Only now are we ready to explore the fascinating world of hypnosis, NLP, memory techniques, speed reading skills, creativity methodologies, and more. They are over-hyped, over-sold, and yet tremendously powerful if approached correctly.
In 1997, I attempted to sum up the work of two late-20th century pioneers in accelerated learning. For decades, it remained the longest piece that I published online. Reading it over again in 2021, I still recognize the idealistic twenty-something who wrote it as I truly believed that accelerated learning was on the cusp of revolutionizing education.
Many of these ideas are still valid, but I realize now that they were in the wrong place. Accelerated leadning isn’t the place to start, but rather the place to go only after deliberate and remedial learning have become ingrained in your practice of lifelong development. Image streaming and photoreading are powerful accelerants, but they can also be distractions.
This work is the original text from 1997. I’ll be coming back to this section soon and flesh it all out under the new learning model.
A quick note on my writing style:
All of the following words are my own, as are some of the conclusions. Also, I've added some humor along the way that's designed to keep your mind from wandering. Oftentimes when we read heady material, it can get really dry and reading begins to seem like a chore. I hope that the humor does not dissuade you in any way from taking this material seriously.
All of Dr.Wenger's work recognizes the First Law of Behavioral Psychology (The Law of Effect), which states:
That which you reinforce, you get more of.
Simple enough, huh? If you reinforce a behavior (giving your dog a treat when he rolls over), you'll get more of that behavior (hours of fun while your dog gets dizzy). If you reinforce a skill (practicing), you become more skillful (mastery). Win applies this law to his Principle of Description which states:
The more you describe of something, while observing it, the more you will perceive of it.
Okay, so far so good. But why does he single out observation? How does observation increase one's intelligence?
Let's take a step backwards for a minute. If you wanted to improve your basketball skills, you would work on the fundamentals, right? Sure, just playing dozens of basketball games will eventually improve certain aspects of your game (and it'll often make bad habits worse), but nothing can substitute for practicing the fundamentals. By mastering the fundamentals of dribbling, passing, and shooting, your game will improve drastically because then all of your conscious attention will be directed toward the 'higher order' skills like recognizing opposing formations, anticipating opposing players' movements, and finding and exploiting opportunities, rather than on how to dribble without stepping on the ball.
Take some other skills that we all take for granted (admittedly, not everyone plays basketball, myself included).
Your conscious mind cannot handle all of the information necessary to do these tasks. Studies have shown that it is only capable of handling about 126 bits of information every second (note: this figure is based on old studies that show we can only hold 7 +/- 2 bits of information at a time and that the smallest slice of time our conscious minds recognize is 1/18th of a second). At some point in our development, we consciously learned how to move our bodies in deliberate ways and process verbal communication. And during those 'peak learning' occasions, it took every ounce of attention we had. Yet today, we take these skills for granted.
So why is it that Michael Jordan is/was such a great basketball player? How is it that we may juggle the definitions of thousands of words and have to follow dozens of rules of grammar, yet 99.99% of the time our communication is clear? How am I able to drink coffee while driving a stick-shift car (you may begin the applause now)?
The answer is that when fundamental skills and knowledge are learned and mastered, they are stored in the unconscious parts of our minds. We then become unconsciously competent of those skills. From that point on, all our conscious minds need to do is give the 'higher order' command and all of the fundamental skills are handled unconsciously at lightning speed. In fact, our unconscious minds are millions of times faster than our conscious minds and can store nearly an infinite amount of information (as opposed to just 7 +/- 2 bits at a time). Accessing that ability is what accelerated learning is all about. Ironically, just about everything you've been taught, especially your study skills, are completely wrong. More on this in a few minutes.
We often don't acknowledge attaining unconscious competence because we're always focusing on what we don't know (the next higher order skill), but the truth is that we're all tremendously skillful at a great many things. And this is because we decided that those skills (especially the fundamental skills like walking and talking) were so important (usually because there were so many models around us) that we applied as many strategies as necessary to master those skills. Unfortunately, we don't have that same motivation to become full-fledged geniuses (probably because there aren't a lot of geniuses to model ourselves after).
Okay, so we agree that mastery of fundamentals must precede mastery of 'higher order' skills because those 'higher order' skills require fundamentals top be performed subconsciously. So now let's get back to my question. Why does Dr.Wenger single out observation? Could it be that observation is the fundamental skill of intelligent thought? Well, let's examine that perspective.
First, let's agree on our goal. The goal of increasing one's intelligence can be compared to increasing the horsepower of an automobile. We want to increase our capacity. Granted, we won't be flooring it 24 hours a day, but the ability to go faster and pull more weight raises its value and comes in handy when we do need the extra capacity.
In more specific terms, we want to be able to master higher order thinking skills like:
…all with increasingly greater ease, accuracy, efficiency, and elegance.
But while improving our higher order brain functions might be our goal, it is the fundamentals of thought that provide the greatest opportunity for massive improvement. The only reason we 'hit a wall' or 'reach a plateau' in any skill set is because we've narrowed our focus too much and we're not acknowledging all of the fundamentals that contribute to the skill set. (read that last sentence again, it's important)
One rarely makes the connection between mathematical ability and athletic ability, or chess and poetry. But there are an increasing number of studies that show that building bridges between seemingly unrelated skills and disciplines may drastically improve the competencies levels of each. For more on this, read the part on pole-bridging below.
So what is the fundamental of all brain fundamentals? Sensory information.
Long before you could understand language, or crawl around the floor, or even coo, you were thinking. Your brain has been operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since it first switched on (yes, even when watching trashy TV shows, though not very much).
Your very first 'thoughts' were sensory-based because your senses were all that you had. You hadn't yet figured out what anything meant. It was all just sights, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes. This sensory information laid the foundation for every subsequent skill and field of study that you pursued. Even today, every new piece of information is automatically and subconsciously associated with your previously laid sensory foundation.
Quick note: for my purposes here, 'images' mean not only pictures, but all sensory information including sounds, feelings, textures, smells, etc.
So why aren't we all perfect learners? When we are babies, we learn at such an astonishing rate. Conventional wisdom (or lack thereof) states that this is a genetic phenomenon and this 'superbaby' state (a phrase I’m stealing from Tony Buzan and Michael Gelb) leaves us at an early age.
But is it just a coincidence that this 'superbaby' learning curve starts to flatten about the same time we are taught to think in words, rather than sensory-laden images? Is it just a coincidence that our learning rate slows down considerably once we enter a formal learning structure?
…and why hasn't Oliver Stone produced a movie on this conspiracy?
Words are just representations of thoughts. It would be tremendously difficult to convey our thoughts to others without words.
Some words are descriptive (nouns label people, places and things, adjectives differentiate nouns from other similar nouns, verbs describe actions). Other words just provide syntax and structure for the standardized arrangement of those descriptive words.
But verbal skills are 'higher order' skills. They are not naturally developed like sight or hearing. If such was the case, we'd all speak the same language. Verbal skills are learned by associating what comes out of our models (Mom and Dad and everyone who uses language around us when we are young) to that sensory foundation that I mentioned earlier.
Once language is learned, we become unconsciously competent at verbal skills (unless you're taking the SAT, then you temporarily forget English altogether). We don't notice that every time we communicate verbally, there are thousands of associations being triggered subconsciously. Our conscious attention (remember, it is limited to about 126 bits per second) is being spent on higher order tasks, like what is being said. Meanwhile, this wondrous supercomputer called our unconscious mind is making all these profound associations, creating innovative angles, anticipating future situations, and doing a billion other things simultaneously. But the conscious mind isn't noticing any of it. For the vast majority of us, our conscious minds have turned off the sensory, instinctual cues from our unconscious brain. This is because our conscious minds were taught to think in words.
In fact, we're only consciously aware of an infinitesimally small fraction of what's going on in our unconscious minds. But what if we could consciously access more of that power? What if we could use our limited conscious minds to give our unconscious minds a command (or a problem to solve, or a novel idea to create) and unleash that natural power? Then we could translate the answer back into words so we communicate it to the rest of the world.
To borrow another analogy from Dr.Wenger, imagine our minds as the most powerful computer in the universe (kind of like a Macintosh). The processor and the hard drive would be the unconscious mind. The monitor screen would be the conscious mind. So many of us insist that what's on the screen is all there is, because that is all that can be accurately and precisely measured. But if you understand how the software works, you can use the information on the screen to 'trigger' the tremendous power of the processor and access any information on the hard drive.
The problem is, God didn't write us a manual (maybe it fell off Noah's ark).
Then along came this guy named Albert Einstein. Everyone thought he was just another genius anomaly. Genetics were kind and that wild hair destined him for genius. Right? Um…not exactly.
While most great geniuses lived long ago and their backgrounds are hard to research, Einstein was a rather recent phenomenon. And there is enough material on his upbringing to try to form some theories as to how he became so smart. Much to the dismay of geneticists everywhere, it wasn't in the genes.
Einstein (like many geniuses) was a complete dunce as a child. His verbal skills were years behind his peers. He was a daydreamer. He barely passed high school math. He was rejected by every university he applied to for his masters degree. Then, five years after taking a crappy job as a patent clerk, the world trembled. The same people who had rejected him all his life became speechless. Einstein became a celebrity, yet almost no one could even understand his Law of Relativity. And to this day, we're still trying to prove and disprove his theories.
What was his secret? No, it wasn't megadoses of vitamin C. Because Einstein was so poor in verbal skills (he mumbled well into his seventh year), his teachers gave up on trying to force him to think in words. So Einstein continued to think in images. Over time, those images became more vivid, complex, and provocative.
He had stumbled upon the knack for accessing more of his supercomputer. While the other kids were taught to use the slide rule (aka thinking in words), Einstein was upgrading his processor and expanding his hard drive (aka thinking in images–the fundamentals of thought). It was only a matter of time before he was light years ahead (pardon the pun) of everyone else. All he needed were adequate verbal skills to translate and articulate those images and their conclusions.
A hero was born. And a model for the future generation of genius.
Now let's put everything together. We know that the practice of fundamentals will reap enormous long-term improvements of 'higher order' tasks. We know that once we reach mastery of those fundamentals, we become unconsciously competent of those skills, thus allowing our conscious attention to be spent on higher order tasks. And we know that sensory information is the fundamental of the human mind and words are just 'higher order' representations of those fundamentals.
Now comes the $64,000 question…
If the foundation of our thinking is sensory information, wouldn't strengthening the connection between our verbal conscious minds and sensory inner minds offer a tremendous boost to our accessible brainpower?
And what triggers sensory information? Observation and other similar 'activation' exercises.
Observation could be defined as articulating the images, intuitions, and feelings your senses experience. I'm not talking about just external observation. For each external sense we have, there is a corresponding internal sense. You've heard of the mind's eye. Well, you also have a mind's ear (remember that stupid song on the radio that keeps playing in your head?), as well as an internal sense of touch, smell, and taste.
So how does working with observation make me smarter?
Observation happens to be the most powerful technique to link your slow, limited, primarily verbal conscious mind to your fast, unlimited, sensory unconscious mind. By observing, you are reconnecting with your 'superbaby' learner. As you bring your initially indistinct images and subtle cues into more conscious awareness, you are progressively reinforcing the skills of accessing that supercomputer.
So you say you're already pretty observant. Well, I beg to differ.
Setting aside gawking at attractive members of the opposite sex, we are all very limited in our observation skills. The fact is, hardly anyone observes anything past what he expects to see or hear. Rarely do we pay attention to our sensory perceptions. Thus, rarely do we get past what we 'know'. Our minds have created shortcuts of perception that we've been leaning on like crutches since we were five years old. It's time to lose the crutches and reopen to floodgates to the powers of our minds.
Remember the Principle of Description? Dr.Wenger makes five supporting rules that are designed to drastically accelerate your powers of observation.:
Take a deep breath, this next one's an earful…
Thus, when trying to learn a skill, solve a problem, or create, your aim should be to increase the neurological contact with what you're trying to learn, solve, or create. You do this by designing a context around your focus and applying the above principles of description to activate the subtle faculties of your mind.
Our brain's development relies on feedback from our own spontaneous and expressive activity. Secondhand experience is far less effective. It is only through becoming an original observer and expressing your observations will you unleash the tremendous power of your inner mind.
Image streaming is an exercise developed by Win Wenger. It is designed to do three things 1. Greatly enhance your powers of description 2. Widen the connection between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind 3. Integrate as many different brain functions simultaneously as possible
I've already written at length about the first two.
Any activity that links opposite portions of the brain leads to overall balance. This goes beyond simple left brain/right brain analysis. Win calls it 'pole-bridging' where you are using opposite 'poles' of your brain simultaneously and lays down 'tracks' for future complex thought requiring multiple skills. No other technique activates as many poles as image streaming.
Talking - - Tasting Listening - - Analyzing Seeing/Imagining - - Reflecting Feeling - - Wondering Smelling - - Creating (ALL HAPPENING SIMULTANEOUSLY)
By repeated practice, you will begin to notice a synergy that I alluded to earlier, where studying math can help you hit a baseball or studying poetry can help your typing speed. The right brain/left brain camp has been saying for years that the key to enhancing intelligence is to spend time developing your weak side, rather than strengthening your dominant side. Pole-bridging recognizes that there's more going on than just two hemispheres specializing in certain skills.
Please keep in mind that image streaming isn't the only pole-bridging technique. Freenoting, periscope learning, and others are also explained in Win Wenger's books.
By activating several poles and accessing the information that's triggered and processed, you open up your whole mind to a task. It's like firing all 12 cylinders in your engine, when before you were only firing one.
Thus, you increase your ability to handle all higher level thinking such as concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, reflective observation, and active experimentation.
And that, my friend, is an increase in intelligence, no matter how you measure it.
Much of this is elaborated on in You Are Brighter Than You Think and Win's other books .
"Okay, that's all well and good," you say. "But what about putting the information in my mind in the first place?" We can increase our powers of observation and learn to perceive even the subtlest cues from our unconscious minds, but if we want to stand on the shoulders of the greats that preceded us, we need to study their work. And humans use words to communicate–a lot of them actually. What is the most powerful way to read through the masses of words and numbers out there and retrieve the useful information? Does such a skill exist?
Ta da (imagine some inspiring musical accompaniment)
The skill I am referring to is photoreading. Admittedly, I thought photoreading was full of bunk when I first read about it. After all, if we're not reading every word individually, how can we possibly comprehend what's on the pages?
But photoreading uses the powers of the unconscious mind to "read" material at 15,000, 25,000, even 70,000 words per minute. It isn't as exhausting as speed reading and increasing your photoreading skills has a massive residual effect on many other skills as well.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: "I don't understand the title of this section". HI-HO stands for High Input, High Output. It's a phrase coined by Win Wenger that describes how by combining the techniques of photoreading with image streaming, freenoting, periscope learning, and dynamic format, you will be using the most leveraged accelerated learning system on the planet (if you think that's an exaggeration, feel free to prove me wrong).
Before I get into how photoreading works, let's take a history lesson, okay? Stop groaning, it'll be brief.
First there was reading, a pretty impressive feat in human advancement.
Next came speed reading. We've all heard of speed reading. People reading at 5000 words a minute. Whew! That must be something, huh?
While the basic techniques of speed reading are valuable, taking it into the 1000+ words per minute range is exhausting (rumor has it that speed reading is just a sinister plot to sell more aspirin) and requires a continued practice. As Woody Allen once said "I once speed read War And Peace. I think it was about Russia."
Nevertheless, I highly recommend to everyone to read Tony Buzan's book Use Both Side of Your Brain. In it is a section on speed reading that just covers the basics. And that's all you really need. It will help you to diagnose and fix the most common and debilitating bad reading habits.
The latest generation of reading was born by complete accident (just like penicillin).
One day (c.1984) a speed reading instructor from Arizona (where the common mantra is: "but it's a dry heat") was teaching his students eye fixation patterns (one of the basic skills in speed reading). He instructed them to turn their books upside down and practice pacing their eyes across the page. On a whim, he tested them on the material and they scored higher than they ever have before.
The problem was, he didn't know why this happened. It's a lot like Einstein's genius (or anybody else's genius for that matter). You can stumble upon the knack, but unless you articulate the knack and present it in a universally accessible way, the knack becomes labeled just another anomaly.
A young speed reading student named Paul Scheele became intrigued when he heard of this experiment. He was determined to find out why it happened and then design his own reading course based on his findings.
So how does photoreading work?
What Paul found is that we all have what is called a preconscious processor that can absorb information without involving the conscious mind. You see, we cannot consciously read more than about 5000 words a minute. Since our conscious mind can be pretty accurately measured, the prevailing wisdom (or lack thereof) concluded that this was the absolute reading speed limit.
But remember how I said that our unconscious minds are millions of times faster than our conscious minds? Every second, our unconscious minds are observing millions of bits of data from our senses. Our eyes are tremendously sensitive instruments, capable of picking up minute details of our environment.
Photoreading works by approaching your reading in five steps:
Not every step is necessary every time. By learning how to "photofocus" our eyes (part of the photoreading step), we can take advantage of the ability to let our unconscious minds "read" a whole page of text at a time. Then, by applying the activation techniques (one of which is image streaming), we can probe our subconscious minds and access the answers to the questions that made us pick up the material in the first place.
Everything that Paul Scheele and Win Wenger teaches is verifiable. But none of it is mainstream, at least not yet. Yes, there are plenty of resources to back up the laws and theories on which both of their work is based.
But the human mind is a very difficult organ to test objectively. Nowhere outside the world of quantum physics does Heisenberg's principle (the observer alters the observed by mere act of observing) rear it's ugly head more than in the study of the human mind.
Thus, the ultimate test for any theory or system involving the human mind (be it NLP, hypnosis, primal scream therapy, or accelerated learning) is whether or not it works. We may never know exactly how the mind itself works. Our best hope is to progressively create more accurate models of the human mind and apply those models toward our goals.
For now, mastery of image streaming and photoreading requires a little trust on your part. We can sit and argue about semantics for days, but nothing will convince you more than learning and doing.
We all have skeptical minds, some more than others, and that isn't a bad thing. In fact, it is a sign of intelligence. But I implore you to trust that your inner mind does have these abilities and that all it takes is persistence and applying enough strategies to access these abilities.