Book Notes: 4-Hour Chef (Meta-Learning Section) by Tim Ferriss

I picked up this book to learn faster. There’s a section on meta-learning that sounded very appealing. So I scooped the Kindle version.

I believe that the SELECTION step is where Tim’s relentless search for good material separates him from the rest of us and allowed him to excel at various skills.

My Notes

Meta-Learning: Viable learning methods that are effective, efficient and sustainable and based on the right materials (the right book, the right teacher, the right method, etc.)

Tim’s Learning Process:

Select a skill to learn, then follow this primary sequence:
DiSSS – Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, Stakes…

& this secondary sequence…

CaFE – Compression, Frequency, and Encoding

The Steps of DiSSS

Goal: How do I break this amorphous skill into small, manageable pieces? What are the minimal learn-able units, the Lego blocks, I should be starting with?
Job: To take apart the skill
Tools: Reducing, interviewing, reversal, and translating
1) Reducing:

  • Reduce the skill into bit size pieces

2) Interviewing:

  • Use wikipedia to find out who are the best (or second best, which is often ideal) in the world 5-10 years ago, or 2-4 Olympics ago, since those currently in the limelight are less likely to respond.
  • Search Google for “[My closest city} {sport} {olympian or wold champion or world record].” This might get to a connection to the person, if not the person.
  • Make first contact and provide context by introducing yourself as a freelance writer for a blog, newsletter, or local newspaper and a piece on this person and his/her methods, or to quite him/her on a related topic as an expert
  • Ask questions, including:
    • Biggest mistakes, Biggest misuses of time, Most common mistakes, Key principles for better, more consistent X, What does the progression of X look like?

3) Reversals:

  • Consider, if not apply the opposite approach to the skill
  • Finding the path of least resistance is as easy as Googling “backwards”, “upide down” or “reverse” plus whatever skill you’re deconstructing.

4) Translating:

  • Follow the 12 sentence audit by asking someone to translate (written and oral).
  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Learn the auxiliary (helper) verbs in your target language, plus the all-important to be, to have, to do, and to go, and you can very quickly express any idea.

Goal: Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcomes I want?
Job: To find highest-yield material (find the auxiliary verbs of the language), then order them by their margin of safety.
Tools: 80/20 Rule and Minimum Effective Dose (MED)
1) Minimal Effective Dose:

  • Find the lowest volume, lowest frequency and the fewest changes that get us our desired results.

2) 80/20 Rule (material beats method):

  • 100 well-selected words give you 50% of the practical use of 171,476 words.

Goal: In what order should I learn the blocks?
Job: Find a well-designed progression.
Tools: Start backwards, Take Inventory, Find your strengths
1) Start backwards, like Josh did in chess or Tim did in dancing
2) Take inventory, separating the implicit from explicit by reviewing other great role models, interviewing the greats, finding patterns.
3) Identify what I could become good at quickly if I leveraged past experience.
4) Find the nexus in these three traits:

  • Infrequently taught
  • personal strengths
  • common among best performers

Goal: How do I setup stakes, create real consequences, and guarantee I follow the program?
Job: Find real consequences and incentives to achieve the goal
Tools: creating incentives, assigning accountability
1) Assigning accountability:

  • Make a commitment (“cook two meals per week”)
  • Pick an “anti-charity” that if you fail the commitment you will send money to.
  • Choose an amount that is painful to lose!! Wager $1,000 or more

The Steps of CaFE

Goal: How to make something intimidating unintimidating so you don’t quit?
Job: To make effective decisions and learning effectively by massive elimination and the removal of options.
Tools: One pagers, ABC (Always Be Compressing), resource design
1) One pager:

  • Prescriptive one-pagers list the top-down principles that help you generate real-world examples. Ex. Here’s the rules of grammar, so go make a grammatically correct sentence.
  • Practice one pagers lists real-world examples to practice that indirectly teach the principles. Ex. Here’s the recipe that once you master, you can master thousands more.

2) Resource Design:

  • Compare different media and your own learning style

Goal: How frequently should I practice? Can I cram, and what should my schedule look like? What growing pains can I predict?
Job: To cram as much learning into a definitive amount of time
Tools: Timelines, Forecast learning curve, Breaks,
1) Forecast learning curve:

  • Sugar high → Immediate drop-off and low point → Plateau → Inflection point → Fluency
  • Accept your limitations. All learning is physically limited. The brain is dependent on finite quantities of neurotransmitters, memories require REM and non-REM sleep for consolidation, etc.

2) Timelines

  • The more extreme your ambition, just as in sports, the more you need performance enhancement via unusual schedules, diet, drugs, etc.
  • Set a timeline

3) Breaks

  • Take 5-10 minute breaks

Goal: How do I anchor the new material to what I already know for rapid recall?
Job: To convert the unfamiliar and unwieldy into the familiar and manageable.
Tools: Memorable Rules of Thumb
1) Memorable Rules of Thumb:

  • Mnemonics (Roy G. Biv)
  • Acrostics (“Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge”)
  • Chunking (Mt. Fuji is 12,365ft …. “12 Months and 365 days”)
  • Memory Devices for etiquette: B and D, Left has four letters; Right has five letters, Work from the outside in

2) Types of mnemonics:

    • Consonant system mnemonic: encodes numbers → consonants → nouns → images


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