Ultralearning

I'm reading the book Ultralearning by Scott Young. I've felt rather undisciplined and wayward about my hobbies and some of the things I need to be learning for my job. I read some of Tim Ferris's stuff that often talks about things like 'metalearning', distilling what you need to know down to just a few things. I've always struggled with that concept - how can I know what 20% I need to know to get 80% of the gains when I know nearly 0% of the material?

I still don't really know the answer to that question except for going out to interviewing people in the field and understanding what helped them get outsized returns, or things that they know people normally spend time on, but don't need to in the grand scheme of things. It seems that consistent effort and application of skills gets you somewhere faster than continuing to learn more. Not only does the book slant that way so far, but the four "challenges" I've done since December greatly increased my ability. In December, going to the gym every day made clear that I could get measurable gains, doubling or more most of the weight I started with, January showed me I could get the body I wanted by removing sugar from the diet, April and May showed me that even without reading books, I could become a better photographer just by trying new things, and during the pandemic thus far, I've become a much better cook. So, with that said, I know I need to step out of my amassing-knowledge-dislike-talking-to-people comfort zone, and start applying knowledge straight away and make connections with others who have been where I'm starting.

I also need to focus on only one of the things I'm interested in at a time, else I'll burn out. It'll be tough to focus on just one thing because there are so many things I would love to do. I will not start anything new while on the task, and only continue the minimum for things that I want to continue daily or near daily, like exercise. No five mile walks, unless I'm going to pair it with an audiobook or podcast that is directly related to the skill I want to learn, but almost every day, I want to run, walk, or bike a half hour.

The nine principles for Ultralearning are:


  1. Metalearning: First Draw a Map
  2. Focus: Sharpen your Knife
  3. Directness: Go Straight Ahead
  4. Drill: Attack Your Weakest Point
  5. Retrieval: Test to Learn
  6. Feedback: Don't Dodge the Punches
  7. Retention: Don't Fill a Leaky Bucket
  8. Intuition: Dig Deep Before Building Up
  9. Experimentation: Explore Outside Your Comfort Zone


I'll write about my experience with each chapter, and what I will plan to do for that step, if I can't do it immediately. First, I need to write down all the skills I wish to learn, and pick one, and know I'll get to the rest after I've felt that I'm "done" with the first.

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