Nine Tips from Bill Murray & Cellist Jan Vogler on How to Study Intensely and Optimize Your Learning

Pho­to by Gage Skid­more, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Would you take study tips from Bill Mur­ray? After high school, he did spend some time as a pre-med­ical stu­dent at Reg­is Uni­ver­si­ty in Den­ver — before drop­ping out to return to his home­town of Chica­go and get his start in com­e­dy with the famed improv group Sec­ond City. Still, Reg­is did even­tu­al­ly award him an hon­orary Doc­tor of Human­i­ties a decade ago, and you have to admit that the fame-and-for­tune path worked out for him. In fact, it worked out and then some: see­ing the mas­sive suc­cess of Ghost­busters (and the temp­ta­tions there­of) loom­ing in 1984, Mur­ray decid­ed to make his return to school, this time to study phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ry, and French — and at the Sor­bonne, no less.

The Spo­ti­fy playlist below offers brief selec­tions of spo­ken-word wis­dom relat­ed to study­ing and learn­ing in gen­er­al, part of the fruit of a project by Mur­ray and Ger­man cel­list Jan Vogler. (If you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here.)

They recent­ly made an album togeth­er called New Worlds, where the sounds of Vogler’s clas­si­cal trio accom­pa­ny Mur­ray’s voice, singing and read­ing clas­sic works of Amer­i­can music and lit­er­a­ture from Mark Twain to Van Mor­ri­son. They also record­ed this selec­tion of mem­o­ries, gal­va­niz­ing mes­sages, and “intense study tips” briefly sum­ma­rized as fol­lows: “Don’t cram,” “Con­cen­trate,” “One prob­lem,” “Sleep on it,” “Take a bath,” “Focus on oth­ers,” “More is more,” “Take a break,” and “Build a rou­tine.”

Lis­ten to the playlist and you can hear Mur­ray expand on these sug­ges­tions, some of which will res­onate with mate­r­i­al we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture: the psy­cho­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non that has us do our best think­ing in the show­er (or indeed the bath), for instance, or the intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­tions of Mur­ray’s comedic per­sona. If you find his advice use­ful, you might also look to the exam­ple he sets with how he runs his career, famous­ly tak­ing risks on untest­ed ideas or col­lab­o­ra­tors (includ­ing a cer­tain Wes Ander­son) and going to great lengths (up to and includ­ing replac­ing his agent with a voice­mail box) to avoid get­ting caught in the gears of his indus­try. Whether study­ing a sub­ject or becom­ing the most beloved com­ic actor of your gen­er­a­tion, in oth­er words, you’ve got to find a path that works for you and you alone. As one track of Mur­ray and Vogler’s help­ful playlist puts it, “Good luck.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Phi­los­o­phy of Bill Mur­ray: The Intel­lec­tu­al Foun­da­tions of His Comedic Per­sona

Lis­ten to Bill Mur­ray Lead a Guid­ed Medi­a­tion on How It Feels to Be Bill Mur­ray

Richard Feynman’s “Note­book Tech­nique” Will Help You Learn Any Subject–at School, at Work, or in Life

Why You Do Your Best Think­ing In The Show­er: Cre­ativ­i­ty & the “Incu­ba­tion Peri­od”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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