Tim Ferriss’ 5 Tips for Accelerated Learning

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Tim Ferriss is an icon and an oracle to many, and in this LMScast Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett discuss his 5 tips for accelerated learning. If you have read Tim’s books, you know that he processes tons of information at an unbelievable pace.

For the record, Tim Ferriss is a New York Times best selling author. His books include The 4 Hour Work Week, The 4 Hour Body, and The 4 Hour Chef. Now he has a TV show called The Tim Ferriss Experiment based on his ability to learn any skill quickly and in-depth, and he recently released an episode about accelerated learning. Naturally this is of interest to users of our LifterLMS WordPress plugin, and anyone else who is developing online courses.

Tim uses five basic principles to meet any challenge and make learning faster and simpler. Those principles are as follows:

  1. Deconstruction
  2. Selection
  3. Sequencing
  4. Stakes
  5. Simplify

Principle 1 is deconstruction, meaning to break down overwhelming skills into units in order to process and execute them piece by piece. You can do this when starting to put your online course together.

Principle 2 is selection of key elements of a subject – what Tim calls a “minimum effective dose” – to focus on. Based on the Pareto 80/20 Principle, selection can keep your online course design from becoming too complex. Include only the 20% of information that is needed to move the student 80% forward.

Principle 3, sequencing, encourages you to find different approaches to learning than are generally used. In other words, make failure less impactful so that students are encouraged to try.

Principle 4 involves stakes, or setting a goal with consequences. For online learning that can involve quizzes that determine whether you progress or not, or for which you will earn a badge of success – or a badge of failure.

Principle 5 is to simplify, which is key. For online learning, it means to focus on one subject, or one element of a subject, at a time. In Principle 1 you learned to deconstruct the subject into units. Simplifying would mean choosing one unit to master before picking up the next one.

Obviously these 5 principles of accelerated learning work for Tim Ferriss, and they will work for you as you develop your eLearning course. Our LifterLMS course development platform is designed to help you build your courses using these methods. You can try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter at LMScast.com for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

Episode Transcript

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. We’re back with another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we are talking about Tim Ferriss’ five accelerated learning principles for your LMS and online course. Chris, what the heck are we talking about? Who’s Tim Ferriss to start off with?

Christopher: He’s a New York Times best selling author. Back in 2007 or so he wrote a book called “The 4 Hour Work Week.” If you get into online entrepreneurship or trying to generate passive income online, those kinds of things, eventually run across Tim Ferriss. He’s also done a lot in the body hacking and getting strong. He has another book called “The 4 Hour Body.” He has another one about cooking called “The 4 Hour Chef.” Recently he released a TV show about rapid learning, about accelerated learning and since we’re all about creating learning environments, that’s what’s our WordPress LMS plugin LifterLMS is designed to do. When we see good ideas out there on how to make engaging online courses, we like to share them with the community.

Tim’s TV show came out. It was on iTunes. I think it was $9.99. It’s totally worth it. You get to watch him … I won’t go into every single episode, but three of them that come into mind were he played drums with a professional rock band on stage. All within like a week of never having played drums before. He learned how to do some open water swimming. There was somebody who he actually helped coach in a week to figure out how to swim in the open water who did not know how to swim. In just one week. The other one which was also really interesting, he learned some basic urban survival skills like how to escape custody and avoid detection and evade authorities and things like that. All in one week.
It’s just a great show. He has a framework that no matter what the skill is that he can use to breakdown and learn these things rapidly. It was really cool to see that as a show.

Joshua: Absolutely. That’s really cool. I’ve read everything that Tim has come out with. I’m an avid reader of his books. If I had enough time, I’d probably soak up every single podcast he has. I do love his content. He just has a unique way of extracting information from people as well as just teaching. Let’s walk through these principles for people. What’s principle number one?

Christopher: The first one is just deconstruction. He says that most skills are overwhelming, and in order to successfully acquire new ones, you need to break them down into pieces or units. Then ask yourself why have I failed at this skill or why might I fail? Then study those potential failures so that you can avoid them. It’s like eat the elephant one bite at a time, not necessarily in order and look for problem spots. That’s deconstruction.

Joshua: I would say that comes hand-in-hand with executing that, too. The key there is figuring out what it is you could fail at and then diving deep into that.

Christopher: Yeah, and in the TV show a great example is when they were learning how to swim. Even what they just called the Superman glide. It had nothing to do with the whole swimming maneuver. It was just starting or just breathing. One thing at a time.

The next part of rapid learning is called selection. This is where Tim gets into something called the minimum effective dose. An example of that would be … there’s four chords on the guitar that make up 80 percent of songs. It’s selecting what is the most valuable part of that skill that gets you to where you need to go.

Joshua: That’s huge. It’s boiling a bit down then.

Christopher: Yeah, and selecting what are the key things. We tend to like … and if you’re building an online course or you’re looking at optimizing the engagement in your learning management system, maybe you’ve over-complicated it a little bit. Maybe you’re over-thinking it. Maybe you’re giving people too much information. What is the minimum effective number of lessons or subject areas you need to cover to take someone from where they are to where they want to be.

Joshua: Right. That goes back to the whole Pareto principle and the 80–20, which I know Tim is a big proponent of. I apologize for the clicking I wanted to actually read the actual definition of the Pareto principle. I think it’s important when you’re thinking about your courses, what to give first, second, and third. I think if you can give away the thing that’s going to have the 80 percent of the impact, starting there, it’s really important.

I’m struggling to find a definition per se, but it’s essentially Pareto showed that approximately 80 percent of land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto developed this principle by observing that 20 percent of pea pods in his garden contained 80 percent of the peas. The idea here is that 80 percent of your sales will come from 20 percent of your clients. You can break it down according to whatever your subject matter or focus is.

I think that’s what Tim’s doing there. He’s focusing on what’s the 20 percent of things that I could learn that could give me 80 percent of the results. He might even break it back down to 95/5, because that ratio still will take effect.

I saw the one where he was learning Tagalog, the Filipino language. That’s what he did. What’s the most frequently used words. The 20 percent of the words that are used 80 percent of the time sort of deal. It’s a great way of looking at things for sure.

Christopher: Absolutely. The next skill is called sequencing. This is sort of a counter-intuitive one where you ask yourself what if you did the opposite of best practices? He gives an example of if you want to learn how to flip food in a frying pan, don’t it with hot food and a runny egg in a frying pan. Do it with dried beans in a frying pan while you’re watching a movie. If you want to learn how to chop onions really well, do it with just lettuce and a butter knife while you’re listening to music. Try to find a different way to train a skill then at this high stakes just jump right in thing. Try to get your subconscious mind working on it.

Joshua: That’s really good. That’s really helpful.

Christopher: The next one is pretty big, and I don’t see a lot of people doing this one. It’s to have stakes. For example, we mentioned that Tim Ferriss learned how to play the drums with a real rock band. I forget the name of the band, but they sing the song “Hot Blooded.” It was a real show with 2,000 people in the audience. He knew that in one week from having never played the drums, he would be on stage with a rock band with a real audience. The stakes were very high.

Joshua: That’s huge.

Christopher: I’m just trying to think of an example of how you could do it with your online course. One of the simplest ways to do stakes is to actually put a monetary consequence. For example, you don’t get some money back, or you have to pay a fine if you don’t complete this thing, or you have some kind of public shame. Of course not over the top. One simple way to do it is to just commit to something publicly.

Joshua: I just did this recently in a mastermind that I’m a part of that meets once a month. I’m going to be waking up at 5:00 A.M. every day this month. I really want to focus on my morning routine and getting that dialed. I’m just tired of not succeeding at it, so I publicly have said that I would do this, and if I didn’t, people in my mastermind would be able to donate $100 to any charity that they want or charity that I don’t want to be a part of, or whatever. (laugh) They all know that I’m pretty much a very free will, free spirit, free everything. I’m very much a libertarian, so they’re saying that they’re going to make me donate to the Communist Party of America.

Christopher: You just went on the record again.

Joshua: I went on the record again. Philosophically I’m not a communist at all, but I will be donating to them if I don’t wake up early. That is a pretty high stake for me.

Christopher: That’s a great example. The fifth and final principle is to simplify. If you’re trying to do rapid and accelerated learning, you should try to focus on just one subject at a time. Saying yes to too many things is a problem. To really break it down and simplify the task at hand can help. I remember from the example in the Tim Ferriss show where he was learning how to drum. He tried at one point to learn to read music. Then he ended up simplifying to don’t learn how to play the drums, learn how to play the song. He kept breaking it down. Simplifying. Trying different things. Seeing what stuck. Then finally just committing to just that one song.

Joshua: It’s a great show. I really enjoyed it. How have you done that? I’m curious.

Christopher: How have I simplified?

Joshua: Yeah. You’re a minimalist so you’re constantly simplifying a lot of things.

Christopher: I’m trying to think. Minimum effective dose and simplifying. For example, I love eating healthy. In the morning I could make a really fancy breakfast. One way I simplify and get jazzed with energy is have Yerba Mate and a fruit smoothie with organic fruit and lots of kale or chard or greens in there, too. It’s just super simple. I eat that breakfast every single day. It never changes. That’s an example. It’s not necessarily super relevant to online courses, but if you’re looking to claim back a little bit of time in the morning that could work.

Joshua: And that fires you up. That’s cool, Man. Well I love keeping these episodes a quick hit for everyone. Let’s leave it there with them. Any final thoughts before we close it out?

Christopher: I would just say, Josh, that I would really appreciate it if you guys would leave us a review on iTunes or give us 5 stars, 4 stars. Honest review. Whatever you want. That kind of thing motivates us, so we’d love to hear what you like. What you don’t like. How we can improve, or what you want us to do the next episode on. We really appreciate it.

Joshua: Absolutely. All right, Everyone. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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