Brian Lee



My Only Rule

Have you ever wondered how much you could learn if you dedicated yourself to discovering something new every single day? I did, and it changed my life.

I can’t remember exactly when, but in my early teens, I decided to learn one new thing each day. Nobody made me do it; I may have read about the benefits of continuous learning somewhere. So, I made it a rule. I figured if I learned something new every day, I would gradually gain knowledge, stay ahead of my friends, and amuse myself — I’m a bit competitive, after all. One caveat is that anything I learned in mandatory training, like school, didn’t count. If everyone had to learn it, then it didn’t count as a “new” item. This rule forced me to learn something outside of my regular routines, and I greatly benefited from it.

One side effect of this rule is that you never stop at learning just one new fact or idea. It often sparks my curiosity, and I end up looking through books or searching the Internet for hours at a time. Some of you may have done the same on Wikipedia. The whole experience is very stimulating and full of adventures. At times, it’s like Alice in Wonderland — you find something unexpected that excites you. Sometimes, it’s like a science experiment where you continuously find new variables to manage. I personally find it very enjoyable.

Here is a recent example. I had been making good progress in oil painting. After a class, I decided to look up what colors were used in oil paintings from the 18th century. I already knew most of the answer from previous studies, but I wanted to see if there was a new insight. After hours of watching videos on YouTube on this topic, I solidified a new understanding of how I think about skin colors.

“Old masters” — some of the best painters in classical fine art — used mainly “earth colors” to create their paintings. Earth colors refer to oil paints made from literal dirt; yes, you combine yellow dirt and linseed oil, and that’s paint! Earth colors aren’t as chromatic, in other words, saturated, as the modern colors we commonly see on cars and everyday products. Furthermore, skin tones are mixed with earth colors and some white, making the final mixture even more desaturated.

Having developed this insight, I finally understood why my colors always looked garish. I was having problems because I didn’t understand how chromatic skin color mixtures should be. Now, I understand that if I aim for something slightly desaturated compared to earth colors, I should be in the right ballpark. This matches the recent intuition I had from practicing painting.

I love how my rule amuses me and, at the same time, helps me develop my skills unexpectedly. The fun is in the journey. It’s quite the joyride.

Ultimately, this simple rule has transformed my life in ways I never imagined. It keeps my mind sharp, my curiosity alive, and my skills ever-growing. By embracing the habit of learning something new each day, I’ve discovered that the world is full of endless wonders waiting to be explored. What new adventure will today bring? The possibilities are limitless, and that’s what makes this journey truly exhilarating.

Study Your Learning Style

I think it’s important to learn how you learn. It may sound cheeky, but I have greatly benefited from continuously monitoring my learning methods and fine-tuning strategies and environments to suit my style. The two methods I use are called “observational learning” and “comparative learning.”

Observational learning, also known as social learning or modeling, involves acquiring new behaviors, skills, or information by watching others. This method relies on attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. For example, when I watch artists draw and paint, I observe their techniques and incorporate them into my process through repeated viewings. This specific type of learning, where I focus on physical skills, is known as “observational motor learning.”

Comparative learning, on the other hand, involves analyzing information from multiple sources to understand different perspectives and synthesize common themes. When I wanted to learn options trading, I bought several books on the subject. By studying the information common across all of them, I could compare and contrast different viewpoints. This approach helped me grasp the subject more effectively. Even though I haven’t finished reading all the books, I’ve learned enough to manage my portfolio and plan to continue learning.

Both observational and comparative learning methods have proven very effective for me, and I imagine there are many others who benefit from these approaches as well.


The duration of my focus varies depending on the subject. Sometimes, I can stay focused for hours, although research available online suggests that 90 minutes may be the optimal length. At other times, I can only stay focused for minutes. For this reason, I stop studying when my mind starts to wander. When my mind wanders, I think it’s a cue that I’m disinterested in whatever is happening and am not productive. However, this is not always possible. When I choose to power through my vacant mind, I try to focus on the simplest and most immediate task at hand. Once my mind starts churning like a wheel at a regular pace, I can often regain my focus.

Copyright 2024, Brian Lee