Scott Young is an expert accelerated learner and entrepreneur. He teaches his readers how they can:
- Learn anything
- Learn more quickly and master new skills without feeling intimidated
- Become indispensable at work by internalizing the learning process
- Tackle monumental goals in any area of their life
What makes Scott the expert?
He finished the entire computer science undergraduate curriculum at MIT in one year. In another, different year he taught himself four languages.
I’ve joined a number of professional networks in order to learn from people like Scott and apply them to my life.
What follows is a video preview and my notes from Scott’s interview with Ramit Sethi as part of Ramit’s Brain Trust [now defunct].
On Achieving Big Goals:
- If you don’t have a case in your own personal history, you tend to think that something that’s outside of your personal experience is impossible for you.
- When you’re working on a big project, try to break it down in some meaningful way and give yourself a reference case. Know that if you can achieve this smaller goal it will give you the confidence to say, “I’ve done this before and I can do it again.”
- Once you achieve a huge goal, it seems like so many other things that previously would have been unthinkable seem to be very achievable.
Accelerating Your Learning
- A great way to get an accelerated learning is to hire an expert to help take you through it.
- The more you practice the easier it will get. You don’t notice these gradations, but you’ll notice situations where you’re increasingly competent. Of course, you’ll still feel frustration occasionally.
In Order to Have an Impactful Career:
- If we’re continuing this philosophy that, if you want to have a really good career, you want to make a good income, you want to have the life style benefits that go along with having a meaningful, fulfilling career, you have to be really good at something. Because people don’t want to just give you things, you have to earn them.
- Being really good at something means that you are the guy that, when people look at you and say, “This is the person who does this, and there is no other person that does it this well.”
- This is the difference in being headcount versus being a top performer.
- If you have an extremely elite skill set that’s in demand, rare, and valuable, you get to call the shots.
Pair these insights with Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”
How do you acquire elite skills?
- It’s not something you can take a course about, because if you can take a course about it, by definition it’s just a cog. Everyone who took the course would have these skills. The people who really perform have the skills that are not in the class.
- Essentially, you have to get good at something abstract. You have to figure out how to break that down into something concrete.
- The key to learning is leveraging deliberate practice. This entails: feedback, directed at a specific targeted area of improvement, and is (usually) guided by a coach.
- To apply this to knowledge work, you have to take a skill and identify the sub-skills. You have to break it down and articulate the things that are difficult to articulate.
- You have to study other experts in the field. Write down the specific thing they’re good at. Once you have a list of a dozen, maybe even a hundred sub-skills, now you have a curriculum for yourself.
- Once you have something that’s very specific, it’s very easy to learn.
- Keep adding these small skills and once you have these component skills, you can work to integrate them so that they all work together. But it starts with learning the components.
- Example: If you’re trying to understand fashion advice it might start with learning the basics. The different component pieces to combine. Once you have a foundation, you can have an expert come in and help you put it all together in an effective way.
- Pro Tip: Don’t try to go bug your heroes or experts that are out of reach. Find someone who is one or two rungs ahead of you. They will be more likely to help. Instead of trying to from A to Z, go from A to B, B to C, etc.
Focus on Projects
- Focus on a project, not building a skill. Doing a certain kind of skill is hard, but if you make it a little project, it’s easier to wrap your head around.
- A project suggests the actions you need to take. The project defines the action and it also removes a lot of the little small psychological barriers.
- Example: Learn Spanish vs. Be able to have a 3 minute conversation in Spanish with my next door neighbor.
- If you keep iterating, eventually you’ll reach a level of skill that even the ‘experts’ might be in your reach
How would someone you admire think about this?
There’s an expression that you want to get someone’s eye for something. I think often when I’m reading people, I’m not really looking at what they’re saying but how are they processing the world. What is the way they look at the world, and what mental tools do they use to approach it? How can I think about that?
So if I’m going to do a new business project, I might say, “How would Ramit approach this particular project? What would he do differently, that I’m not doing?”
If I was thinking about writing a blog article, I might be saying, “How would Scott Alexander or James Clear approach this? What would they do that I’m not thinking about? Who are they thinking about it differently?”
Other, Miscellaneous Insights:
- A really good goal is one that you have enough fear in you that you’re not going to do it that you take it seriously, but not so much fear that you don’t start.
- People with poor school experiences often think they’re not that smart. This is likely just because they didn’t have a positive experience with it. There are certain parts of your intelligence that are probably fixed, but a lot of it is based on your past experience.
- Whether you’re creating a business or negotiating a higher rate, it’s uncomfortable. It makes you want to just go back to what’s comfortable, but if you stick with it you will see rewards.
Pick five hours a week, every week and you must schedule it. Use these five hours to improve a very specific skill that will advance your career or make you better at what you do for a living.