Holistic Learning

Recently, I came across “Holistic Learning” technique. Brilliant, Scott H Young, developed and promoted the process. Scott is a challenger and he is doing quite interesting projects. E.g. complete MIT degree course in one year, travel and learn 4 different languages in one year. You can see his challenges and detail stuff from Scott’s blog.

In this posting, I’d like to summarize “Holistic Learning”, which is much different process from a conventional learning technique that I am familiar with. Rote memorization.

Different way of thinking

Naturally, when you encounter a new concept/topic, you are trying to reciting lists of facts, rules or formulas. Instead of doing that, you should seek to connect ideas together just like webs of information. If you properly link ideas together to see the bigger picture, studying should only be a brief refresher. A few summary points :

  • Organized Ideas into Webs
  • Interrelates Subjects and Concepts
  • Many Neural Paths to the Same Idea
  • Views Concepts Through Many Unique Perspectives and Senses
  • Aims to Learn by Relating

Approach (Model & Constructs)

Start with a model. A model is a quick representation of the idea that you are trying to relate or understand. It is an incomplete and temporary solution. Model can be abstract, but visual representation is helpful. A model is not a construct. Links form into simple models which form into overall constructs.


Scott’s blog posting explains the techniques as below.

  1. Visceralize – Not just visualization, but also use all your senses and connecting it to information.  Studies have shown that people remember more vividly information that comes to us in an emotionally aroused state.
  2. Metaphor – Metaphor is a literary term used when you want to relate two things that aren’t actually related. Metaphors help in building constructs by relating a new construct to a previously established one. Use phrase “That reminds me of…”
  3. Ten Year Old Rule – Explain ideas to yourself as you would to a ten years old. You should be able to “dumb down” an idea, so it is obvious to yourself.
  4. Trace Back – Put away your books and start with a random fact or concept. Then relate that idea to another concept in your subject. Keep doing this tracing pattern until you’ve linked many ideas together.
  5. Refresher Scan – Scan through information in your text book. When you encounter information that you either don’t remember or weren’t 100% sure about. Quickly link that information back to existing ideas through visceralization and metaphor.
  6. Compress Information – Not all information works well for holistic learning. If no clear patterns and constructs, your goal should be to compress. Find ways to group information into smaller chunks (chunking) of memory through pictures or mnemonics.
  7. Write – Take a piece of paper and write out the connections in the information. Reorganize the information into different patterns. Key here is writing, not the final product.


Holistic Learning focuses on concepts. In my daily life, I have to deal with lots of abstract concepts as an application architect. I believe this technique will enhance my experience as a life long learner.