Tim Ferriss' Outline for Quickly Mastering Just About Any Skill - DiSSS method

June 28, 2013 -

4 Steps to Mastering Just About Any Skill

Tim Ferriss is widely known for his 4-Hour Workweek book, 4-Hour Body, and 4-Hour Chef. His underlying focus in the three books is teaching others to do things that normally require years to accomplish in months or sometimes even weeks. These skills include learning to play the guitar, speaking another language, or even swimming.

Through his methods he has been able to learn over five languages, Chinese kickboxing, cooking, tango, and swimming. One of the languages he has learned from this method is Spanish, which he claims he has failed in school. His conclusion at the time was that he was not good at languages. However when he applied the below discussed method, he was able to learn Spanish in less than three months. The key is in how you approach learning. The four methods can be broken up in to Deconstructing, Selection, Sequencing, and Managing Stakes.

What are the steps to mastering just about any skill?

Step 1: Being optimistic and confident

The first step is having the correct mindset. If you think you can't do it, then you won't be able to do it. Give yourself a chance to learn the skill you've always wanted to learn, even if you've failed at it time and time again. Don't give up on that. You need to have optimism to achieve what you want to achieve.

Chef Grant Achatz is a highly praised chef of Alinea in Chicago. He thought about giving menus at the end of the meal versus the beginning. Instead of eating off of a traditional plate, the whole table would be a plate.

One of the biggest costs in the restaurant business is when reservations are cancelled. His thought process was what if we sold tickets to the restaurant just as sports games sold tickets to their shows. They instantly sold out their entire season within 10 seconds. Question just about everything.

Step 2: Deconstruction - Taking something large and breaking into smaller piece. 

Identify reasons why you might fail and find out how other people have failed. The goal is to avoid potential failures in the first five sessions. This helps you establish a habit.

In cooking, we have think that it takes too much time, is too expensive, and  involves too much work. You have to do the shopping, the prep work, the actual cooking and then the clean up. Focus only on the cooking in the beginning.

The key is to find the 20% of activity that will give you about 80% of the results. For example, a band called Axis of Awesome uses about four or five guitar cords to play just about every pop song there is.

In learning a language, you actually only need about 1,200 to 2,000 words to be fluent. The key is to have a cheat sheet that deconstructs the languages grammar. The example Tim Ferriss used was to have a native speaker translate the below sentences. This give you a basic foundation to build your language in.

1. The apple is red.
2. It is John's apple.
3. I give John the apple.
4. We give him the apple.
5. He gives it to John.
6. She gives it to him.
7. Is the apple red?
8. The apples are red.
9. I must give it to him.
10. I want to give it to her.
11. I'm going to know tomorrow.
12. I can't eat the apple.

I have eaten the apple.

Step 3: Sequencing - What if you did things in the opposite order?

Josh Waitzkin is an American chess player who was also a martial arts competitor. He was recognized as a child prodigy. His edge is in his approach to learning.

In chess, most people focus on learning the opening moves. This can lead to memorization of moves, which results in not really learning how to play the game. His approach was to start with board control. Start with the pawn and a king versus a pawn. Doing things in reverse can sometimes be beneficial.

When Tim Ferris was learning how to Tango, he learned the female role and how to follow before he made his way to eventually compete for a Tango title.

One of the worst things to do is to learn skills under pressure. This affects your learning process and and inhibits that process. For example, practice how to cut with a lettuce knife versus the real knife. This is significantly less pressure given that you have less chance of really cutting yourself.

Increase the stakes. With whatever skill you wish to acquire, set a goal. If you don't make the goal, pay the consequences. What does this mean? For example, suppose you want to learn how to play the guitar. Set aside five hundred dollars and give it to a friend that you trust. Tell your friend that if you do not achieve this goal within three months then have him donate the $500 to your least liked charity. When you apply consequences for your actions and a referee, this increases the likelihood of you succeeding in your goal.

Step 4: Simplify - Remove things rather than add things 

Less can be more. In cooking, he also noticed that the chef of one of the best Thai restaurants in the world uses two skillets and a knife for just about everything. One of the most delicious scones Tim Ferriss had was made with corn meal over outdoor fire amber.

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

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