Accelerated Learning and Leadership

Abundance Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Content is changing so rapidly that it has become less important to demonstrate what you know versus how fast you can learn and execute newly acquired knowledge.  

I’ve been a fascinated follower of Tim Ferriss, because he has the chops to look at things from unique angles and challenge convention. His best selling books The 4-Hour Work Week, and The 4-Hour Body are examples. Over the past year, Ferriss set out to learn 13 very difficult skills, like playing a musical instrument, driving a race car, and learning a foreign language, all under some very difficult conditions.

For example, without knowing how to read music or keep time, Tim gave himself five days to see if he could learn to play drums well enough to perform on stage in front of a live audience. Stewart Copeland, the drummer for The Police, was his teacher. As a final test of his skill he convinced classic rockers Foreigner to let him drum during one of their live shows, in front of a packed house. 

Ferriss’ investigation into the outer possibilities of accelerated learning is to challenge the assumptions and so-called barriers of adult learning. As an example, the idea that developing real expertise takes years of practice is something Ferriss demonstrates to be untrue. He concludes that the key to accelerated learning is to be a systems thinker and learner.

A recent article on the Ferriss experiment noted:

“Systems are nothing more or less than a cohesive set of patterns. One of the biggest challenges to accelerated learning is the systems’ level view of learning how to learn. It’s learning how the brain’s learning systems actually work.  And it’s detecting the larger patterns, the shared commonalities, and using them to your advantage. But here’s the rub—a system’s eye view of learning is impossible to develop in isolated chunks. Learning one new skill—even up to the expert level—won’t do it. You need to learn a bevy of new things in order to start to spot the commonalities between the processes. In other words, if you want to learn how you learn, it helps to learn a bunch of different skills at once, because only then will the larger patterns reveal themselves.

Mastering fear, for example, is a commonality shared in every learning situation. Which means, the same calming techniques that Tim learned from big wave surfer Laird Hamilton (in his attempt to learn to surf overhead waves in a week—something it takes most novices a couple of years to figure out) were absolutely applicable when he was risking thousands of dollars at the poker table or playing the drums in front of a live audience.

Another commonality is the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule—the idea that 80 percent of your consequences stem from 20 percent of your actions—applied to life-hacking. To give you an example of this rule at work, when Tim tried to master Brazilian jiu-jitsu in a week, instead of attempting to learn the entire martial art, Tim focused on only one choke hold—the guillotine choke—and learned to use this one hold from every possible position (both attacking and defending). That choke hold was his 20 percent chunk, but his mastery of this one skill gave him the ability to maneuver in 80 percent of the situations he encountered—which is not bad for five days effort.”

Character Moves: 

1. What multiple new things are you learning? What’s putting you out of your comfort zone? How are you approaching it? Are you learning in old fashioned, pedestrian ways or experimenting? Watch how Ferris approaches this by viewing his “show.” (Farriss just released the entire season—all thirteen experiments—on iTunes (check it out here). And if you do check it out, you’re going to start noticing some similarities between methodologies. There’s overlap. How might this apply to your learning?

2. As a leader, you’re a student AND teacher. How effective are you as an accelerated learner? As an accelerated teacher? Do you apply systems learning to help you multipurpose learning techniques ? Do you apply the Pareto principle? Should you? If so, where? 

3. Invest in understanding large system learning patterns and accelerated learning. Understand what content requires true mastery and what requires practical competence. Different learning strategies apply. In all cases, speed is important. The ability to be an accelerated learner in the marketplace will be a personal competitive advantage. 

Accelerated learning in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Let’s get this straight… Tim Ferriss found a way to 1. QUICKLY learn a variety of awesome life skills from an assortment of the selected industry’s BEST. 2. He’s profiting (read: making bank) while checking off bucket list items like race car driving and performing with rock bands. 3. He’s tricked people into funding it, and calling it “work.” (Look, I know Ferriss is a guy who busts his hump… But… Wow). Let’s just say Ferriss figured out how to live and successfully accomplish most millennial’s dream. Forget 13 things, I would just like one accelerated learning lesson on how to work like Ferriss.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis