So what exactly is metalearning?
The term gets thrown around a lot – often in close proximity with the name Tim Ferriss - but the resources to become a better “metalearner” are almost always vague. That’s hardly surprising: It’s a tough thing to teach. It’s much easier to teach someone a specific language than it is to teach them the principles of how to learn any language. But the latter is infinitely more valuable. As they say: “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for life.”
This piece serves two purposes. First, it’s going to go through the basics of metalearning, as taught in Ferriss’ The Four Hour Chef. Second, it’s going to offer an insane deal on a new course by another brilliant Tim: Timothy Kenny. This is a course focused specifically on metalearning that’s useful for entrepreneurs. It’s an 8-week intensive training program packed full of practical, useful information that usually sells for over $1000. Over at GiveGetWin, we approached Tim hoping that he’d open up a few spaces in his course at a discount to help us raise money for charity. Tim’s generosity exceeded our wildest expectations – he’s allowed us to offer 20 spaces in the course for only $79 each!
If you’re only here for the deal, skip to the bottom of the article and follow the link. If you’re interested in learning the basics of metalearning, let’s get started…
Change Your Mindset
“It’s possible to become world-class in just about anything in six months or less. Armed with the right framework, you can seemingly perform miracles, whether with Spanish, swimming or anything in between."
Forget the average. Forget how other people learn. It’s possible to excel at a skill (which Ferriss defines as reaching the global top 5%) in just six months. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours is based on research about reaching the very top of an ultracompetitive field like basketball or chess. As an entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily want to become the world’s best speed reader, or coder, or even manager. You just want to get good efficiently.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MgBikgcWnYAs Josh Kaufman explains in his new book, The First 20 Hours, approaching abilities with the right framework can make you good in 20 hours. For beginners, this is awesome. If you create a process and stick with framework, there’s no limit to the number of skills you can pick up.
Emulate the Right People
“These top 0.01% who’ve spent a lifetime honing their craft are invaluable in later stages, but they’re not ideal if you want to rocket of the ground floor… the rare anomalies who’ve gone from zero to the global top 5% in record time, despite mediocre raw materials are worth their weight in gold.”
To learn at this rate, we need to study the extreme performers – the people who managed incredible results in a short time without natural abilities. It’s important to realize that these are the people to emulate, not the top performers. The top 1% often succeed despite how the train, not because of it. Superior genetics and a luxurious full-time schedule make up for a lot.
The DiSSS Method
The recipe for learning any skill follows the acronym DiSSS: deconstruction, selection, sequencing, stakes.
The goal of this section is to break the skill apart into as many smaller subskills as possible and build up a framework for the learning you’re going to undertake. This is important for two reasons. First, it makes it psychologically easier to tackle a large problem when you are constantly accomplishing small wins than going face-to-face with an enormous, formless monster. Second, it allows us to get a grasp on exactly what it is we will need to learn. Formalizing the scope of our learning helps us understand things better by putting each piece in context of the entire puzzle.
This is a crucial and often overlooked. We’re anxious to get into the learning part of learning, but preparation makes sure we’re doing things the right way. Don’t skip it!
Here’s some common techniques for deconstruction.
- Reducing: Find a way to break down each task into its formative pieces. Often you’ll make connections, see overlapping parts, and make the larger task seem much more manageable.
- Interviewing: Get to know people who went through the process you’re going to. Remember, if you want to get good at basketball fast, interviewing someone who has spent half their life on the court isn’t ideal (although it may be useful). Instead, find someone who got good at basketball fast. Ask them what their training was like, the biggest mistake they see other people make, what they did that was considered unorthodox, and any other advice they might have. Eventually, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. Trust these patterns more than conventional wisdom.
- Reversal: Taking that thought a step further, what would happen if you did the complete opposite of conventional wisdom? An expert in a field is restricted in their thinking, but you have the free mind of a beginner. Use it to think of the most outlandish solutions to a problem possible. Often, they’ll be obvious and overlooked.
- Translating: Try to transfer the framework you use for one type of learning into another. For example: what if the approach you take to building businesses has the same framework as creating relationships? If you’re interested in learning more about this, you should check out the Coursera course called Model Thinking. It’s one of the most interesting things I’ve ever taken part in and it’s free!
After breaking down the skill, you’ll have a better idea of which subskills are most important. You’re only going to focus on the ones that bring you the most results for the least effort.
In Ferris terms, you’re going to find the “minimum effective dose” – a subset of skills to focus on that should provide about 80% of the results for 20% of the effort (in some extreme cases, the numbers can go up to 90:10 or even 95:5).
To give an example, let’s look at language learning. There’s 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Going through alphabetically would be stupid. You wouldn’t know how to ask who, what, when, where, or why for years. Instead, you’d go after the most commonly used words. The top 100 words make up 50% of all written material. That seems like a more reasonable place to start.
Snatch up that low-hanging fruit!
The order that we learn things plays a massive role in accelerated learning. We naturally assume we should learn things in order of complexity, but that isn’t always the case. Think about which subskills are necessary in order to learn more complicated subskills. Build a sequence of learning logically.
To give an example, Shinji Takeuch realized that the most important prerequisite subskill for learning to swim was to overcome the fear of drowning. By building a method that allows its practitioners to train all of the movements in shallow water, Takeuch overcame this barrier.
Will power is a fickle beast. Unfortunately, it’s often at it’s worst when we need it to be at it’s best. There’s many techniques for building will power, but the easiest way to handle it is to create small rewards/punishments for succeeding/failing. Because of the principle of loss aversion – that we’re more motivated by the thought of losing something than by gaining something of equal value – Ferriss recommends that we set up stakes.
There are online tools for this. The most common is called stickK. It’s founder is an economics professor from Yale who realized that incentives and accountability are the two most important keys to achieving any goal. It’s easy to dismiss actually betting as unnecessary, but it’s hugely valuable to keeping you motivated.
Case Study: Learning Tango in Argentina
In six months, Ferriss went from having zero tango experience to being a semi-finalist in the tango world championships with a Guinness World Record. How?
Deconstruction: Tim processed thousands of videotapes of competitions, looking for patterns and categorizing them. Then, he made an effort to meet grand masters in tango and interviewed them.
Selection: Applying the 80/20 principle to this information, Tim decided on exactly which types of movements he would be able to learn in six months that would yield the best results. He also focused on leveraging his past experience, uncovering which skills he had that could be applied to making certain subskills easier to learn. In his case, that included creative pivots (because of his experience in breakdancing) and large, elegant steps (because of his height).
Sequencing: There is an implied order to learning tango, but Ferriss ignored it. Later in the career of many males, they began to learn the female role to learn to lead better. This was often cited in his research as the time at which skills catapulted to the next level. Instead of waiting, Tim started with the female role, and was able to learn to lead much fast.
Stakes: As far as I know, Tim Ferriss is a superhero and doesn’t require stakes to keep him motivated. I’m kidding. By basing all of his tango learning around a final competition in which he would compete, Ferriss set himself up to be embarrassed if he didn’t learn at the rate that he expected. If he’d just studied independently without an upcoming public performance, he could have snuck away when things got tough without the humiliation.
If you’re interested in another case study, check out this awesome documentary on him learning Yabusame, an incredibly difficult ancient Japanese tradition, in just five days.
Timothy Kenny’s Accelerated Learning for Entrepreneurs
Ferriss’ The Four Hour Chef does a great job of laying out the principles of metalearning. But – as the title suggests – the book is mostly focused on cooking. The time and energy required to apply these techniques to entrepreneurship is massive, because it requires layers on layers of subskills that must be understood.
What if there was a metalearning method aimed specifically at entrepreneurs? For us, the most important thing is to turn knowledge from various sources into direct action within our businesses. How do we acquire that information as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then turn it into real changes?
That’s what Timothy Kenny’s course is for. Accelerated Learning for Entrepreneurs is an 8-week course focused on how to master any subject. You’ll learn a lot: creating learning blueprints, finding idea goldmines, processing bookers faster, synthesizing information into action, stop procrastinating, and much, much more.
The course usually sells for $1188, but Timothy has been kind enough to open up 20 spots for the GiveGetWin audience for only $49. Go grab yours before it’s too late!
You can find Tim at timothykenny.com and, of course, get extremely discounted access to his Accelerated Learning from Entrepreneurs course through GiveGetWin, with all proceeds going to charity.