The Most Important Learning Principle I Have Found After 5 Years

The Most Important Learning Principle I Have Found After 5 Years
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

I didn't know a date could be so fun.

It was my second date with a girl, and we decided to jog around the neighborhood by her dorm with zero aim in mind. Left. Right. Straight. Back. We meandered for two hours, exploring areas we'd never been to.

At one point, we stumbled upon the playground of Cayuga Heights Elementary School. I climbed to the top of this spider web thing and beat my chest like I was King Kong (as one does). Coming down, I gasped when one of the most beautiful full moons I'd ever seen came from behind clouds. Naturally, we howled at it.

I learned so much about myself and her in those two hours.

I realized emotion is the root of learning.

My date had emotion tied to it. We were exploring uncharted territory! It was an adventure. That's why I learned so much.

I have researched meta-learning--the science of how we learn--for over five years, reading books like How People Learn, Ultralearning, A Mind For Numbers, and more. This is the most important learning principle I have found.

You scoff because it's so simple, and yet, think about how often people ignore this principle in society.

In traditional education, "learning" often involves passive listening in plastic chairs--I've had more engaging conversations with my houseplant.

In the workplace, you hear horror stories of people getting regurgitated PowerPoint presentations made with AI five minutes before the meeting.

People spend hours doomscrolling on social media without truly retaining or engaging with any of it.

I'm not saying we need to learn above an active volcano. But we should try to tie emotion to anything we learn.

For any learning endeavor, ask yourself, how can I make this more emotional?

You can play music, create a challenge, or do it with others. My favorite way to add emotion is to make the learning a game.

In a world where information is at our fingertips, it's not the facts we remember that define us, but the emotions we attach to them and the adventures we embark upon.