#005 – Unleashing the Lion in Your Brain: More Efficient Ways to Study and Learn [Podcast]

In a recent blog post, I detailed some steps that people can take to take their learning and studying to the next level. It generated some interest, so I thought this would make for a good podcast as well.


If you are attempting to learn something new, or have children in school, I believe the tips you will learn in this podcast (based on modern research) will help you take learning to the next level.

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In this episode, I share on the following topics:

  • Seeing your life as an adventure, including becoming a life-long learner
  • Seeing your learning as a lion does its prey
  • What isn’t working in our education and learning
  • 8 action steps to take your learning to the next level:
  1. Embrace learning with passion and adventure
  2. Quit highlighting
  3. You can’t cram on the farm
  4. Turn off distractions
  5. Treat learning like body-building
  6. Engage in active learning
  7. Change your identity
  8. Embrace failure

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

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Question: What are some tips you’ve learned for better learning?  What ways do you make learning fun?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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34 thoughts on “#005 – Unleashing the Lion in Your Brain: More Efficient Ways to Study and Learn [Podcast]

  1. The two main things that stood out to me were to approach learning with the excitement of a lion. Pounce on it with excitement. It is also important to push negative thoughts back and believe that you can learn. The entire podcast was excellent and presents excellent ideas for learning!

    • Kim, I did like the “pounce” idea like a lion would. It will help me remember that I listened to this today. Believing in yourself is key as well. This was great! My daughter is bringing up SchoolHouse Rock on the internet!

      • Thanks Susan. Yes, the ideas presented in this podcast were excellent. I panicked initially during the first couple of weeks while taking the Math 540 class because I experienced an overwhelming sense of fear. However I decided that I would tackle one day at a time, one subject at a time. As a result I my mind calmed down and I was able to learn and retain most of the subject material. Rally excellen podcast!
        (Kim Toppin)

    • I liked how the podcast compares the actions of a lion with studying. Since the lion is not fast, he must use his natural skills of sight, sense, and patience. We can also take this as a lesson to use our skills to find a process that works. I was not gifted student. My friends would just show up to class and get “A’s” without studying. I did not find the Lion until my freshman year in college. I created a study method that allowed me to study in small time allotments with no distractions. My retention and grades improved.

      • Gerard, I LOVE how you say you “found your lion”. I think we can get so caught up in “one size fits all for learning.” The key is to find out what works for YOU, like you said, find YOUR lion! Great comment!

    • The matter of intention and passion is huge! Seeing learning as a lion was a huge revelation to me. I think the biggest challenge is … how to do this when we aren’t excited about what we are learning! 🙂

  2. I really liked this pod cast! I liked when you said “as you are studying, stop and pretend you are taking a test…”. This is great advice! I also liked “you cannot cram on the farm” because in High School I crammed for tests just to forget everything once the test was over. In College, I learned to study the material daily and took a break every 45 min. I realized that when the test day came around, I remembered the material not only for the mid-terms but the finals as well!
    I have to admit though my favorite part was the story about Gary. All great oraters in the world have a great story to tell to help people remember their key points. Taking learning in steps and not all at once is the key to great knowledge. At some point, if you keep learning from your mentors, you eventually become a mentor yourself. These are just some of the key points of your pod cast that I will use in future classes and also use in my current job.

    • Susan,
      I also enjoyed the pod cast. You quoted “you cannot cram on the farm” This is something that I have tried without great success. I found that by staying up all night before the test left me so tired, I could not concentrate. When compared to small 1 hour sessions a week before the exam with a good night sleep, results improved. Learning in steps can make the process more enjoyable.

    • Thanks for your comments Susie! I agree about Gary. It is a wonderful memory of someone that, quite honestly, teachers came to me and chewed me out … “You shouldn’t be telling Gary he can take calculus. He won’t be able to do it.” I loved seeing him succeed in that.

  3. Math 540

    “Unleashing the Lion in Your Brain:”

    This podcast has provided a number of learning tips that will help my 5th grade son. He has two primary learning barriers. The first is the ability to pay attention in class. The second is the frustration of not grasping a new topic. The topic could be math or spelling. The first take away from the podcast is to study “smart” not “long and hard”. I tried this last week by preparing for a new spelling word 10 minutes everyday of the week instead of 30 minutes the day before his quiz. His confidence increased exponentially and his test scores improved by fifteen percent week over week. The second take away is to find a way to make learning fun. I tried to encourage my son to study material that is not interesting. I started writing comedic “rap” lyrics that incorporate his study material. I prepared his teacher on my teaching method in case he started to sing in song in the middle of class. Fortunately he did no sing in class but his test scores improved by five percent. These suggestions from Unleashing the Lion work. They are simple and effective.

      • Great ideas Gerard and Michael! I wish more educators would go after this part again. It worked for SchoolHouse Rock. It would work again. I have thought of doing it. But … wow … to really work great means coming up with something catchy. That is sometimes tough. But for an individual, do whatever works!

  4. Math 540
    ” Unleashing the Lion in Your Brain”

    This podcoat really open my eyes about my life and not having a job really make a major difference in my life. I know most people say you need a job to servive and pay bills, but since I have not being working I have took a lot of time out to learn, study, and try neew things to better my life and get me ahead once I am able to find a job. Listening to the podcast I really liked it and it makes me feel that if I keep my head up and study more and don’t give up on my dream of finding a job in my field od study. i am honestly glad I took theh time out to listen to this and I think this is a great idea to help out people that’s in need like myself to hear something positive like this.
    What stood out to me was when you said be excited like a lion and the struggle to learn is to help you learn and when if a student fail and never give up which mean you can be sucessful.

    When i study and it’s boring I somethimes sing my work lol..or I sometimes take a break to clear mind.
    Felicia Evans

    • Felicia I am glad that you was able to learn from this Podcast like I was. If you just keep a positive outlook on find your dream job it will come to past. I well advice to take his 8 action steps and really apply them to your studies and learning process. I know I am going to start today. Also remember ” As long as you have breathe learn something new.” THank you for your post.

    • This podcast to release your inner lion I used today on the football field my players were down 26-0 to rally them to be positive and less fearful of the other team. Life can deal us numerous ways to cope with things but how you handle them is the key.

    • Felicia, I hope you find your dream job soon, you should never give up and always stay motivated. One thing that my past teachers have told was that in my down time that I should read a book or read the newspaper and that helped me out a lot. This basically kept my brain going and active and it kept learning at the same time.

  5. Keita Eaddie
    MATH 540

    This Podcast opened my mind to see learning as an adventure.
    My favorite piece of advance that you gave was, “treat your life as an
    adventure.” For a long time I would always think to myself that I have too much
    time on my hand and how I need to either read a book, take a class in something
    I am interested in, or even volunteer for an organization. I swear you were in
    my head when you listed all those things. “As long as you are breathing learn
    something new,” this will be my new motto when I feel like I have too much time
    on my hands. Another piece of advice that I liked was to embrace learning with
    passion and adventure. From this I learn to make anything I am learning, that
    is boring, fun. I am silly person by nature so if I take a topic that is just
    plain ole boring for me, I can make a song to help me learn. The advice of you
    can’t cram a farm, is what I live by. Whenever I am doing anything that required
    my attention for more than an hour I have to take breaks. I work eight hour
    shifts a day and I have to take a least a 15 min break every 2 hrs to be more
    productive. If I sit down all day without breaks my mind will be more
    distracted then if with breaks. Thank you for this wonderful insight and advice
    on how to unleash the lion in your brain. When I am learning something from now
    on I will think of me as the lion and the topic as the prey, patiently

    • I have relistened to your podcast several times. I have seen what some of my errors were in studying since I was younger like the distractions. I have also had the TV or radio playing in the background when studying. I have crammed for many test to get that last minute edge hoping to have something stick in my head. I have also most of the eight items at one time or another. I have since listening to your podcast have developed a very good stragety to help me in the future with either school work or my job. Time management is the very good start to all life habits. People are creatures of habit. I have since quit highlighting, turning off distractions, changing your identity, and treat your learning like building. I have started to manage my time at work making a list of things that need to get done that day in an 8 hour period. I started to take 15 minute breaks to refocus on the material at hand. I use turning off distractions on the football field where I coach 11-13 years old pop warner players when going into battle against another opponent. The school of rock song was a clever and helpful illustration show how one can use different methods to learn. I intend to your podcast for all my feature endeavors. I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or even get my motorcycle license.

  6. Math 540
    “Unleashing the Lion in Your Brain”

    I have taken a couple of great action steps from this podcast. Professor, I agree with you completely that you should never stop learning and never limit your brain. This was one of the reasons why I decided to continue with my masters program. If I may also add that you shouldn’t just limit yourself to just learning one subject, your brain is a powerful tool and you should learn everything you possibly can. We live in the world of the digital age and like you said, there’s always going to be new technology out. I am the worst person when it comes to studying, only reason why is because I have ADD and I can barely pay attention when it comes to studying. Some of the steps that you mentioned like not to highlight but instead create flash cards will help me out a lot in my studies. Another great step that you mentioned was to turn off all distractions, I really need to start doing this. I usually have the TV and Facebook on and my cell phone keeps getting text messages while I study. I really need to turn those distractions off while I study and I believe that will help me out tremendously. I really enjoyed taking your class Professor Vaughn, you have taught us well.

    Thank you,

  7. Thanks for this podcast! As time is very valuable, you have to find ways to unleash the lion in my brain. I have worked on learning, teaching, coaching, and parenting habits. As technology grows as well as time/society does as well, I continue to challenge myself as well as teach myself new ways of learning.

  8. This podcast is very helpful in aiding me in my studies and seeking out my goals. I will try these tips in my studies and aiding myself in reaching my goals. I have also decided to learn Spanish because this will help me in business and in my personal life. I do have one question, I was told movement while studying and having a snack will help retrain information opposed to taking frequent breaks. What is your opinion if I might ask?

    • Thanks Nicole for your feedback! And way to go!! Learning a new language!! That is great.

      When I am really stressed, or have a lot to learn, I will invoke my 30-min I discuss often in my episodes. Otherwise, I will usually just take a 15 sec break every 10 min, and simply stretch and look away from my computer. Then once every hour, I take a 10 min break.

      Moving around while studying can be helpful. If I find my concentration dissolving while studying, I will often stand up and start pacing while studying. This can be very helpful. And I will often use my breaks to have a snack, although I definitely think having a snack while studying can also be beneficial.

      Is this what you were referring to in your question?

      Thanks again for the great comment! Be sure to subscribe to my show if you can (especially if through iTunes), and I would love any feedback you might leave me in iTunes.

  9. There are a lot of things that you had said that made me realize that I do a lot of these bad learning habits. It has put everything back in prospective. I felt like I was getting burned out from studying. Listening to this podcast has refreshed my thoughts and outlook on learning and reminded me that failing is ok as long as you try to piece it together instead of having a piece here or there. Taking breaks is probably the hardest though. It seems the longer I study the shorter the breaks. The shorter I study the longer it takes to get off the break. I need to find a mutual point.

  10. Hi Brandon,

    Just a quick comment concerning the grade system in the modern education. The educational system proposed and developed by Dr. Maria Montessori doesn’t use grades to evaluate students. The goal is to teach the child or student to personally assess his/their preparation. I think this is the best way of teaching. Maybe grades are acceptable only at academic level, but till high-school I really love the proposal of Dr. Montessori. I don’t understand the current systems. I have a little daughter and she will take the Montessori class.

    • Antonio, thanks for your thoughts on this. In general, I think you make a great point. To be honest, I do go back and forth on the issue. Sometimes it is helpful for us to have an outside perspective, but at the same time we do place possibly too much emphasis on traditional grades.