21 lessons on how to master hard skills, outsmart the competition, and accelerate your career

December 1, 2021

This thread was based on my conversation with Scott Young on the Pursuit of Learning Podcast.

We discussed Scott’s book, Ultralearning, which I recommend if you are looking to master hard skills and improve your learning process.

1. Build on your strengths

If you are strong, you can be stronger.

I was first introduced to @ScottHYoung when I read his book Ultralearning.

Learning was my greatest strength, and I wanted it to be even greater.

Too many address weaknesses, without exploiting strengths.

2. Call your shots

There is a power to calling your shots.

Like in a game of pool, you call out what you will do before doing it.

You put yourself on the spot by sharing publicly what you intend to do.

3. Don’t constrain yourself

Scott thought outside the box.

He attempted something he’d never heard of.

His MIT challenge was taking all of MIT’s computer science curriculum in a single year.

When you approach problems this way and are successful, it shines differently.

4. Immerse yourself

Scott made a decision to learn four languages.

To learn these languages, he and a friend traveled to four countries for three months each with a goal of not speaking English while there.

Often, we set our sights too low. We don’t push ourselves.

5. Focus on the process

When Scott first started the process of uncovering how Ultralearners thought, he focused on insane projects.

He didn’t focus on the projects. He focused on the projects as a crucible for reducing down what actually matters when it comes to learning.

6. You can achieve almost anything

We tend to not realize what we are capable of.

Having a growth mindset and reading about people who achieve these ultralearning projects will teach you what you can do:

– Become a professional programmer

– Get your black belt in Taekwondo

7. Online learning isn’t easy

Sure, you can get the equivalent of a computer science degree for free.

What you have to put into it is not easy though.

– Discipline

– self-initiative

– Time management

You have to do the work. Nobody tells you what to take, and when to take it.

8. Build your Get-It-Done muscle

When you complete a project, it gives you confidence.

When you complete multiple projects, your confidence increases more.

Start small. Build confidence. Grow the projects bigger and bigger.

Eventually, you will be surprised by what you do.

9. Take responsibility

Too often, we are used to doing what our teacher tells us.

You don’t get experience making your own plan. Sticking to it.

You have to get used to setting your own projects and designing them.

To do that, you have to take complete self-ownership.

10. Have a growth mindset

Too many people think growth is finished.

They’ve learned all they can, and there is nothing left.

This is incredibly inaccurate. We can learn until the day we die.

When we realize that and believe it, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

11. Meta-Learning – Draw a Map

Meta-Learning is the idea of learning about learning.

In traditional learning, someone tells you how to learn what you want to do.

In self-learning, you have to research the best way to learn what you intend to achieve.

You need to draw a map.

12. Allocate 10% to research

As a rule of thumb, allocate 10% of your time to planning and research.

If you are doing a ten-month project, allocate one month.

The longer the project, and the more commitment, the more planning you should do.

The key is you need to start.

13. Get through plateaus

If you have lifted weights, you know you often plateau.

To get through a plateau, you change your weightlifting program.

The same with mental projects. If you are stuck on a project, you may simply need to change your methods. Try something new.

14. Focus: Sharpen the Knife

1. You need to have time to learn something efficiently and effectively.

Effectiveness is doing the right thing, efficiency is doing it right.

2. You need focused time. Doing only what you’re planning. Cut out social media and television.

15. Deliberate practice

There is a certain level of strain that makes learning above the level of difficulty that would be described as a flow state.

Combine intensity with lighter sessions. Similar to when running. long, slow distances versus tempo efforts.

16. Direct learning

We need to exercise the mind but in very specific ways.

People believe doing Sudoku puzzles will improve their reasoning ability. That is inaccurate. Sudoku puzzles will make you good at Sodoku.

17. Direct learning (cont’d)

If you learn something in one context, it is difficult to apply it to another context.

When practicing, if not doing the real thing, you really have to be careful that what you’re doing matches what you’re going to be doing in the end.

18. Retrieval

People often want to memorize by reading their cue cards, over and over.

That is not how to memorize. You put the cue cards down and try to deliver the speech from memory. When you get stuck, pick the cue card up and read it.

Keep repeating until memorized.

19. Free recall

Test yourself earlier than you normally would.

Do the test before you start studying.

The act of doing the test primes the pump for you to then study better when you start studying, and it tells you what you need to focus the studying on.

20. Richard Feynman Technique

Interestingly, the “Richard Feynman Technique” was created by Scott, which isn’t widely known.

Understand your weaknesses.

Study them until you understand them.

Articulate your thoughts in writing.

Repeat until you’ve resolved the weakness.

21. Find your superpower

Often, a superpower can be two strong skill sets combined.

The skill sets must make sense in a pairing. Not juggling with Excel, as an example.

A python developer who is an excellent public speaker could be powerful. It allows you to niche down.

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