These are the 4 simple steps to master any subject: from mystery to mastery!

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Albert Einstein

How foggy is our memory?

How fragile is our reptile brain?

How high is our retention rate?

I close my eyes. I entered the palace. And then I see it as I go from one room to another.

All the verses on the tablet reveal themselves to me. I get out of one room, and I get to the next one.

I recite all the verses from memory.

I see the smile on my teacher’s face.

“Well, done. Go wipe out your tablet and prepare the ink to write the next chapter (sūrah).”

I clean the wooden tablet with bleaching water.

I lean on the wall of the Quran school and put my tablet on my lap.

I dip the nib into the ink and write on the newly dry tablet.

That has been what most of my weekends and holidays looked like when I was younger.

I would go to the regular school on working days and to the Quranic school during the weeks and holidays.

I can read Arabic. I can write Arabic. I was able to speak it. But I was not able to master it.

Indeed I did not act upon it. I am still just using my memory to recall some chapters from the Holy Quran to pray five times a day.

I used to pray at each dedicated hour in Dakar, Senegal. Now that I live in France, I must blend in at work.

I have become an expert at batching my prayers at the end of a long day.

Yes, I hear you. Yes, that is not what I have also learned from the Quran and the Hadiths.

You may have heard about the 10 000 hours rules, don’t you?

The Great Practice Myth: Debunking the 10,000 Hour Rule • Six Seconds

Well, as with everything we do in life, there are different levels of practice.

Below are the cardinal points of learning:

  1. Thinking: The North Star,
  2. Reading: The South roots,
  3. Writing: The West side history,
  4. Speaking: The Easter egg.

1. THINKING, The North Star of the MIND — We retain only about 5% of what we learn when we hear about it.

5% of what we hear.

Yes, we can agree about having ideas and being able to ingest a huge amount of podcasts.

We love to hear those ideas bounce into the void of our minds.

They will slowly fade away like a candle in the wind.

The mind is a starting point, not the destination.

2. READING: The South roots of LEARNING — We retain 10% of what we read.

10% of what we learn when we read.

We learn definitely from all the books and information that we read.

But just completing reading challenges is not enough to get us where we want to be in life.

We can read to compress time and acquire knowledge from other people.

The most efficient way to do that is in the next level of learning.

3. WRITING: The West side history of (RE)FRAMING — We retain 75% of what we practice.

75% of what we learn when we practice.

When we write what we have learned, we reframe the content into our own words.

That step is not practiced as per se. Yet it is a bridge to deliberate practice.

We could put reframing in the 60% range of learning retention.

If we want long-term retention in learning, there are only two options at the pyramid’s zenith.

4. SPEAKING: The Easter egg of ACTING ON IT — We retain 90% of what we learn when we apply it or teach it.

90% of what they learn when we apply it or teach it.

When we see that 90% success rate, we understand why only 10% of us achieve it.

We are in a moment of history where there are more Youtube videos in a day than we could consume in a million years.

We binge podcasts on Apple, books on Amazon, documentaries on Netflix, and life hacks on Tik Tok.

How much of that content can we explain to a six-years-old?

Not only do we have to act on our learning immediately, but also we need to teach it. We will be learning twice.

And that is the Holy Grail of learning: learning by teaching.

Reflecting on the skills I have mastered, I can correlate them with deliberate and regular practice.

When I formalize them in writing to teach others, I can see the added value of sharing what I know.

We are a legion in Senegal or other Muslim countries in sub-Saharan Africa, winning the contest of reciting the Quran by heart in the best melody possible.

You can find kids as young as 9 to 7 years old knowing the Quran by heart.

I wonder if that is what we need today in Senegal or Africa.

In this era of Wikipedia, Youtube, and the internet, I can stop to imagine the brain waste we are dumping on the next generation.

Yes, as a Muslim, I need to be able to read (and understand) the verses of the Quran to do my prayers.

I don’t think all Muslims need to memorize the 144 chapters.

That brain power could be used to solve the climate crisis and create an autonomous and sustainable ecosystem in Africa for Africans to embark on the next digital revolution.

We can circle back from being the cradle of humanity to crafting humanity’s rebirth by being the sole architects of Planet Earth.

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You can read my previous article on Why is our mind the one that needs CPR? (Friendly link)

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Ahmadou Diallo ✪

Ahmadou Diallo ✪

🤎 Afropean 📖 Griot 🧙🏿‍♂️Mentor 💪🏿 Entrepreneur