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I would consider myself a fairly quick learner in the sense that in my brief 24 years here on this planet called earth, I have "mastered" a variety of skills and crafts.
I attribute much of this to the way I approach my work, not necessarily my inherent talent or IQ.
Here are some of the things I do:
1. Memory Tricks
Based on what we know about memory, we know that it's easier to remember something when it's tied to a piece of knowledge we know deeply, than to try memorizing it in its solitude. Case in point: If I tell you to memorize this series of objects in order (pig, bicycle, red hat, banana cream pie) and you try to memorize it with no rooting in a place you know very well, or to a "thing" you can recall at any time, you're going to have a hard time--especially if I expand the list to more than 4 objects. But if you imagine your childhood home, and at the end of the driveway lays a dead pig, and in front of the front door is your old bicycle, and as soon as you walk in there's a red hat on the banister, and at the top of the stairs there is a glowing banana cream pie, well then suddenly it's very hard to not see these objects every time you think about your childhood home. This is a memory trick, and very useful when you're learning a ton of new information all at once.
2. Dig In
When you're learning something new, you HAVE to be willing to fail. You HAVE to be willing to create a lot of garbage. And you HAVE to be ok with the process of what it takes to go from awful to average to good to great.
Quick learners -- the first ones to fall and the first ones to get back up again. One thing I've always done when learning something new is I've thrown myself into it with total disregard to the consequences and/or potential outcomes. This will end up teaching you the hard stuff first, and give you a better foundation to build on.
I think there is a huge misconception out there about what it takes to actually learn something -- and it always seems like the other guy is just "smarter" or has a knack for "picking things up quickly." Hate to break it to you, but that's rarely the case. The honest answer is that in order to learn, you have to practice, and the ones who learn faster are the ones who practice more.
Practice, practice, practice. It's an input/output game. The more you put in, the more you get out.
As Mark Harrison said, finding a teacher or mentor is one of the quickest ways to get exposed to mass amounts of golden knowledge in the shortest amount of time. Why? Because they allow you to see the world through their eyes, and expose you to lessons that would otherwise take you years to discover, let alone understand.
That said, another huge part of learning is surrounding yourself with people like yourself, hungry to learn and in search of knowledge. You will all end up teaching each other, and benefit greatly from the exposure of each individual's unique approach to the craft.
5. Draw Parallels
This, I believe, is the root of all learning. If you do it once, you can do it again and again and again.
For example: When I was very, very young, I started playing hockey and the piano. These two things taught me the building blocks of a few very important skills -- practice, discipline, routines, etc. When I was in high school, I applied these building blocks to video games and began to "master" them -- becoming one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America. When I graduated high school and took up music production, I applied what I'd learned playing competitive video games and forced myself to write and produce a song a day for a year straight. When I picked up bodybuilding, I applied those same skills, lifting 6-7 days a week for 4 years, eating 5-6 meals a day. While the rest of my peers in college were whining about "not feeling creative" and "having trouble writing" (I was studying creative writing) I was churning out endless material because, again, I applied that same work ethic to my craft -- I didn't write when I felt like it, I wrote every day no matter what.
Over and over again, I applied the same principles I'd learned to different and seemingly unrelated crafts, and each time found a path towards mastery.
That said, the quick learners always bring their own unique expertise to each new undertaking. This is what allows them to "learn" so quickly -- because they aren't learning EVERYTHING from scratch all over again. They're applying what they know deeply and just changing the variables.More questions on Quora: