A book review on Limitless: upgrade your brain, learn anything faster, and unlock your exceptional life
Written by Linda, Client Services Offer at Milestone Financial
Why did I read Limitless
Jim Kwik is the author of this book. I found about him when I happened to watch his Youtube video on how to learn things faster. I was impressed by him being able to remember a long string of random numbers so well and also by the transformation of his life. Jim had a brain injury when he was in Kindy and was unable to learn properly. Struggling at school, he got labeled as the boy with a broken brain by one of his teachers. Through learning from books and practice, Jim eventually turned his life around and started a successful journey as a ‘brain coach’. After more than two decades’ work, Jim now is a globally recognized expert in memory improvement, brain optimization and accelerated learning.
As someone newly employed in financial planning service, I like my job and hope that I can speed up my learning process. So the main theme of the book ‘learning anything faster’ appealed to me.
My overall review on this book
I consider it a practical and inspiring read. The book explains what stops us from learning well and achieving our goals. It offers many tips on how we can study in a more efficient way. The suggestions from the book are not only based on his personal and coaching experience, but also on some of the recent scientific research on neuroscience and psychology. I feel like that many of the methods from this book can also be used to support us forming better habits to manage our financial matters.
I won’t rate Limitless as a great book as Jim doesn’t fully elaborate on some of his methodologies. People who are at a higher level of self- development might find it fairly shallow. Having said that, I still think it is a useful book if you want to know how to focus, study and think better.
Summary of the book (or my favorite takeaways)
Part 1: Free you mind
According to Jim, living an exceptional life is a process of unlimiting ourselves. In this part, he outlines the Limitless Model which aims to help readers identify and remove limitations we put on ourselves. Jim believes that if you are struggling to reach a goal in any area, you must first ask: Where is the limit? Most likely, you’re experiencing a limit in your mindset, motivation, or methods—which means that it’s not a personal shortcoming or failure pointing to any perceived lack of ability.
Jim explains that our brain has the capacity for neuroplasticity, which means that every time you learn something new, your brain makes a new synaptic connection. And each time this happens, your brain physically changes – it upgrades its hardware to reflect a new level of mind. It works by making new connections and strengthening old ties. What does this mean for us? Neuroplasticity helps explain how anything is possible. In learning, when we fail to remember something, view it as a failure to make a connection between what you’ve learned and what you already know, and with how you will use it in life. Our memory is trainable. Instead of developing self-harming beliefs like ‘I am not smart enough to remember this’, we can mold and shape our brain to suit our desires.
In this part, Jim also briefly touches the topic of the second brain (our gut) and how the two are interconnected. What we feed ourselves might matter as much as acquiring new knowledge.
At the end of this part, Jim discusses the forgetting curve and explains the effect of primacy and recency. Research suggests that our natural ability to concentrate wanes from 10 to 40 minutes. We are more likely to remember what we read in the beginning and at the end of a learning session. By taking breaks every 25-30 minutes, we create more beginnings and endings, and we can retain more of what we are learning.
He also introduces his FASTER method of absorbing any content better. FASTER stands for: Forget, Act, State, Teach, Enter, and Review.
- Forget: The key to laser focus is to remove what distracts you, mainly what you already know (imagine why kids learn rapidly), what’s not urgent (our brain doesn’t multitask well) and our perceived limitations.
- Act: Our brain learns better by creation. Taking notes and asking questions will lead to fasting learning.
- State: When we tie a feeling to information, it becomes more memorable.
- Teach: When we teach something, you are learning it twice.
- Enter: Commit time on our calendar to read.
- Review: Before starting a new learning session, review what we have learnt from prior sessions so our brain will retain information longer.
Part 2: Limitless Mindset
Mindset is the mental attitude that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. It is made up of beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes. Jim states that all our behavior is driven by belief, and before we address how to learn, we need to have the right underlying beliefs.
In this part, Jim demystifies the main limiting ideas we have, and he names them the 7 lies of learning that we tell ourselves:
- Lie 1: Intelligence is fixed. It is not true. Intelligence is fluid. It is not how smart we are; it is how we are smart. Intelligence is a combination of attitudes and actions and is dependent on context.
- Lie 2: We only use 10% of our brain. Not true! We should learn to use our whole brain in the best way possible.
- Lie 3: Mistakes are bad. Not true. Mistakes are signs that we are trying something new. Making a mistake doesn’t mean anything about us as a person. It is not how we make mistakes, but how we deal with them that defines us.
- Lie 4: Knowledge is power. Not really. Knowledge only has the potential to be power. We are deluged with information daily. It is the performing of actions that is required to make knowledge meaningful.
- Lie 5: Learning new things is very hard. Not really. The key is taking small, simple steps. Approach learning like a stonecutter. It will require us to cultivate patience, to hold a positive attitude and to be adaptive to our own needs. If one way doesn’t work, try the other one.
- Lie 6: The criticism of other people matters. Not true. People will doubt and criticize no matter what. It is our own job to like and respect ourselves.
- Lie 7: Genius is born – Not True. Genius is made through deep practice.
Part 3: Limitless Motivation
Jim states that motivation = Purpose X Energy X Small Simple Steps. He believes that when we combine all of three ingredients, we can have sustainable motivation.
Purpose matters. When we are clear of where learning fits into our passion, identity, values, and reasons, we will have the motivation to overcome obstacles and learn well. Get into the habit of asking the question why before we do anything.
Energy provides the fuel to drive actions. Jim emphasizes the importance of energy management and shares his top 10 recommendations for generating limitless brainpower:
- A good brain diet (avocadoes, blueberries, broccoli, dark chocolate, eggs, green leafy vegetables, salmon/sardines/caviar, turmeric, walnuts, and water).
- Killing ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).
- A clean and tidy environment.
- A positive peer group.
- Protect head from injury.
- Always learn something new.
- Manage stress.
- Have good sleeps.
The small simple step can be the tiniest action we take to get closer to our goal. One that require minimal effort and energy. One of the most significant reasons that people fail to act is that we feel overwhelmed by what we need to do. The best way to deal with this is to find a way to break the task into bite-size pieces, which lead to habits that lead toward success.
Later at this part, Jim talks about the benefits of jump-start a day and shares his morning routine:
- Recording the dream as we wake up to look for new ideas.
- Making the bed to create an easy win for the day.
- Drinking a tall glass of water to hydrate the body and the brain.
- Brushing the teeth with the opposite hand to stimulate the brain.
- Doing a three-minute workout to increase the heart rate and increase the oxygenation of the brain.
- Taking a cold shower to reset the nervous system and manage inflammation.
- Doing breathing exercise to fully oxygenate the body.
- Drinking a brain smoothie, a combination of nutrients good for brain.
Part 4: Limitless Methods
Jim covers how to learn the accelerated learning in five areas: focus, study, memory, speed reading and thinking.
To be able to focus, we need to practice concentration. Whenever possible, try to do one thing at a time. We can also increase focus level by taking deep breaths, addressing things that has been causing stress and setting aside time for distractions (vs. checking digital devices frequently).
For the study, Jim states that seven simple habits can help us absorb any content more efficiently:
- Employ active recall. Review the material then immediately check how much we remember.
- Employ spaced repetitions. Review the material at similar intervals.
- Manage the state we are in. Make sure we feel positive and motivated.
- Use our sense of smell. Smells are effective at bringing back memory so use an essential oil on our wrist when studying and again during a test.
- Music for the mind. Listen to Baroque music which can create an atmosphere of focus.
- Listen with our whole brain. Use HEAR (Halt – be completely present and remove all distraction, Empathy – imagine yourself in the speaker shoes, Anticipate – engage in the experience with a sense of anticipation, Review – engage with the speaker, ask clarifying questions).
- Take note of taking notes. Use TIP (Think – what are we hoping to retain from the material/session, Identify – Identify what is most important, Prioritize – review our notes and highlight what is most important after the session).
For the memory, always remember the MOM strategy:
- What motivates us to remember something?
- Pay attention to what we want to remember.
- Use tools to support us.
While most people approach learning as a passive activity, Jim suggests us to take an active approach and focus on the following:
- Visualization. Draw a picture of what we would like to remember.
- Association. Associate the information with something we already know.
- Emotion. Add emotion (make the memory humorous, action-filled) to make it last.
- Location. Associate a memory with a location we are more likely to remember it.
For speed reading, Jim suggests reading a book like watching a movie. Instead of being slowed down by the voice inside our head when we read or reading every single word, we should expand our peripheral vision and grab a group of words together.
For the thinking, Jim covers the six thinking hats (white, yellow, black, red, green, blue) where we can think about a problem from different perspectives. He also discusses the eight distinct forms of intelligence (spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic) and how each of them can be used while facing a particular task or problem. Then he describes the three learning styles-visual (learning through illustration), auditory (learning through listening), and kinesthetic (learning via physical interaction). At the end of this part, he lists the four steps we can take to upgrade our thinking: get to the underlying problem, explore a new approach (ask what-if), read (learn from others) and extrapolate (try out a scenario).
I have benefited from reading Limitless and have started to implement some of the suggestions from Jim. I hope you have found something interesting or useful from this review. Thank you very much for your time!
This document contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information. The examples used are illustrative only and are not an estimate of the investment returns you will receive or fees and costs you will incur.