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Don’t you love a teacher who can tell a good joke?
You know the kind:
Each class begins on a funny note.
You hang on every word, no matter how difficult.
In fact … it pains you when the lectures end.
You can hardly believe it, but as tough as the information flowing from your teacher might get, you simply cannot get enough.
When that happens …
And understand this:
According to Barbara Oakley in her new book, Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles And Discover Your Hidden Potential, successful teachers have a strange ability …
… the ability to wrap candy around the crusted salt of difficult ideas.
In other words, great teachers make challenging concepts easier for your brain to absorb and remember.
How On Earth Do They Accomplish That?
To accomplish this difficult feat, many great teachers use humor.
Humor? Is that all it takes?
In many cases, yes.
Humor, it turns out, (which can be verbal or situational as Zizek makes clear in the video above) is a core ingredient in the magic spells these soothing muses of hardcore information use to slide information into your mind without you noticing.
That’s right. You really can learn almost on autopilot.
An Aspirin For The Aches And Pains Of Education?
Humor, and those humorous teachers who deploy it, use their special talent with jokes to manipulate your brain’s “opioid reward system.”
This painkiller for information is super-important for the future of humanity.
Why am I being so dramatic?
I’m glad you asked.
As Oakley explains, merely thinking about learning something difficult activates one of the pain centers in your brain.
Nothing like Christian Bök’s pleasant flurry of “motorized razors” (another professor who uses humor to great effect):
But you get the idea.
Your brain anticipates the pain and tries to run away shrieking.
That part of the brain so opposed to learning?
It’s called the insular cortex. Even this biological term itself sounds scary, doesn’t it?
This Term Should Sound Scary!
But here’s the thing:
Oakley has good news for you and your insular cortex on every page of Mindshift. And the best part is that you don’t need every teacher to be a comic to learn even the most difficult topics without fear and suffering.
Mindshift is designed to help you figure out what you want to learn and how to get yourself take the steps needed to succeed. Using stories, activities and factual data about how your brain works, you’ll walk away from reading Mindshift equipped to anticipate and remove all obstacles you could possibly face on your way.
All you need to do is understand a few key “time travel” secrets …
Time Travel Secret #1:
Your Past Is A Treasure Trove Of Transformation
One of the most exciting aspects of Mindshift is the lesson that nothing in your past is a waste.
In fact, much of your potential for future success as a learner and eventual leader in a field of your choosing lies in what you’ve already done. You need only know how to tap into it.
As Oakley demonstrates throughout the book, traditional ideas about expertise are outmoded. But here’s the beautiful news:
We are all unusually equipped for the requirements of the 21st century where several areas of “deep knowledge” separate the cream from the crop.
And if you’re a scholar, a lot of what you know can help you escape the Ivory Tower and have an impacting career beyond the university. Here’s Barbara helping you make that mindshift:
You Can Be The Cream Floating Gracefully Up To The Top
The trick in getting there lies in understanding your passions and being able to identify your current skills (more on “current” affairs in your time traveling in a second).
But this is important:
Don’t get caught up on this word “skills.”
It has a lot of meanings and if you’re reading this page, you’ve got a done of them. Without a doubt, you’re already beaming brightly from within the paradise of your multiple intelligences.
But There’s A Catch!
If you haven’t sat down with some paper to make your skills and mental assets visible to yourself, so many vibrant resources in your life could be entirely lost to you like some kind of undetected natural gas resource waiting to be tapped.
And that means you might find yourself living a life lost to digital amnesia.
In addition to making your past resources discoverable, Mindshift shows you how to install the needed desire for lifelong learning if you haven’t already got it.
Time Travel Secret#2:
The Power Of Now For Your Learning
That’s right. You really can “time travel” the present moment.
As one learner interviewed in Mindshift puts it, you accomplish this feat by shifting your thinking about where you are now. Instead of worrying about having a safety net, use everything you’ve got and your circumstances as a springboard. You need only learn how to see the opportunities.
Two of the most useful concepts from Mindshift are also the most understated. The first is balancing modesty vs. hubris and the power of solving other people’s problems.
Just as we have brain chemicals that send out pain signals into our consciousness when learning something hard appears before us, we also have the hard truth that learning makes us better people.
And that means having more power.
The Comic Book Reality Of Life Long Learning
Of course, life is rarely as simple as a comic book, but the old line couldn’t be truer when it comes to learning:
Great power demands responsibility for you as much as it does for Spider-Man!
Sadly, not everyone uses their power wisely or accepts the responsibility power brings.
In so many of the stories in Mindshift …
… we read about abuses of power from teachers and other community leaders.
These are people who should have known better.
Yet, as lacking in fun and humor as this genre of story in Mindshift is, the lesson and the reasons why the author includes them is clear:
Each “Mindshifter” in Dr. Oakley’s case studies clearly wanted to learn in a way that de-toxified earlier educational experiences and ensured they never happened again.
Now if that isn’t taking control over the present moment and accepting responsibility for the power that action itself brings, I don’t know what is.
Time Travel Secret #3:
The Best Tense For Directing Your Focus
Not just in any wild direction, mind you.
The key seems to be focusing outward.
Kind of like how Benny Lewis teaches how you need to speak the new language from day one. Out into the world, and out into the future.
So it’s never the question, “What do I want to learn?” that puts such extraordinary wind into the sails of the successful learners featured in Mindshift.
It’s the question of “What am I going to do with what I learn?” Having at least an initial answer to that question in a way that directs energy towards the future seems to make the hugest difference.
After all, it’s by asking and answering questions – high quality questions – that we can best shape the future we want to experience.
And in almost every case, those who take the beloved MOOCs that Oakley describes in perhaps the funniest portrait I’ve yet to read, future planning for the application of the knowledge you discover is a huge driver of success.
(Note: If you don’t know about Dr. Oakley’s own ultra-popular MOOC, Learning How to Learn, click that link three words back for an interview she gave the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast with her diving deep into everything about it and how it can help you.)
The Power Of Personal Change Relies On
Chronologies You Control
Whether you’re a learner with no aspirations to teach or a teacher looking to expand, Mindshift is the book for you.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to what the author has to say for herself in this engaging discussion:
Above all, Mindshift is one of those rarest things all learners love to find:
A vessel that takes you on a journey and comes packed with the tools for maintenance and repair as you travel. You also get the resources for adding an entire fleet of ships to bay of your learning life as you go. With stories, interactive exercises, science and inspiration offered in Mindshift, you’ll know what to do and how to do it as you learn your way into the unknown.
And that’s no joke.
As Oakley promises, things are just getting started for students and instructors alike as video technology gets easier to use, metrics reveal more about what works and online classroom experiences get “stickier, funnier, and overall ‘learnier.'”
Learnier? Okay, now you can laugh. All the way to whatever future you’ve always wanted after you read Mindshift.