Make it Stick - P. Brown, M.McDaniel & H.Roediger III

Make it Stick - P. Brown, M.McDaniel & H.Roediger III

 Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes

Make it Stick

“People generally are going about learning the wrong ways. Empirical research into how we learn and remember shows that much of what we take for gospel about how to learn turns out to be largely wasted effort."  

"Even college and medical students—whose main job is learning—rely on study techniques that are far from optimal."

"At the same time, this field of research, which goes back 125 years but has been particularly fruitful in recent years, has yielded a body of insights that constitute a growing science of learning: highly effective, evidence-based strategies to replace less effective but widely accepted practices that are rooted in theory, lore, and intuition."

"But there’s a catch: the most effective learning strategies are not intuitive."

"This is a book about what people can do for themselves right now in order to learn better and remember longer."

"While much remains to be known about learning and its neural underpinnings, a large body of research has yielded principles and practical strategies that can be put to work immediately, at no cost, and to great effect.”

Everyone want's to learn better and remember longer..

Especially if you're watching this video!

There is some thirst for knowledge..  

Something you want to learn that will make your life better in some way!

How much time are you spending learning?

Most of us probably spend at least a few hours a day reading, watching videos or studying! 

That adds up to quite a lot of our lives..  

What would life be like if you had strategies that would help you learn more and remember longer?

Over a lifetime you would probably save years of your life..  Maybe even get the promotion, succeed in business or accomplish your goals faster! 

The strategies in this book are proven (not only by the scientists but as I've tested them). 

But they aren't easy..  Watching videos, listening to audiobooks and reading is easy!

But learning sometimes requires hard mental work..  That's what we're going to talk about today!


“Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow"

"We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not. When the going is harder and slower and it doesn’t feel productive, we are drawn to strategies that feel more fruitful, unaware that the gains from these strategies are often temporary."

"Rereading text and massed practice of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of learners of all stripes, but they’re also among the least productive. By massed practice we mean the single-minded, rapid-fire repetition of something you’re trying to burn into memory, the ‘practice-practice-practice’ of conventional wisdom. Cramming for exams is an example." 

"Rereading and massed practice give rise to feelings of fluency that are taken to be signs of mastery, but for true mastery or durability these strategies are largely a waste of time.”

How fluent are you on a certain topic?

Turns out we're not that good at estimating this..

  • When we re-read something it gives us a feeling of 'familiarity' that can often mask as fluency!
  • But when it comes time to take action on a certain piece of information we need to be FLUENT not FAMILIAR..

Why is Fluency important?

  • Let's say your job is to make decisions..  (Most high paying jobs involve decision making). 
  • Often you'll need to make decisions quickly.. Without time to reference material that you once read!
  • Being familiar with a topic can give you a false sense of security that you understand it..  Leaving you open to making decisions on bad information!

So how do we ensure we're fluent?

Start by throwing away most of the study practices that are so common.. 

Re-reading a particular text

Cramming the night before a test

Taking the same practice test over and over

Then we're going to add in some of the practices inside this book!

These practices end up being more energy and attention demanding..  

But they lead to real brain changes vs temporary learning!


“A child stringing cranberries on a thread goes to hang them on the tree, only to find they’ve slipped off the other end." 

"Without the knot, there’s no making a string. Without the knot, there’s no necklace, there’s no beaded purse, no magnificent tapestry. Retrieval ties the knot for memory. Repeated retrieval snugs it up and adds a loop to make it fast."

"Today, we know from empirical research that practicing retrieval makes learning stick far better than reexposure to the original material does. This is the testing effect, also known as the retrieval-practice effect."

"To be most effective, retrieval must be repeated again and again, in spaced out sessions so that the recall, rather than becoming a mindless recitation, requires some cognitive effort. Repeated recall appears to help memory consolidate into a cohesive representation in the brain and to strengthen and multiply the neural routes by which the knowledge can later be retrieved.”

Looking to learn something?  Retrieve the information!  (Again and Again). 

This is the first strategy we'll employ when trying to learn a new subject.. 

  • Retrieval (or remembering what you've read listened too or watched) without reference! 
  • This action synched up the knot of learning..  Each time you retrieve something it gets a little tighter and a little tighter!

How might it work?

  • When reading a book: close the book and try to remember what you just learned.
  • When watching a video: pause the video and try to remember the main points.
  • Learning from a mentor: after the session try to go over the conversation in your head. 

Let's give it a try!

  • What are the three main points we've learned so far in this video?
  • Introduction
  • Fluency
  • Cranberries


“When the baseball players at Cal Poly practiced curveball after curveball over fifteen pitches, it became easier for them to remember the perceptions and responses they needed for that type of pitch: the look of the ball’s spin, how the ball changed direction, how fast its direction changed, and how long to wait for it to curve."

"Performance improved, but the growing ease of recalling those perceptions and responses led to little durable learning." 

"It is one skill to hit a curveball when you know a curveball will be thrown, it is a different skill to hit a curveball when you don’t know it’s coming. Baseball players need to build the latter skill, but they often practice the former, which, being a form of massed practice, builds performance gains on short-term memory."

"It was more challenging for the Cal Poly batters to retrieve the necessary skills when practice involved random pitches. Meeting that challenge made the performance gains painfully slow but also long lasting.”

Short term impediments make for stronger learning.  'Desirable Difficulties'.

When we're learning something new we often want to make the process as easy as possible.. 

Today (outside of school) this looks like learning via following a YouTube video step by step! 

YouTube is an amazing tool..  But just because we've been able to follow a video doesn't mean we 'know' the thing!

This opens an interesting line of thinking..  When do we need to 'know' something and when do we just need to get something done?

I often think of this like a programmer would..  If you have to do it twice it's better to write some code to do it!

So if you're just doing something once don't bother to take the time to learn it deeply or practice it in a more difficult 'less tutorial video' way..  It's not a good time investment!

But if you're planning to do it more than once it will be worth it long term to learn the thing deeply..  

Perhaps by learning it deeply you'll spot something you might not have otherwise..

A more efficient way to do the task..

Maybe the task isn't necessary.. 

Perhaps you could create a product or service from the task and add it to your offerings..

What does this look like in the real world?

Instead of practicing something via repetition we want to make that thing more difficult..

Often we'll watch a video of how to do something step by step and just follow along with the video vs shutting off the video and starting from scratch!

When I first started my advertising business I wanted to learn EVERYTHING from scratch..

  • Graphic Design
  • Copywriting
  • Paid Advertising
  • Split Testing
  • Landing Page Building
  • Offer Creation
  • Email Marketing

Even if I wasn't going to be the best person to do it long term it gave me the most comprehensive look into everything the company did!  Which is invaluable long term.  (Even though it was frustrating at first).

Full Brain

“In a cartoon by the Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson, a bug-eyed school kid asks his teacher, ‘Mr. Osborne, can I be excused? My brain is full!’

"If you’re just engaging in mechanical repetition,it’s true, you quickly hit the limit of what you can keep in mind."

"However, if you practice elaboration, there’s no known limit to how much you can learn. Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know."

"The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to your prior knowledge, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.”

Brain feeling full?  Take some time to explain what you're learning to someone else..

This has been a superpower for me! 

  • Developing a practice of teaching what you learn is incredibly helpful..
  • My ability to make connections between content has skyrocketed.
  • My recall-ability has also increased dramatically..
  • Plus these videos give me feedback on how clear my explanations are..

I believe that if you can't explain something in a basic way then you probably don't know it well enough..

  • Reddit has a section called 'Explain like I'm 5' where experts take complex topics and break them down to simple terms!
  • I sometimes visit that to get inspiration (and to learn new things). 

So what might this look like for you?

  • I think it's best to teach in whatever medium you feel most comfortable with first (no need to learn something while trying to teach). 
  • For me this was Mind Maps..  I was doing this anyways!  Now I just turn on the microphone. 
  • But for you it could be through note taking and talking out loud, teaching it to a friend or creating a super in depth Hollywood level documentary on it!  It's up to you. 


“Sternberg’s concept of developing expertise holds that with continued experience in a field we are always moving from a lower state of competence to a higher one."  

"His concept also holds that standardized tests can’t accurately rate our potential because what they reveal is limited to a static report of where we are on the learning continuum at the time the test is given."

"In tandem with Sternberg’s three-part model of intelligence, he and Grigorenko have proposed a shift away from static tests and replacing them with what they call dynamic testing: determining the state of one’s expertise; refocusing learning on areas of low performance; follow-up testing to measure the improvement and to refocus learning so as to keep raising expertise."

"Thus, a test may assess a weakness, but rather than assuming that the weakness indicates a fixed inability, you interpret it as a lack of skill or knowledge that can be remedied.”

This isn't something I think we should dive deeply into during this Mind Map..  Except for one thing!

People sometimes feel that because they weren't good on tests or in a particular subject in school that they aren't capable..

Actually I wasn't that good in school.  At least until the stakes were high enough. 

But as is pointed out here..  The test is more about where you are in a particular point in time!  Not about your ability. 

Carol Dweck's amazing book Mindset dives more into this but I just wanted to stop and say.. 

 Tests sometimes make us doubt our abilities.  And we shouldn't. 


“Let’s return to the old saw ‘If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ It turns out there is more truth here than wit." 

"Attitude counts for a lot. The studies of psychologist Carol Dweck have gotten huge attention for showing just how big an impact one simple conviction can have on learning and performance: the belief that your level of intellectual ability is not fixed but rests to a large degree in your own hands."

"Dweck’s research has been triggered by her curiosity over why some people become helpless when they encountered challenges and fail at them, whereas others respond to failure by trying new strategies and redoubling their effort." 

"She found that a fundamental difference between the two responses lies in how a person attributes their failure: those who attribute failure to their own inability—‘I’m not intelligent’—become helpless. Those who interpret failure as the result of insufficient effort or an ineffective strategy dig deeper and try different approaches.”

Want to increase your abilities?  Change your mind first.

What are your thoughts on your own abilities?

  • This is something important to keep in mind..  But also something we often ignore!
  • Most of us have a running track of 'self-talk' in our minds..  A lot of that talk is negative!
  • Carol points out in her book just how much that is hindering our ability!

How might we overcome that 'Negative Self Talk'?

  • Inside his book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself Dr. Shad Helmstetter gives us a process..
  • First you need to be aware of the talk..  Catch yourself in the act! 
  • Next you need to know that it's not inherently true just because 'you' are saying it!
  • Finally you need to reprogram it through using self talk to your advantage.  
  • *Check out my Map on his book for more here!

But there we have it..  Want to know what I think the number one factor in learning ability is?

  • The believe that you can do it!
  • PS. A lot of my coaching clients come to me for help with procrastination..  Mindset plays a big part there too!
  • Motivation is a function of wanting something AND believing that you can achieve it.
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