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Published on March 10th, 2013 | by Colleen Corkery

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Acquiring the Skill of Meta-Learning – Tim Ferriss at SXSWi

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss & Meta-Learning

Ever wish you could learn a new skill without the lengthy amount of time it takes to become a pro? Tim Ferriss, king of accelerated learning and author of the New York Times best sellers, The 4-Hour Chef, and The 4-Hour Workweek, presented a session at SXSW Interactive, “Acquiring the Skill of Meta-Learning.” Ferriss sussed out his advice and learning model for quickly and successfully acquiring knowledge. “I believe you can become world-class in any skill in 6 months or less,” stated Ferriss. So how do you do it? Ferriss first recommended these three aspects:

1. Have optimism
2. Have baselines – Understand your strengths and weaknesses
3. Replicate outliers and anomalies

Ferriss also broke down the framework for accelerated learning that he likes to call: D.S.S.S

1. Deconstruction. Ferriss states that most skills are overwhelming and in order to successfully acquire new skills quickly, you need to break them down into pieces, or units. Then ask yourself, “Why have I failed at this skill, or why might I fail?” and study those potentials failures so that you can avoid them.

2. Selection. Ferris explains that finding the minimum effective dose to successfully acquiring a new skill is the step of selection. “You want to use very few tools and be good at those tools,” he said. Ferriss gave the example of the boys from The Axis of Awesome who created a YouTube video called, “4 Chord Song.” In the video, the guys sing a medley of 36 different hit songs, all of which use same 4 chords, emphasizing the fact that you really only need 4 chords total to become a super star.

3. Sequencing. Ferris tells you to ask yourself, “What if I did the opposite of best practices? What if I did the reverse?” and by switching up the order in which you learn a skill, you will become more fluent and efficient in it. Ferriss stated that in order for him to fully learn and understand Tango, he studied the female’s role first. Changing the sequence of when you need vs. want to learn a particular skill is also vital. “The worst time to learn a skill is when you need it,” says Ferriss. Want to learn how to flip food in a skillet? Don’t try it while you’re in the midst of cooking a feast, practice with a cold skillet and some dried beans while you’re watching TV. If you spill the beans, no harm done, because you’re not actually cooking! Want to learn how to become a pro at chopping food? Don’t try while you’re elbow deep in onions with sharp knife to boot, use a lettuce knife to practice the motion of cutting while you’re listening to music. Learning skills in an opposite or reverse manner, and when they’re not needed will help you succeed.

4. Stakes. Ferris says that most people fail with their New Year’s resolutions because there aren’t any consequences to failing them. Giving yourself real consequences will accelerate your desire and passion to learning the skill. He gave stickk.com as an example and tool that forces people to deal with consequences of an unaccomplished goal. On stickk, a user creates a goal, sets the stakes (typically in the form of money) and chooses an “anti-charity” which will reap the benefits of the money if the goal isn’t accomplished. So far, 195,000+ goals have been accomplished.

5. Simplify. Ferris quoted author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, stating, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Ferris says you should try to focus on just one subject at a time. Saying yes to too many things is a problem. Have one to two “to-dos” and accomplish those.

What do you think of Tim Ferriss’ meta-learning tactics? Have you tried these yourself? Do share!

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2 Responses to Acquiring the Skill of Meta-Learning – Tim Ferriss at SXSWi

  1. Pingback: Breakin' It Down: Why Learning Anything Is Easier Than You Think |

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