Limitless by Jim Kwik
In Limitless, Jim Kwik highlights that there’s no such thing as a good memory or a bad memory; there is only a trained memory and an untrained memory.
LIMITLESS – Upgrade your brain, learn anything faster, and unlock your exceptional life
By applying a handful of practical methods, we can enhance our brain and supercharge our ability to learn.
There is no pill for genius, but there is a process to get there, and you’ll find it within these pages. Limitless is a blueprint for upgrading your brain, for not only learning how to learn faster, better, and more effectively, but also for healing your physical brain through nutrition, supplements, exercise, meditation, sleep, and more to increase the creation of new brain cells and the connections between them.
PART I: FREE YOUR MIND
Limitless Chapter I: BECOMING LIMITLESS
Growing up, Jim Kwik used to have limiting beliefs, lots of them: ““I’m so stupid.” “I don’t understand.” “I’m too dumb to learn.” These were his mantras. After an accident, he was even labeled “the boy with the broken brain” by his elementary school teacher.
As he highlights: “I had spent most of my school life trying to shrink so small that I wouldn’t be called on in class; when you are the broken one, you don’t feel like you have much to offer. I was beyond shy, and I didn’t like to draw attention to myself. My superpower back then was being invisible. I was also deathly afraid of speaking in public.”
Learning how to learn
While he managed to enter a local university, he also got intrigued by the idea of learning how to learn. He set his studies aside and focused only on the books that his mentor gave him, as well as books he found on adult learning theory, multiple intelligence theory, neuroscience, personal growth, educational psychology, speed reading, and even ancient mnemonics.
If there’s something that obsessed him, it would be “how does our brain work, so we can work on our brains?”
Conversely, if knowledge is power, then learning is our superpower. And our capacity to learn is limitless; we simply need to be shown how to access it.
The limitless model
You can become limitless in your own way, within the three-part framework you’re about to learn: Limitless Mindset, Limitless Motivation, and Limitless Methods.
It works this way:
Mindset (the WHAT): deeply held beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions we create about who we are, how the world works, what we are capable of and deserve, and what is possible.
Motivation (the WHY): the purpose one has for taking action. The energy required for someone to behave in a particular way.
Method (the HOW): a specific process for accomplishing something, especially an orderly, logical, or systematic way of instruction.
Limitless Chapter 2: why this matters now
There are a few things that hold us back and rob us of our productivity, prosperity, positivity, and peace of mind. He indicts the four growing villains that are challenging our capacity to think, focus, learn, grow, and be fully human.
There is an unending flood of information in a world of finite time and unfair expectations that leads to overwhelm, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Drowning in data and rapid change, we long for strategies and tools to regain some semblance of productivity, performance, and peace of mind.
The fleeting ping of digital dopamine pleasure replaces our ability to sustain the attention necessary for deep relationships, deep learning, or deep work.
Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer uses the term digital dementia to describe how overuse of digital technology results in the breakdown of cognitive abilities. He argues that short-term memory pathways will start to deteriorate from underuse if we overuse technology.
Chances are high that you don’t remember your best friends’ phone numbers. We mostly rely on technology and underuse our brain’s capabilities. Too often, we outsource our brains to our smart devices, and our smart devices are making us, well, a little bit stupid.
In a world where information is abundantly accessible, we’ve perhaps gone too far in how we use that information. We got to the point where we are letting technology do much of our critical thinking and reasoning for us.
Limitless Chapter 3: your limitless brain
You have an extraordinary brain. It generates up to 70,000 thoughts per day. It races with the speed of the fastest race car. It processes dramatically faster than any existing computer, and it has virtually infinite storage capacity.
Our brains are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The cerebral cortex is the largest part of our brain, where the majority of our complex thinking, short-term memory, and sensory stimulation take place.
Our brains have the capacity for neuroplasticity, which means that it can be changed and shaped by our actions and by our environments. Your brain is always changing and molding itself to your surroundings and to the demands you place on it.
Neuroplasticity, also referred to as brain plasticity, 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 the mind.
Maintaining and sustaining connections
If learning is making new connections, then remembering is maintaining and sustaining those connections.
Plasticity means that you can mold and shape your brain to suit your desires.
Plasticity means that your learning, and indeed your life, is not fixed. You can be, do, have, and share anything when you optimize and rewire your brain. There are no limitations when you align and apply the right mindset, motivation, and methods.
Your second brain
You are not limited to just one brain, you have a second—your gut.
Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.
The gut is lined with more than a hundred million nerve cells, and it makes up part of the ENS.
The little brain in conjunction with the big one partly determines our mental state. Furthermore, when you feed your gut with subpar food, you’re also feeding your brain with subpar fuel. Right now, your gut is digesting the food you just ate and sending that fuel to your brain.
A big question
So, if we have that much potential, why is it so that we sometimes can’t remember a simple name or think our way out of a paper bag?
The answer is so simple, it’s almost the elusive obvious: We were not taught how. Very few schools anywhere in the world have incorporated learning how to learn into their curriculums.
In this sense, we must take charge of our own learning. If schools tell us what to learn, but not how to learn, then we need to do the rest of the work ourselves.
The expert technician
There’s the story of an expert technician who charged $10,000 just to turn a single screw. It happened when at a power plant, everything came to an abrupt halt. To his surprise, the head of operations asked why the technician would charge that much, for a few minutes, just to turn one single screw; anyone could have done that.
Then the technician detailed: “Turning screw: $1. Knowing which screw to turn: $9,999.”
A limitless mind can offer you added value. Your ability to think, solve problems, make the right decisions, create, innovate, and imagine is how we add value. The faster you can learn, the faster you can earn.
You have a hidden superpower: your brain. And reading remains one of the best ways to install new software into your brain.
Limitless Chapter 4: How to read and remember this (and any) book
You may have read something only to forget it later on. This is normal; Psychologists refer to this as the “forgetting curve.”
Research suggests humans forget approximately 50 percent of what they learn within an hour, and an average of 70 percent within 24 hours.
The Pomodoro method
Research suggests that our natural ability to concentrate wanes between 10 to 40 minutes.
If we spend any longer on a given task, we get diminishing returns on our investment of time because our attention starts to wander.
For that reason, Jim suggests you use the Pomodoro technique, a productivity method developed by Francesco Cirillo based on the idea that the optimal time for a task is 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. Each 25-minute chunk is called a “Pomodoro.”
The effect of primacy and recency
When it comes to learning, you’re more likely to remember what you learn in the beginning of a learning session. The effect of recency is that you’re also likely to remember the last thing you learned (more recent).
Use the FASTER method
The acronym FASTER stands for: Forget, Act, State, Teach, Enter, and Review.
The questions are the answer
There is a reason why you read a page in a book, arrived at the end, and could not recall what you just read. It’s because you’re not asking the right questions.
Every second, your senses gather up to 11 million bits of information from the world around you. The conscious mind typically processes only 50 bits per second.
What makes it through the filter is determined by the part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or RAS for short.
The RAS also acts as the gatekeeper of information through a process called habituation, which allows the brain to ignore meaningless and repetitive stimuli and remain sensitive to other inputs.
One of the ways to guide the RAS are the questions we ask ourselves. These tell that part of our brain what is important to us.
Prepare your mind
Questions direct your focus, so they play into everything in life—even reading comprehension. Because people typically don’t ask enough questions when they read, they compromise their focus, understanding, and retention.
PART II: LIMITLESS MINDSET: THE WHAT
By definition, mindset includes the deeply held beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions we create about who we are, how the world works, what we are capable of and deserve, and what is possible.
Limitless Chapter 5: The spell of beliefs systems
What limiting beliefs do to us
Limiting beliefs are often revealed in our self-talk, that inner conversation that focuses on what you’re convinced you can’t do rather than what you already excel at and what you’re going to continue to achieve today and into the future.
How often do you stop yourself from attempting to do something or from pursuing a dream because that voice convinces you that it is beyond your reach?
Limiting beliefs can stop you in your tracks even when you’re doing something at which you normally excel.
It is better to go from a limited mindset, believing that “things are the way they are”; to knowing that we can change and shape our mind to reach our goals. Believe in yourself, imagine what might be possible.
Reframing limiting beliefs
The difference between limiting beliefs and a limitless mindset is like the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer has only one function: to react to the environment.
On the other hand, a thermostat gauges the environment and makes the environment react to it. If a thermostat notices that a room is too cold or too hot, it changes the environment to fit the ideal for which it is set.
To minimize limiting beliefs and develop a superhero mindset, Jim Kwik recommends three keys:
Key 1: Name Your Limiting Beliefs
Be aware of how you’re holding yourself back with your self-talk. Spend some time to get to the source of these beliefs.
Key 2: Get to the Facts
Examine the reality of your beliefs. When you’re examining the facts behind your limiting beliefs, be sure to consider two things: whether there is in reality any evidence to prove that you are truly hampered in this area and whether even that evidence was tainted by the noise in your head.
Key 3: Create a New Belief
Generate a new belief that is both truer than the LIEs you’ve been accepting and beneficial to the limitless you that you are creating.
Limitless Chapter 6: The 7 lies of learning
There are some beliefs and lies that undermine your quest to become limitless. Jim identifies seven of them which are:
Intelligence is fixed
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, people understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.
Your intelligence is not only malleable but dependent on your ability to cultivate a growth mindset.
We only use 10 percent of our brains
This myth is pervasive, and yet it’s not true. you have all the power of your brain available to you now.
New belief: I am learning to use my whole brain in the best way possible.
Mistakes are failures
Mistakes don’t mean failure. Mistakes are a sign that you are trying something new. You might think you have to be perfect, but life is not about comparing yourself to anyone else; it’s about measuring yourself compared to who you were yesterday. When you learn from your mistakes, they have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.
New belief: There is no such thing as failure. Only failure to learn.
Knowledge is power
Knowledge is not power. It only has the potential to be power.
New belief: Knowledge × Action = Power
Learning new things is very difficult
Sometimes it is hard to learn new things. What’s more accurate is to understand that learning is a set of methods, a process that can certainly be easier when you know how to learn.
New belief: When you learn new ways how to learn, the challenge of learning new things can be fun, easier, and more enjoyable.
The criticism of other people matters
Creating the life you want can be scary. But you know what’s scarier? Regret. One day we will take our final breaths and not one of other people’s opinions or your fears will matter. What will matter is how we lived. Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.
New belief: It’s not your job to like, love, or respect me. It’s mine.
Genius is born
In The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle delves into whether talent is innate or whether it can be developed. He argues “greatness isn’t born, it’s grown.” Through deep practice, ignition, and master coaching, anyone can develop a talent so deep that it looks like genius.
Genius leaves clues. There is always a method behind what looks like magic.
New belief: Genius is not born; it’s made through deep practice.
PART III: LIMITLESS MOTIVATION: THE WHY
Limitless Chapter 7: Purpose
Setting SMART goals remains one of the best ways to achieve them.
S is for Specific; M is for Measurable; A is for Actionable; R is for Realistic; T is for Time-based.
To get your goals out of your head and into your hands, make sure they fit with your emotions—with your HEART:
H is for Healthy; E is for Enduring; A is for Alluring; R is for Relevant; T is for Truth.
Your goals must support your well-being. They also have to sustain you during the difficult times when you want to quit; these same goals should be exciting and enticing. Your goals should suit your life’s purpose and finally; goals should remain true to you.
On purpose and passion
Your life purpose consists of the central motivating aims of your life—the reasons you get up in the morning. Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning.
Finding your passion
Finding your passion is not about choosing the right path or finding the perfect professional destiny. It’s about experimenting to see what ignites your joy. Passion comes when we rediscover our authentic, alive self, the one who has been muted and buried beneath a pile of other people’s expectations.
Finding your passion is like finding true love, in that you have to go out on many dates to get to the perfect match. Once you find that special person, it doesn’t just magically “work,” because it takes effort to build a relationship. Finding your passion is no different—it takes experimentation to see what clicks for you and it takes effort.
Purpose is about how you relate to other people. Purpose is what you’re here to share with the world. It’s how you use your passion.
Finding your reasons
You could feel amazing and still get nothing done if your reasons for doing so are not strong enough.
Reasons that are tied to your purpose, identity, and values will sufficiently motivate you to act, even in the face of all of the daily obstacles that life puts in your way.
Limitless Chapter 8: energy
Here are Jim Kwik’s 10 recommendations for generating limitless brain energy.
1- A good brain diet
“The human brain requires 45 distinct nutrients to function best. While most of these nutrients are created by the brain itself, the rest are imported from our diet.”
The top 10 brain foods: avocados, blueberries, broccoli, dark chocolate, eggs, green leafy vegetables, salmon (sardines and caviar), turmeric, walnuts, water.
2- Brain nutrients
Research has shown that particular nutrients have a direct effect on your cognitive ability. Always prefer getting nutrients from real, whole, organic foods. For example, you can supplement with phospholipid DHA—your brain uses this to create healthy cell membranes. B vitamins improve women’s memories. Curcumin, the nutrient found in turmeric, can forestall cognitive decay.
“Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills”
4- Killing ANTS (Automatic negative thoughts)
What is your biggest ANT? What could you replace it with?
5- A clean environment
The air you breathe is critical to the way your brain functions. Clean the air in your home and in your office.
6- A positive peer group
7- Brain protection (from injuries and highly risky activities)
8- New learning
9- Stress management
Limitless Chapter 9: Small simple steps
As you now have a reason or purpose to do something, a small simple step is what’s missing. A small simple step is the tiniest action you can take to get you closer to your goal. One that requires minimal effort or energy; over time, these become habits.
Take baby steps
In “Tiny habits”, Dr. Fogg explains that there are only three things that can change a person’s behavior long term.
One is to have an epiphany.
Another is to change your environment.
The third is to, as Dr. Fogg puts it, “take baby steps.”
One of the only things that is likely to change your behavior is to make incremental progress.
Small simple steps repeated lead to habits. Various studies have shown that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of what we do every day is the product of a habit. That means that half of our lives is governed by what scientists term automaticity.
Creating habits to automate essential parts of our lives is a fundamental streamlining technique that we do largely unconsciously, often to our benefit.
If you want to know more about how to create a habit, I suggest you reading:
Growing your life one habit at a time
By changing just one or two small habits in your day, incredible progress can follow. Something as simple as brushing your teeth with the opposite hand can be the start to an entirely new way of life
Establish a morning routine
If you jump-start your day by jump-starting your brain with a series of simple activities, you have a huge advantage.
In addition, if you set up winning routines early in the day, you can benefit from what Tony Robbins calls “the science of momentum”: the notion that once you set accomplishment in motion, you can keep it in motion with much less effort than if you were trying to accomplish something from a standing start.
People also read:
Limitless Chapter 10: flow
In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” To Csikszentmihalyi, flow is an expression of “optimal experience.”
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as having eight characteristics:
1. Absolute concentration
2. Total focus on goals
3.The sense that time is either speeding up or slowing down
4. A feeling of reward from the experience5. A sense of effortlessness
5. The experience is challenging, but not overly so
6. Your actions almost seem to be happening on their own
7. You feel comfort with what you are doing
8. Being in a flow state dramatically boosts your productivity.
1 . Eliminate Distractions
2. Give Yourself Enough Time
3. Do Something You Love
4. Have Clear Goals
5. Challenge Yourself . . . A Little
Conquering the enemies of flow
Training yourself to achieve flow regularly and even in multiple sessions in the same day will have you performing like a superhero. To be in this state, here are the four super villains you need to get rid of: Multitasking, stress, fear of failure and lack of conviction.
Actually, “perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation”
PART IV: LIMITLESS METHODS: THE HOW
Method is the process of learning how to learn, also called meta learning. In this section, you’re going to learn the science of accelerated learning and meta learning in five areas: focus, study, memory, speed reading, and thinking.
Limitless Chapter 11: focus
Unlimiting your focus is a key to unleashing your superpowers. When your mind is truly focused, when you’re completely throwing yourself at a task, you achieve at levels that are impossible when you’re distracted or divided in your thoughts.
If you want to become a master at concentration, divest yourself of the potential for distraction whenever concentration is critical.
Calming your busy mind
Focus requires an ability to set aside distractions and give all your attention to what you’re doing.
Tools like meditation, yoga, and certain martial arts can be tremendously valuable in helping you calm your busy mind. You can also practice the following exercises:
Holistic health expert Andrew Weil, M.D., developed a breathing tool that he calls the 4–7–8 Method. It works like this:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
Hold your breath for a count of 7.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
2. Do something that has been causing you stress
What is that one important thing that you’re avoiding that is affecting your focus?
3- Schedule time for distractions
Limitless Chapter 12: Study
The four levels of competence
Unconscious incompetence: when you don’t know what you don’t know.
Conscious incompetence: you’re aware of what you don’t know.
Conscious competence: you’re aware of a skill and have the capacity to perform that skill, but only when you actively put your mind to it.
Unconscious competence: you know how to perform a skill, and it’s second nature to you.
How to study better
The most successful people in the world are lifelong students. That means they’re continuously learning new skills,
Cramming doesn’t work. An adequate amount of sleep is = critical for academic success. Concentrating on one subject for many, many hours makes it less likely that you’re going to retain the information.
To unlimit your studies
Habit 1: Employ Active Recall
Review the material you are studying. Then close the book, turn off the video or lecture, and write down or recite everything you remember from what you just reviewed. Now, look at the material again. How much did you remember?
Habit 2: Employ Spaced Repetition
Habit 3: Manage the State You’re In
Habit 4: Use Your Sense of Smell
Smell is an enormously important, yet underused, memory tool. Put a bit of a particular essential oil on your wrist while you’re studying and then make sure you do the same thing before you take the test.
Habit 5: Music for the Mind
Habit 6: Listen with Your Whole Brain
Habit 7: Take Note of Taking Notes
If you want to make sure you’re always getting the most from your notetaking, remember the mnemonic TIP: T is for Think (think about what you’re hoping to retain most from this session.), I is for Identify (identify what is most important in the context of your goal.); P is for Prioritize: prioritize the information that is most valuable to you.
Limitless Chapter 13: Memory
Your brain is an organ. But it acts like a muscle. And it most significantly resembles a muscle in that it’s a use it-or-lose-it device. Our brains stay fit only when we make a concerted effort to keep them fit.
If you could not remember, then you could not learn anything. Your memory is also one of your greatest assets. It supports you in every area of your life.
If you’re going to perform a major upgrade on your brain, you’re going to want to unlimit your memory, as memory is such a fundamental part of most brain function
There’s no such thing as a good memory or a bad memory; there is only a trained memory and an untrained memory.
To kick up your memory instantly
Always remember MOM
M is for Motivation: The simple fact is that we are considerably more likely to remember things that we are motivated to remember.
O is for Observation: the issue isn’t retention but rather attention. If you’re serious about boosting your memory, condition yourself to be truly present in any situation where you want to remember something.
M is for Methods: use the most appropriate tools
The chances of remembering something increase dramatically if people can attach a reference point to the thing they are trying to remember. Creating associations for ourselves is likely to boost our memories dramatically. In order to learn any new piece of information, it must be associated with something you already know.
Most people approach learning as a passive activity. Don’t just sit there and hope to retain the information. Learning passively is weak; active learning is strong.
Remember a picture is worth a thousand words!
Adding emotion makes something memorable.
We are really good at recalling places because as hunter-gatherers, we didn’t need to remember numbers and words, but we needed to remember where things were.
Limitless Chapter 14: Speed reading
Studies show that there is a direct relationship between your ability to read and your success in life.
How reading makes your brain limitless
Reading improves your memory and it improves your focus. Reading improves your vocabulary and even your imagination. Finally, reading improves understanding.
Challenges to reading
There are three barriers and obstacles that prevent us from reading more quickly:
Regression: Regression is a term used to describe the tendency that your eyes have to go back and reread certain words.
Subvocalization: It’s the voice inside that is saying the words as you read. Subvocalization limits your reading speed to only a couple hundred words per minute.
Myth 1: Faster Readers Don’t Comprehend Well
This is a rumor spread around by slow readers, and it is not true. If your mind ever wanders and daydreams, this could be the reason. If you don’t give your brain the stimulus it needs, it’ll seek entertainment elsewhere in the form of distraction.
Myth 2: It’s Harder and Takes More Effort to Read Fast
Reading faster requires less effort, primarily because trained readers tend not to back-skip as much as slower readers.
Myth 3: Faster Readers Can’t Appreciate Reading
It’s not true either.
How to read even faster
Reading is like exercising. If you push yourself to read faster, your “reading muscles” will become stronger, and what was once hard, becomes easy.
Expand your peripheral vision
Your peripheral vision is the span of letters or words that your eyes can see in a single glance. By increasing your peripheral vision, you will be able to see and take in more words at a time.
When you have passed a certain rate (about 300 to 350 words per minute), it will be impossible to subvocalize all the words.
Limitless Chapter 15: Thinking
It is important to think from a variety of perspectives. In his book, Jim talks about eight distinct forms of intelligence, based on Howard Gardner’s work (professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education).
These forms of intelligence are spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.
Your learning style
V is for Visual, meaning that you tend to learn through illustrations, charts, video, and other visual media.
A is for Auditory, meaning that you find yourself most comfortable learning by listening, either to a lecture, a discussion, a podcast, an audiobook, etc.
K is for Kinesthetic, meaning that you prefer to learn via physical interaction. Kinesthetic learners tend to gain more from taking a hands-on approach to learning.