We are so excited to introduce Beyond Brilliance, a book by four UC Berkeley students about how we learn and how we can do it better. Our team sat down with Lucas Miller, the ambitious author behind the project, to learn more and discuss how he used Givebutter to fund the book's launch. Here's a short excerpt from our conversation.
Givebutter: There are so many books out there. Why should someone read yours?
Lucas Miller: This book covers the main insights of about fifty books and even more papers and distills them into something that you can not only consume in a weekend but that will also make you a better person.
GB: Can you briefly explain the premise of “Beyond Brilliance”?
LM: Sure, the basic idea is that we were all lied to in school. We were taught harmful myths about intelligence and how our brains work that limit many of us from accessing our full potential. We were taught what to learn , but never how, which is the ultimate skill, because you can use it to get good at anything you like.
GB: Who do you want reading it?
LM: Engineering majors at MIT, C students, victims of tracking and standardized testing, graduate students who don’t want to starve anymore, workers taking online classes on the side, and parents whose children are either falling behind or trying to skyrocket to the top of the class. Really anyone who likes learning and wants to get better at it.
GB: What are five things students can do to immediately become better learners?
LM: 1. Ditch rereading in favor of self-testing (familiarity with the material is not the same as actual understanding) 2. Study concepts by explaining them out loud 3. Learn throughout the semester, not just when exams hit (spacing out your review builds a much stronger foundation) 4. Exercise a little everyday (this is massively underemphasized) 5. Get nine hours of sleep (all the magic happens at night)
GB: What is the biggest difference you see between excellent learners and average ones?
LM: The best students stick to their word. When they say they are going to study, they actually study. When they show up to do a problem set, they actually do the problem set. And when they sit down with a cup of coffee to write, they actually write. No email, no Buzzfeed, just work. And then when they’re done, they're done.
GB: Name five words that describe your writing process.
LM: Whenever the thoughts are flowing.
GB: How did you get into writing?
LM: I’ve always been into sharing and spreading ideas--I love teaching.
GB: What tools do you use?
LM: Evernote for storing all my research. Sunrise Calendar and Todoist for planning my to-do’s. Scrivener for drafts. The Pomodoro technique. Google Forms for tracking what I do, for how long, and if there are any issues. A sleeping mask and way too many Peanut M&M’s.
GB: Do you have an pieces of advice for aspiring authors and writers?
LM: Think twice.
LM: You need to be an utter masochist.
GB: Any last thoughts?
LM: South Park, you really need to hurry up with the new election episodes.
Lucas Miller is a Phi Beta Kappa, Leadership Scholar, and senior in the top 1.5% of students at the University of California, Berkeley, the best public university in the world. After spending three semesters in engineering, he now studies cognitive science and entrepreneurship and has served as a mentor for multiple undergraduate courses. He also conducts research in memory and performance psychology. Learning, teaching, and sharing ideas are by far his greatest passions. Check out the Beyond Brilliance Campaign here.