom refers not so much to what one knows but to a quality of listening, both internal and interpersonal. In other words, the willingness to learn and modify earlier learning is itself a component of wisdom, and the word refers to a process rather than a possession.”67
Is she in effect saying that wisdom is part of Hyper-Learning?
Benjamin Franklin could be called a Master Hyper-Learner. He was one of our country’s founders as well as a scientist, innovator, philosopher, writer, businessman, and more. His life is worth studying.
Benjamin Franklin asked himself two questions every day:68
■“The Morning Question: What Good shall I do this day?”
■“The Evening Question: What Good have I done today?”
Could one of your Daily Intentions be to answer Franklin’s Morning Question? What underlying principle of a Hyper-Learning Mindset would help you do that?
Before you move on to consider ancient philosophies, I suggest you take another break. You can only assimilate so much in each session. Are you really thinking about how this content is relevant to developing your Hyper-Learning Mindset?
Trust me, all this work will be worth it because as you define the qualities of a Hyper-Learning Mindset for yourself you will be basing it on beliefs and concepts that work—assuming you practice them.
You are writing a plan about how you want to be—how you want to behave so that you will have a high probability of flourishing as the digital age continues to advance.
Aristotle69 was one of the two greatest ancient Western philosophers. Aristotle is described by Arthur Herman in his wonderful book The Cave and the Light as a practical man and a man of science.
■Herman says, “On one side, Aristotle’s starting point is the same as Plato’s. The best life is the one in which we follow our reason, not our passions or emotions. But man’s function is not just to think—which Aristotle admits to be the highest of all human activities—but also to do.”70
■Describing Aristotle’s philosophy, Herman says, “As human beings, we have the potential for both [bad habits and good habits]. It all boils down to a question of the choices we make: not just at the start of the journey, but at every point along the way.”71
■Aristotle believed that life is dynamic change and motion and that the Golden Rule is a foundation of morality.
Anything resonate with you?
Arthur Herman described Plato,72 the other of the two greatest ancient Western philosophers, as an idealist, not a practical scientist like Aristotle.
Here’s what I learned about Plato from Herman:
■Plato, through Socrates, tells us to constantly reach for the highest level of knowledge. Our goal should be: “Where there’s a Good and a Better, there must be a Best.”73
■Plato believed our thinking and reasoning models should keep us from becoming absorbed or overtaken by the daily ebb and flow of thoughts that come into our minds.
■“Plato was not the first Greek to see thinking as a kind of winnowing process: of asking questions in order to get rid of what we know is false, so that what is left must be true. However, he is the first to say that this process gets us to the one true Reality.”74
Is this the first time you have read about the importance of finding the truth through asking questions?
Lao Tzu75 was a Chinese philosopher, an older contemporary of Confucius and a teacher of Tao philosophy. Tao is based on the concept of oneness—adapting to and finding harmony with the world by eliminating self-absorption and an opaque way of being. Key themes in Tao philosophy are softness, suppleness, adaptability, and being one with your work as opposed to being rigid.
According to Lao Tzu:
■“Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about other people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.”76
■Observe the world but trust the clarity of your inner vision. Do not grasp onto fleeting thoughts.
■Seek an empty, quiet mind and let your heart be at peace.
■“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion…. Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.”77
■Not knowing is true knowledge.
■All things change.
■Failure is an opportunity to learn. Own your actions—don’t blame others.
We are building up to a workshop at the end of this chapter in which you will define a Hyper-Learning Mindset in a way that most resonates with you. You will do this by creating a list of short bullet points that capture the elements, values, and beliefs that you’ve checkmarked. The idea is that you can read over these bullet points daily to put yourself in the proper frame of mind to have a great day as a Hyper-Learner.
Epictetus78 was born a slave and was sent by his master to study with a Stoic philosopher. He was ultimately freed and became a well-known philosopher who trained Marcus Aurelius. His book The Art of Living as interpreted by Sharon Lebell is a philosophy of “inner freedom and tranquility as a way of living.”
■According to Lebell, Epictetus’s “prescription for the good life centered on three themes: mastering your desires, performing your duties, and learning to think clearly about yourself and your relations within the larger community of humanity.”79
■Epictetus said, “Some things are within our control, and some things are not…. Within our control are our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel us…. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.”80
■Both Epictetus and Viktor E. Frankl believed that when something bad happens to you, you can choose your attitude toward it and how you respond and let it impact you.
■According to Epictetus, our minds are constantly making assumptions, critiquing, judging, jumping to conclusions, and projecting. The choice we have is to learn how to tame our minds rather than let them own us. We are what we attend to.
■Epictetus said, “The first task of the person who wishes to live wisely is to free himself or herself from the confines of self-absorption.”81
■Epictetus felt strongly that self-conceit, arrogance, self-importance, and a big ego inhibit one’s effectiveness in the world. He believed in a “beginner’s mind” and being willing to say you do not know.
What resonated with you?
Are you finding some consistent themes across the readings? They are there. That is what is so amazing. The answer to how to cultivate Inner Peace goes back thousands of years. The hard part is the execution— having the discipline to work daily on becoming your Best Self and achieving Inner Peace in order to enable Hyper-Learning.
Seneca82 was a Roman political leader and philosopher. He tutored Nero, who went on to become emperor of Rome.
Here are my interpretations of what Seneca believed in and advocated:
■Wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice are the important virtues.
■Be kind to others and care about others.
■Live each day as if it is your last day.
■Every day you wake up is a gift.
■Wisdom is a prerequisite for a good life.
■Mentally rehearse possible bad times so you will be prepared to act appropriately.
■Live the Golden Rule.
■You are what you think.
■Think positive thoughts to get out of a negative funk.
■Hold yourself accountable every day.
■Avoid being arrogant.
■Mentally rehearse—simulate your future course of action by simulating multiple possibilities.
Had to be some checkmarks here!
Matthieu Ricard83 received a PhD in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in 1972 but left the field of science after a few years to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He has written extensively on Buddhist philosophy. He is the author of On the Path to Enlightenment.
According to Ricard:
■“In all, there are three kinds of wisdom: the wisdom of hearing, the wisdom of reflection, and the wisdom of meditation.”84
■“As it is said, ‘The sign of being wise is self-control….’”85
Short, to the point, and powerful!
Do you agree or disagree?
THE DALAI LAMA
Born in 1935, His Holiness the Dalai Lama86 became the spiritual leader of Tibet in 1950 after the Chinese invasion. Since 1959, he has lived in India. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
Here are key aspects of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that I learned from four books written by the Dalai Lama. (One major caveat: I find Buddhist philosophy more complex than Stoicism. I say this to further emphasize that I am not an expert and that the following interpretation and summary of Buddhist points of view are my own.)
■Buddhist philosophy is all about suffering and how to embrace and reduce your suffering and the suffering of others. Buddhist philosophy is as much other-focused as it is self-focused. One has to find one’s inner peace in order to effectively embrace humanity with compassion and care by helping others reduce their suffering.
■Inner peace comes about by awakening, and awakening comes about through meditation and deep reflection that calms your mind and gives you control over how your mind impacts your daily life.
■“Our inner lives are something we ignore at our own peril, and many of the greatest problems we face in today’s world are the result of such neglect.”87
■Deep reflection in Buddhism involves mental visualization— actually seeing and feeling yourself in a desired future state or in a state such as death, which will come to all of us.
■Meditation, deep reflection, and mental visualization are essential tools for personal transformation in Buddhist philosophy.
■The end result is to become a kind, compassionate, and wise person. Compassion, altruism, and love for all of humanity is the goal.
■Like the Stoics, Buddhists believe in impermanence—that everything is in motion and always changing—and that we have choices as to what we attend to, how we define ourselves, and what we let own us.
■Human suffering comes from attachments (grasping onto ideas or things), desires, anger, and negative emotions, which we latch onto because we think they are part of who we are. They do not have to be.
■The undisciplined mind is an ignorant mind and is a cause of much suffering. Wisdom overcomes ignorance.
■“According to Prasangikas, ignorance is not simply a state of unknowing. It actively grasps or conceives things to exist in a way that they do not.”88
■Inner mental and emotional strength and balance do not depend on religion. They are part of our natural disposition to be loving, compassionate, kind, and caring human beings.
■Inner self-regulation is necessary to optimize our basic humanness.
■Moving beyond self-interest is how we find meaning and purpose in life.
■Do no harm.
■Managing our minds is a necessity.
■“Mindfulness is the ability to gather oneself mentally and thereby recall one’s core values and motivation.”89
■“What is obvious is that our experiences of pain and pleasure, happiness and unhappiness, are all intimately related to our attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. In fact, we could say that all of them arise from the mind.”90
■Anger and exaggerated self-centeredness are our two biggest obstacles to achieving inner peace.
■Inner peace and tranquility require kindness and compassion, and that requires us to train our mind in daily practice to strengthen positive attitudes and minimize negative attitudes or mindsets.
■“The essential objective of daily practice is to cultivate an attitude of compassion and calm—a state of mind.”91
■A blueprint for happiness is to live a wise and moral life, which is enabled by a practice of focused meditation that produces inner calmness.
■Approach life with a positive attitude. Minimize anger and negative emotions. Own your intentions and behaviors.
■Reflect and learn from your mistakes. As important, reflect upon when you have acted with compassion and kindness toward others and visualize how good that felt. That kind of positive reinforcement will make it more likely you will behave admirably in the future.
What did you think of this summary?
Did you notice any consistencies with the Stoic philosophers?
The modern thinkers?
What statements related to a Quiet Ego? Quiet Mind? Quiet Body? Positive Emotional State?
WORKSHOP: YOUR WHY
Well, we have been on quite a journey.
I applaud your work. This is the hardest chapter to work through because of the breadth of content.
Let’s start with your WHY.
Why do you want to be a Hyper-Learner?
In your Learning Journal, please write your answer to that question. This is your time to make meaning—to reflect on how coming digital age advances will personally affect you.
After writing out the answer to WHY, please move on to the next workshop, Defining Your Hyper-Learning Mindset, which gets at the WHAT.
WORKSHOP: DEFINING YOUR HYPER-LEARNING MINDSET
Defining the specific characteristics of your desired Hyper-Learning Mindset is mission critical to helping you adopt Hyper-Learning Behaviors. Your Hyper-Learning Mindset is your philosophy of how you want to approach the world each day—your principles of how you want to live.
To me, it is a fascinating learning journey every time I read this chapter.
Think about it—there are learnings here from some of the greatest philosophers in history and some of the greatest modern thought leaders. In many cases, the essence of the messages is the same. What does that mean?
I hope you made notes as you read through the previous pages. If not, I hope you will.
As Carl Rogers argues, real learning occurs when you actively engage with the words, ideas, and concepts and make your own personal meaning of them.
Try on the ideas.
How do they feel?
How would you behave if you believed that idea?
Visualize yourself behaving that way.
How did that feel?
Please do the above when you do this exercise.
My goal is for you to define your own Hyper-Learning Mindset by making a list of 10 to 15 quotes, beliefs, values, concepts, and/or philosophies described above and through the book so far that you believe will help you cultivate the attitude to become a Hyper-Learner.
How should you proceed?
Are there common themes across the authorities you read? Yes, there are. What are they? What does that say to you?
In your Learning Journal, I suggest you make your master list of key points that you noted. Note how many times you checked the same point or concept. Does that say anything to you?
Ask yourself, what is foundational? A growth mindset? Impermanence? The scientific method? A Quiet Mind?
Did you note similar points from different thinkers or philosophies?
From that list, identify 10 to 15 that are relevant to your current mindset, strengths, and weaknesses.
Rank your list so that the first item is the most important key building block for you and so on.
You can write your list in your own words.
With that list, you have now defined your own Hyper-Learning Mindset!
First, go back to the Daily Intentions list that you created in chapter 1.
Do you need to add anything to or delete anything from your Daily Intentions to take into account your new Hyper-Learning Mindset? There should be consistency.
I invite you to start your day reviewing your Daily Intentions and your Hyper-Learning Mindset principles every morning and to reflect at night on how you performed during the day.
Then you will be on the journey!