Ultralearning - Deepstash


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by Scott Young

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Ultralearners are people who can learn and acquire new skills in a short time frame. These people must be aggressive and strategic with their learning approaches. An example of this is Eric Barone. Eric was a theater usher who decided to create his own computer game. He was a recent IT graduate who had to compete with huge companies with massive budgets. That said, Barone refined his mechanics over five years by adopting an aggressive trial and improvement approach. 


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2. Develop an Optimal Learning Strategy

Meta-learning should always be the start of your ultralearning journey. Meta-learning is the process of learning how to learn effectively. To start implementing meta-learning, you must first establish how information is structured in your chosen field. This means you should avoid just absorbing random information.

Meta-learning requires you to look at the big picture and develop an optimal learning strategy. 


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3. Identify a Clear Focus

Sharpening your knife is Young’s analogy for refining your focus. One of the most effective modern approaches to sharpen your knife is removing electronic temptations. For example, switch off your email notifications and stop binge-watching Netflix.

The first challenge to refining your focus will always be getting focused in the first place. The author suggests tricking your brain into thinking you are focused. Set a timer and promise yourself that you can stop working when the timer goes off. You may find that you have built the momentum to continue working by the end of these three minutes.


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4. Learning Helps Make Your Journey More Direct

Formal education provides knowledge related to an indirect path between your learning context and the target environment. For example, we learn French in a classroom, rather than asking a French person for directions. So, it is unsurprising that we struggle to apply our French schooling in the real world. Scott Young recommends making the path between your learning experience and application experience as direct as possible.


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5. The Direct-Then-Drill Approach

Elite athletes, piano prodigies, and successful ultralearners all perfect their techniques to maintain their competitive edge. Start practicing a skill by adopting what Young calls the direct-then-drill approach. Start with a direct approach to your skills, so you can identify the areas you need to hone in on. Then, drill through the skills you need to hone and return to direct practice until you notice more skills that need drilling.


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6. Improve Retrieval Rates Through Testing

Testing yourself is often an effective way to improve your ability to retrieve a skill. Young offers two methods to improve retrieval rates. Firstly, you can review your learning materials. Specifically, go back over the materials you used when you first studied this topic. The alternative to recall facts and concepts from memory is significantly more effective. Young cites a 2011 study from Purdue University that found recall is far more effective for long-term learning retention. Despite this, most learners fall back on reviewing old material.


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7. Outcome, Informational and Corrective Feedback

Even if you believe you excel in a field, you still need to accept feedback to continue progressing and improving. Almost all feedback is valuable, but some feedback is more helpful than others. Firstly, Young considers outcome feedback. This is the most basic form of feedback and involves determining whether you have reached your desired outcome. This type of feedback can be encouraging but often lacks enough information to make meaningful changes. 


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8. Avoid Cramming Information

In 2015, Nigel Richards won the World French Scrabble Championships. The remarkable thing is he did not speak French. Despite the 386,000 French words approved by Scrabble, Richards could win by committing these words to memory. This is a perfect example of ultralearning.

To become highly effective, you will need to commit important information to memory. Don't commit things to memory in one burst. Avoid cramming and space out your memorization sessions so you can remember the information long-term. So, make the time a few days per week to memorize the information. 


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9. Knowledge Supplies Intuition

Having a deep understanding of a topic enables you to develop intuitions filled with connections and patterns. If you can accelerate your knowledge of a topic, you can become highly impactful through your intuition. Young provides several ways to speed up your acquisition of the knowledge required to intuit:

  1. Ask stupid questions because they will allow you to build the strong foundation required to develop intuition.


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10. Experimentation Is What Makes You a Genius

Young uses Vincent Van Gogh as an example for this final principle. Van Gogh was an art school dropout who was consistently described as an unremarkable painter. Today, he is considered one of the greatest artists ever to live. He achieved this success through consistent experimentation. His distinctive art style changed considerably from his early years. He did not immediately hit on his distinctive esthetic. So, Young describes experimentation as ultralearning’s secret ingredient.


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• Book summaries, mostly •


Ultralearning is a strategy for aggressive, self-directed learning. Self-directed means you can take back control, rather than wait to pay for expensive tuition and tutors. Aggressive means that instead of spending years at something without getting great, your limited time and effort are always directed towards what works.