Saturday, July 03, 2021

The Goblin War Buggy

It costs two mana. One colorless, one red. It is cast with haste, and can attack the turn it is played. It deals two damage on turn two.

I have not played Magic The Gathering since 2002.

Why do I remember these cards with such vividness? More importantly, why do I understand the function and role of cards in the meta of a game i have not played in over a decade?

The Goblin War Buggy is not the only card that I have taken to heart. I could list at least two dozen cards in vivid detail, along with their function and role, and how they integrate into a deck, so many years after last playing with them. In retrospect, playing Magic The Gathering was a perfect combination of a few factors. I spent my casual free time thinking about cards. The game made you think hard long before it was actually played. Building a deck meant fussing over card counts and how each card fit in grand strategy of the deck. I spent so much time studying the cards, and thinking about them on my spare time, that I developed a keen understanding of each card. I then played with them, and that reinforced the knowledge I had about those cards.

Why do we remember what we learn? How can I integrate what I learn into working, functional memory?

Step 1: Priming Mental Function
- Sleep enough.
- Cardio Exercise 3 times a week (~20 mins at ~80% HR, or about 160bpm).
- Meditate to wipe out distracting thoughts.
The ultimate goal of the above is to increase levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor that greatly aids in learning and memory. Meditation reduces distracting thoughts, and improves focus on the now... as the default mode of the brain is to think about things past and future, but not the present. Exercise increases BDNF, improves sleep, and lifts mood.

Step 2: Study in a Flow State
There must be no distractions. No checking facebook / instagram / reddit / email. You have one task: To study XYZ. Nothing more. Study while not stressed, in one's casual free time, out of one's own volition, with no pressures or distracting thoughts. Once in a flow state, focus and read intently. Reading for the sake of reading, while incessantly checking facebook or reddit, does not achieve anything. The whole idea of reading is that it allows you to think. It is the act of thinking about something that will integrate it into working memory.
Step 3: Visualize.
Practicing what has been read, will solidify that knowledge and make it easily reproducible/verbalized (for exams!). Performance artists (eg dancers / gymnasts ) will often go through the motions in their mind when not actively practicing physically. The same reason why professional guitarists play the air guitar on the bus. The mind has the ability to visualize scenarios - and it is linked very strongly to the formation of new memories

Step 4: Marinate / Practice
Thoughts need time to marinate. Studying and visualizing require time to marinate and be integrated into one's mind. Seeing things happen in practice will make it stick even more.

How does this relate to studying for Consultant level Exams?

1) The Flow Protocol
- clean up workspace
- exercise
- shower and brush teeth
- meditate for 5 minutes.

2) Study a topic from the syllabus.
- Read various sources regarding a topic.
- Textbooks,
- and yes, google (FOAMED) is my friend.

3) Ruminate about the topic. Scribble some notes
- What questions can they ask me about this topic?
- There is only so much they can reasonably ask!

4) Visualize the topic
- So, a medical student comes and asks you about it. what will you say?
- A patient turns up with this condition. How would you approach it?
- Can I make a first year, first-rotation, intern "autopilot" the management of a patient presenting with XYZ? If so, what clear instructions do I need to give?

5) Consolidate knowledge in to formal notes.
- Structured and consistent with the syllabus.
- Allows rapid recollection / rumination / visualization.
- Marinating thoughts (Step 3 and 4) while looking at notes

6) Examinology
- 27 questions in 3 hours. 360 marks. Must finish. Must be concise. Must not give too little or too much information.
- Like everything in life, this is a real skill that is not really taught anywhere.

*This article was originally written september 2020. I passed the exam July 2021.

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