You Forget 80% of What You Learn Every Day!

There are many people out there who spend hours on end every single day learning and feeding their mind with immeasurable amounts knowledge.  It truly is amazing to see that so many people have an interest in taking themselves to the next level.  Unfortunately, even though the intention is constructive, there lies a undetected negative affect to studying and learning new information.

Have you ever gone to a learning seminar of some kind, whether it is powerful and exciting like a raw-raw motivational event or a low-key workshop for new homebuyers?  Obviously from the back-end, the purpose of almost all these seminars are to sell you on something that you may or may not need.  However, the selling stuff aside, your intention at this seminar is to learn new information, gain knowledge, or maybe even refresh your memory. Chances are that 1-2 weeks after the seminars over, you’ll completely forget almost everything you’ve learned.


On the average, about 80% of everything you learn in any given day is forgotten.  What’s more interesting is that when some information comes in, sometimes other information comes out.   So now the question is how do we retain more information.

That reminds me of a story of a close friend of mine. He has an immense database of knowledge about sales.  He’s been a person who’s always been interested in learning and growing, which I realized almost instantly the day I met him.  Now it sounds like this guy is just hungry for success, and he is, but he was actually hurting and stopping himself to achieve success indirectly. He would spend hours every day learning something new and then the next day he would do it again.  What I noticed was that he kept learning new strategies, techniques, concepts, etc., but took very little action. By taking very little action I mean that he didn’t apply what he learned.

I was just like that in the sense that I kept learning, but didn’t apply it either.  All my knowledge was just archived in my head.  It was just recently (last 1-2 years) that I started applying what I learned in the different situations and scenarios I came across.  My results were remarkable.  People almost always felt comfortable talking to me.  This was all because I simply stopped spending most of my time learning new stuff and started applying what I already knew or some cases what I just learned.  The irony behind it is that usually I’d talk to people about “” type of information, which would blow them away.  My whole goal is to become an interesting person and as I apply what I know, it’s becoming reality.

The advice I gave my friend was that he needed to stop spending all of his time to learn new stuff every day and start taking action what he knows.  I believe in a very simple philosophy: Apply what you know and you will naturally begin to perform your skill subconsciously (without you being aware that your using it) and then you’ll automatically strengthen your “skill of learning” which will allow you to learn new things faster and apply them with ease.  He agreed with me and decided to follow my advice and now he couldn’t be happier with results he has created by taking more action.

We learn

  • 10% What we READ
  • 20% What we HEAR
  • 30% What we SEE
  • 50% What we SEE and HEAR
  • 70% What we DISCUSSED with OTHERS

I’ve read this report researched by the William Glasser’s Institute about how we learn.

We learn 10% of what we read

That’s astonishingly low and very de-motivating.  However, it makes sense when you read the other numbers which I’ll explain why below.

We learn 20% what we hear & 30% what we see

I found this interesting and would definitely argue this knowing that some people are visual (learn by seeing) and some people are auditory (learn by hearing). So this seems debatable to me as being either or.

We learn 50% of what we see and hear

True. 20% + 30% = 50%

We learn 70% of what we discussed with others

Sounds about right since talking with others allows you to communicate your thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and concepts. You’re also absorbing someone else’s point of view.  Discussing something with others is obviously more memorable too.

We learn 80% of what we experienced personally

We almost always relate something we’re learning to some person, place, thing, or event from the past.  If what you’re learning triggers a familiar memory, of course it’s going to be stickier in your brain.  Now you have whatever your learning neurologically linked to some memory in the past.

We learn 95% of what we teach to someone else 😉 I agree with this 100%.  I can personally say that I became a much better communicator after I started teaching people what I knew.  Not only is it easier to learn, but also its just overall more fulfilling knowing that you were able to teach someone something.  That feeling alone enables me to continue doing what I do.  I’m sure most of you agree that when you teach someone something, your brain sort of changes into a different mode.  That mode allows us to learn that information a lot quicker. That’s exactly why people choose to become a teacher in California and the 49 states across the US

By now I hope you were able to link up that part about applying what you learn instead of constantly learning new information and the way we learn the fastest: teaching others.  I’m not saying stop learning new things because it’s a great way to grow, what I’m saying is that you should focus most of your time on taking action on what you do know, rather than focusing on learning-learning-learning.

And as far as “you only learn 10% of what you read,” it sounds as if reading was a waste of time, but the fact is that you can take that 10% of what you read and create magic by apply it.

How say you?

34 thoughts on “You Forget 80% of What You Learn Every Day!

  1. tom

    And you wonder why school is ineffective, when most of your education is based on reading.

    I used to do a lot of this before too, I would grab a bunch of books and rush through them thinking I had a lot more knowledge but in the end i wasn’t getting anywhere ahead.

    Great post AJ

  2. Vladimir Tsvetkov

    Strangely enough, the most wide spread educational system does not acknowledge the pointed cognitive limitation, while this is known for centuries and has been applied in most of the martial arts. Usually the Sensei (the teacher) demonstrates you a technique – sometimes explaining the moves, sometimes not (just to provoke your mind-body creativity to take you in your own way) – and then you practice it. And you practice it a lot! But if you want to get to ‘the next level’, you got to teach someone. It looks like the Sensei is just tutoring during the lessons, but actually he learns more stuff than anyone else in the dojo.

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  4. Sushil Mayer

    But don’t you need to learn the ‘stuff’ yourself first before teaching it to someone else, or do you just teach as you learn?

    1. AJ Kumar Post author

      Good question. Yes you need to obviously read information or get it taught to you in order for you to become aware of it. However, you begin to understand and comprehend it much better when you teach or discuss it.

      Like I know personal development info for years, but it wasn’t until I started teaching that it started making sense to me. Now I’m able to apply it a lot easier.

  5. Silvia

    Good facts about cognitive process! I think memory is a kind of an archive department in a person’s mind.It gets all the info we see,hear,read and translate.If the info is important,one uses it in practice or teaches the stuff,it becomes operative,the rest of info you just read and got into your mind is kept in the depths of your mind/in the far corner of your archive/is considered to be passive and can be easily become operative when you are motivated and really need it.The more we sudy the more we forget !And why do we forget?Because we don’t need it.The exams are a good example!

  6. Trey - Swollen Thumb Entertainment

    Yes, you don’t need to completely “understand” something before you teach it to someone else. If this was the case, information and skills would spread incredibly slow. For one, we learn much better when someone is directly teaching us something, and second, we learn things very quickly when we learn to teach them to other people. It allows us to organize the processes in our head, and explain them as efficiently as possible. Why should we try to get in the way of this wonderful aspect of learning by having high standards for what we are willing to teach?

  7. Carla

    Whenever I read a book, I break up each section and start applying it before going to the next section. Whenever I just read a book, I feel like I’ve gotten nothing out of it at the end. I definitely learn more by seeing for sure.

  8. Humberto

    Hello AJ

    This is the first time I visit you blog and I would like to say “felicitaciones y exito” (congratulations and sucess).

    Reading this article I think I found what my problem is. I’m those of those guys like you friend that everyday I have a new idea and at the end I get nothing and is because of what you explained here. I NEED TO START TAKING ACTION.

  9. John Thomas Kuczmarski

    I have martial arts experience as a student and teaching it (both POVs). Martial arts is one of those things that's highly “comprehensive learning (learning that's difficult to forget)” as teacher or student because as student (using the stats from this great article) you're EXPERIENCING it, which is 80%, and as teacher, that's just 15% more absorption. So teaching martial arts versus practicing it experientially….teaching it does “help you learn it more efficiently” but only by a small fraction moreso than experientially doing/practicing it.

  10. Johnkooz

    Quick questions for aj:
    How long ago did you start this blog?
    how can a reader see all the archives?
    “# Appear on a late night talk show. ( I was on the Tonight Show for a few seconds on 2/19/09 – This doesn’t count, but still! 😉 )” Details of that?! lol! nice.

  11. AJ Kumar

    I started this blog around January.
    Too see my archives, there is a link at the top that says “search by topic”
    I had a broken foot at the time and I went to go watch the Late Night Show with Jay Leno. Because I was on crutches, they let me sit in the front. When Jay came out, luckily, I was able to go up and shake his hand and was on TV for a good 3-4 seconds 🙂 By the way, I wrote this goal down BEFORE I went to the show.

  12. JMR2

    This is such a gross over-simplification of cognitive science, it hardly deserves any attention. The strength of any single memory impression is based on a host of complex factors beyond simply mode of transmission. Even more critical is how much you already know about the subject and how many associations your mind makes with the given impression. Generally, the greater the number of associations, the higher the retention, i.e., the more you already know, the more new information you are able to remember. Others include the simplicity of the knowledge item, the frequency of review (direct and indirect), and so many others. This 80%, 70%, 60% stuff is just plain garbage.

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  15. Francologne

    Great post, but PLEASE be a bit more dilligent about your spelling (YOUR vs. YOU’RE, that’s a particularly nasty one) . Your words have far less authority if you spell or write like a hack. Otherwise, great article.

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  17. Per Asplund

    Thanks for an interesting article.

    But I really doubt the fact behind it. This kind of article should point to clear evidence – not only a general web site.

    I have Googled intensively – but find nothing that support the article.

    Per Asplund

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  19. Joe

    I was happy when I read this passage. Before i depend only on learning but now I come across this,I believe I can now make a change and apply the words of philosophy. Thanks.

  20. Vijay

    That was an awesome article, really enjoyed. My problem is that i am forgetting easily. I dont know whether it is Memory loss issue. But most of the time if i am reading something very interestingly i feel sleepy and then i will close that book. it happens to me all time

  21. Street-Smart Language Learning

    Hey Aj,

    Very interesting figures you’ve got there, and they do seem to jibe with my experiences in language learning.

    I’d be interested in applying it a bit more directly to language learning. For instance, where would using a vocab word when writing or speaking fall in the above list? Neither would be “discussing” the word (it’s part of the medium of, not the subject of, the discussion), but actively processing the vocab word would intuitively seem to be better than passively seeing and hearing it (50%), although perhaps not as good as discussing it (70%). So… 60% or thereabouts?

    Apologies for coming so late to this party and I hope you’re still monitoring these comments!

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,


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