Learn to Be a Learning Ninja

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
8 min read
Photo by Alpan Muharram on Unsplash

Success is the product of accumulative advantage. When it comes to personal development, “sudden” results from a lot of “gradual.”

The following are techniques for becoming a learning ninja and ensuring success in life.

People with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their abilities through dedication and hard work. Dreams and potential are the starting point. In addition, a growth mindset perspective creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

Ordinary folks want entertainment. Extraordinary people desire education and knowledge. Warren Buffet once said,

“The more you learn, the more you earn.”

Here are some proven techniques to become a learning ninja and guarantee success in your life.

Make Learning Obvious

Learning becomes more accessible and manageable when integrating learning into your environment and making the cues visible.

Create a plan and stack it with existing behaviors.

Be intentional about your learning.

You are more likely to continue if you have a specific plan for when and where to practice learning new skills.

Most of us fail to develop the skills we want due to a lack of clarity. Once you set an implementation intention, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike.

Use this simple sentence to apply this strategy:

I will [PRACTICE] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

You can even go a step further with the Habit Stacking technique. Habit Stacking is attaching your desired learning time after something you already do each day.


Creating specific intentions and habit stacking are two of the most practical methods for developing cues for your habits and creating a clear plan for when and where to take action.

Redesign your environment to make it conducive for learning

Cues initiate our habits. You subconsciously register the signal and are immediately triggered to perform the behavior.

The same principle can be applied when building and sustaining learning habits.

If you want to make learning a more significant part of your life, make it a part of your environment. The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.

If you want to finish a book, put it on your desk or nightstand for easy reminder and access.

If you reach for social media apps as soon as you pick up your phone, move the apps to the second page or third screen and bring the apps that help you become a better version of yourself to the front.

Please don’t keep your phone on your desk or shut it off while studying.

If you have your social media sites at the top of your Bookmarks, move them to the back of the list.

Add dedicated learning time in your calendar every day, perhaps 10–15 minutes first thing in the morning or during lunch.

Make Learning Attractive

When we like doing something, we are likely to keep doing it.

Combine your learning time with something you already do and enjoy

Bundle or link an action you want to do with an activity you need to do.

With the [HABIT I WANT], I will [HABIT I NEED].

Start to see learning time as an opportunity instead of a burden.

Most people see learning as a burden that they have to do. However, learning is a gift that keeps on compounding.

The path to success is the continuous pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge accumulates. Success is the product of accumulative advantage.

Knowledge isn’t just power but value. Ben Franklin said knowledge is the one investment that keeps paying dividends.

Consider modifying one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.

  • You get to learn something new or polish your existing skills and unlock more opportunities.
  • You get to read one book a week/month and have more ideas to talk about
  • You get to listen to one video segment each day and utilize that time to expand on your knowledge and skills.

By changing that one word, you shift the way you view learning.

Ordinary folks want entertainment. Extraordinary people desire education and knowledge. The world’s most successful people are known to read at least one book per week. They are always learning.

Charlie Munger noted,

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.”

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Learn at the right time.

Learn when you are high in energy and have the least distractions. For most people, it’s either early morning before work or just before sleeping. However, as the day progress, we are burdened with unexpected meetings and deadlines. As a result, the entire day goes by, spending more time responding to everyone else’s schedule and less time working on what matters most to us.

Don’t let urgent tasks overwhelm the important ones.

Urgent refers to a task that requires immediate attention. These are the tasks that scream, “Do it now!” Urgent activities force us to be reactive, marked by a defensive, negative, hurried, and narrowly-focused mindset. On the other hand, important tasks contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.

Make Learning Easy

One way to make learning easy is to reduce the amount of friction associated with it.

Prioritize good over best

“The best is the enemy of the good.” — Voltaire

When it comes to practicing during our learning journey, we often get stuck at the planning stage. Planning is undoubtedly critical, but it doesn’t have any tangible outcomes without concrete actions. Action makes us feel that we are making progress without the risk of failure.

When you want to learn something or develop a skill, you should quickly find ways to apply it and create something, even if it’s not good in your eyes. Then learn some more, practice, and improve with feedback.

Get into the habit of implementing what you learn here, and you will get far in your journey.

Use the Feynman Technique

The physicist Richard Feynman was a famous genius from the twentieth century. He wrote a great book called “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!” However, he also had a simple technique for learning and understanding subjects that I would like to share.

How to Use the Feynman Technique

Step 1: Write the concept’s name at the top of a sheet of paper.

Step 2: Explain the topic in your own words, as if you were explaining it to someone unfamiliar with the subject. Be straightforward and clear, and don’t rely on jargon.

Step 3: Review your explanation and identify the areas where you didn’t know something or where you feel your explanation is shaky.

Give it a try! Try explaining one of the concepts in this course to a friend or family member after you have written it down.

Remove frictions from the path of your learning.

We modern humans prefer things that are easy and require the least effort. We live in an age of abundance and comfort. Technology has made it easy to book a ride, order food, get entertained, and so on with the click of a button.

The same principle applies when we want to learn something.

So to ensure that you continue with your learning journey, remove frictions from your environment. Instead, make it part of your environment or bring your learning to devices you already use, such as your phone, tablet, and laptop.

Learning online is a great way to keep it simple and available.

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Follow the 2-minute rule.

We often make big plans to change something about ourselves but soon quit them altogether or make very little progress. We find the best courses to learn something but fail to follow through to completion.

I have been a victim of that. I often try to learn multiple skills simultaneously or change more than one habit. I often fail. To counteract this tendency, I recommend the Two-Minute Rule, which states:

It should take less than two minutes to do when you start a new habit.

We can break down most habits into their two-minute versions:

  • “Meditate for 15 minutes” becomes “Meditate for one minute.”
  • “Complete the MBA ASAP course” becomes “Watch one lesson.”

Make Learning Satisfying

Satisfaction usually means achieving a personal or completing a task at work. However, if the outcome is delayed, we often lose motivation. Therefore, one of the critical components in habit formation is enjoying an immediate reward. The more instantaneous the reward, the more likely you will learn that a behavior is worth repeating in the future.

Play the long game but keep your eyes on providing the immediate reward

We repeat a behavior when we are rewarded for it. We prioritize immediate rewards over long-term rewards.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided. — James Clear

The earlier suggestions increase the odds of performing a behavior this time. Immediate reward increases the odds that we will repeat the action next time.

To build and stick with learning habits in the long-term, find a visual, immediate reward, even if it’s small. The most effective habits are the ones that make you feel good at the moment and lead to the results you want in the long run. It’s not just about the results. The feeling is essential. Without it, you have no immediate reason to repeat the behavior in the future.

  • Create a weekly or monthly learning tracker and check-off days to immediately get a sense of achievement and feel satisfied.
  • Apply the learning and create something, even if it means a best practice or a tip on Twitter, a post on Facebook/LinkedIn, or an answer on Quora.
  • Create a short-term plan on how you’re going to apply what you learn in your work or personal life and keep it where you can often look at it.


No matter how consistent you are with your learning habits, you won’t feel like learning on some days, which is OK. However, make a rule that you won’t miss following your learning plan twice in a row.

“Each person’s task in life is to become an increasingly better person.” — Leo Tolstoy

Keep learning, keep sharing, and keep growing.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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