Critical, objective reflecting and problem solving are rarely emphasized enough in school. Answers and decisions these days always seem to have some emotional attachment to them. People judge themselves in a bias way and even lie to themselves for comfort. In order to progress in life and master the three aspects that control our lives (money, health, human behavior), we have to be able to learn inquisitively instead of the classroom, prescriptive style.
The art of learning at it’s core is the scientific method. The scientific method is a set of questions and experiments that separate and single out variables which can get us closer to a conclusion about a given problem. The scientific method is a problem solving system. Almost like a math formula. Plug in the numbers, any number into the formula and you can solve it the same way. The scientific method is the same. Plug in almost any problem to that formula and you will get closer to a real conclusion. I’ll be using “learning” and “problem solving” almost interchangeably because they’re pretty much the same thing.
People suck because they play the game the way they want to play it, not the way it’s most effectively played – Sanford Kelly
Prescriptive learning is when people want a prescription. A set of bullets points to follow mindlessly. “Do this, do that and do this” all without questioning it. This is very common because the education system teaches us in this way. “Just tell me what I need to do to lose weight. What are the steps?” Understanding the roots and the concept behind something worth mastery is the foundation OF mastery.
Prescriptive learning is how most people solve their problems these days. People just believe every weight loss commercial and follow whatever workout they see in a magazine. Another way people arrive at conclusions is by N-1 experiences. N-1 is a trial or study with only one patient. That means your own, personal experiences are giving you the right to generalize the results. For example, if you do 30 push ups every morning before breakfast and found that you lost weight, you might conclude that doing 30 push ups every morning before breakfast is an effective weight loss strategy.
The first problem with this method of problem solving is that you never controlled your variables. What was responsible for the weight loss? The push ups? No breakfast? Or maybe what you actually ate for breakfast? You won’t know unless you single each and every one of those out. The next problem is that you’re the only patient in this experiment so we don’t know if this is unique to that person’s body type, genes, specific health problems, etc.
Inquisitive learning is all about getting in the driver seat and making the decisions yourself. Of course when you inquire, you need a system to test your inquiries. There are a set of questions you need to ask yourself. The right questions will give you the right answers. The questions depend on what you are trying to accomplish in what field. For example, if I’m a tennis player, one of my questions might be “What 20% of my behavior on the court is causing 80% of my problems?” Questions like this can help give you direction.
Sometimes you are not aware of the 20%, like in the tennis example. In that case, you make review tapes of yourself playing and ask fellow tennis players to give you their opinion. It’s possible to find a common denominator there and develop a theory or even a conclusion.
Learning has a system. Being told what to do and emulating something isn’t learning. Asking yourself questions and addressing your personal problems will bring you that much closer. Just remember, as you begin to progress, you’ll start asking yourself better questions. Keep asking questions!