My adventures in rapid skill acquisition continue. As it turns out, dedicating a large amount of time to focused effort produces rapid results. I’m much further along in Ultralearning than I thought I’d be. As of right now I only have about 80 pages left. I’ll probably be able to write up a summary by Wednesday or Thursday and be able to move onto the next book. If I finish my goal of reading all 5 books before 5 weeks are done, I’ll start my project of reaching 10 million YouTube views a little early. Already this book has produced a number of amazing ideas for studying YouTube education. I’m doing my best to save the deep learning on these ideas until my official challenge begins but already I think I have the capacity to produce videos that get 2-3x the views just from the concepts I’ve picked up haphazardly.


The first important concept I learned today was drilling. So the idea is that after you’ve broken a skill into the component parts you’ve set out to master, and begun the difficult work of doing the first few attempts in entirety, you obsessively drill the parts that are most important to your success. There are a few methods that produce the best drills. The first method comes from Ben Franklin who copied and rewrote the arguments from a number of different writers. Basically, emulate what the experts do. If you’re trying to get better at chess, study the openings that experts play and try to play them. If you’re trying to get better at writing YouTube headlines, study the ones that work and try to write your own. Pick apart what works and try to figure out why. Drilling is what makes feedback possible and the faster you can get direct feedback on what works and what doesn’t, the faster you’ll learn. The second method is to attack your weakest skill or the skill that will produce outsized returns. Don’t practice what’s fun. Don’t practice what you’re good at. Practice what you’re bad at if you want to get better. If a skill is linear like math (arithmetic, then algebra, then calculus), attack the weakest link in that chain and build a solid foundation to accelerate later learning. Your command over the basics will determine your success. The most important part about drilling is that you’re always ruthlessly attempting the near impossible. The second most important part is that you focus deliberately on the aspect you set out to drill. If you have to supplement other people material to make that possible, so be it. For example, if you want to practice visualizing data in Excel, download data from other people don’t waste time creating your own. Drill specific components of a skill you’re trying to learn that will yield outsized returns.

The second important concept I learned was recall. Almost all of these notes were written from what I remembered reading this morning. After I’ve finished writing a section, I’ll go back and check my work to make edits. As it turns out, even the act of recalling is more effective than rereading. The more difficult a recollection is (provided you still get the answer), the more fruitful it will be for loading that fact, concept, or procedure into long-term memory. The more frequently you use that fact, concept, or procedure too will have a bolstering effect on your ability to recall it later on. Like I learned yesterday, skills are largely non-transferable. That means if you want to learn the skill of recalling a fact later, you have to practice recalling it. If you want to pass a test, a good hack is to take last years final exam before you even start the class or have learned any of the concepts. That way you’ll know what to study and what to look for as you take the class. Recall, even before learning for the first time, is an efficient study method. Flash cards work best for facts, free recall (the act of closing your eyes and trying to remember) works best for learning concepts, and drilling is optimal for procedures. These are all different ways of applying recall to what you’re trying to learn.

Finally, I learned about the importance of feedback. I also learned the different kinds of feedback and their varying levels of usefulness. First, feedback is important because it tells you whether you’re improving or not. If you existed in a void, you would have no way of knowing which direction you were moving. In the same way, practicing a skill and not getting feedback means you have no way of knowing if you’re getting better or worse. There are 4 different kinds of feedback. The first is autodidactic, which means you do something and then evaluate it yourself. Often this work well enough if you have good taste. You know what you want your drawings to look like, you know your drawings don’t look like that, and you know why. But you may not know how to improve. The same is true for the second kind of feedback, which is general feedback. This is where you show your work to a colleague or group and solicit feedback. Often they’ll be able to tell you if they like it or don’t like it but, unless they’re experts, you should probably disregard their specific advice about what works and what doesn’t. This is probably where 80% of outside feedback will come from. A nice trick to increase this feedback is to publish often and before you feel you’re ready. The most important thing about getting feedback is that you do get it. You can’t dodge the punches. The next kind of feedback is specific feedback. This is feedback on a drill and it’s only possible in a smaller number of situations. Drilling puzzles in chess for example. Here you can get feedback about specifically what you did wrong and what produced a subpar result. You can learn the procedure for producing a better result using this type of feedback. On YouTube for example, you can look at the audience retention graphs and see when your viewers left. You may not know how to fix the problem but you will know what caused the problem. Finally, there’s expert feedback. With the help of a teacher, mentor, or expert they can diagnose what went wrong and how to fix it. This is the rarest kind of feedback and should be highly cherished. There’s no better path to knowledge acceleration than working with someone who knows what you don’t and is honestly willing to help you.

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