A How-To Guide: Accelerated Learning for Accelerated Times

[Editor’s note: The video referred to in this article is no longer available for embed. To view it, please search “Tim Ferriss full keynote The Next Web 2013 TNW2013 Conference Amsterdam” on YouTube.]

The above video is a short presentation I gave at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam.

It covers a basic framework for mastering any skill quickly, including languages, music, dance, and more.

What skill have you put off learning for longest… and why? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps I (or other readers) can help. Second, if you could learn one skill in the next six months, what would it be?


Important afterword:

NOTE — For my competition launched last week (not too late to join), roundtrip airfare is covered for all four winners.

Related content:

The 4-Hour Chef and Meta-Learning — 200+ pages on all I know about accelerated learning

Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too

Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

How I Deconstruct Languages (scroll through the list)

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

437 Replies to “A How-To Guide: Accelerated Learning for Accelerated Times”

  1. Thank you! Great video!

    You have no idea how much your accelerated learning techniques from 4hour chef helped me!


  2. I would like to help, work in the corporate sector and have Attention Deficit. Forget important information easy, get bored with things that do not work and I am interested in something where these qualities are needed. As

    can alleviate the symptoms?

  3. Hi Guys,

    This is for those techies out there.

    Been struggling to learn Exchange Powershell Scripting. I would like that to be my first test before moving onto more exciting things 🙂



  4. I used to draw a lot as a kid. Id love to learn to get good at it quickly. It’s one of those skills that being ok at gives no proud feelings lol. Either you’re good or not. I’ve tried to think of ways to apply previously stated 80/20 rules to this and most of them I don’t think applies. If anybody has any advice other than ”practice a lot” I’d LOVE to hear it

  5. Hi Tim,

    Bought your book, based on the subtitle,learning anything. just finished viewing

    your talk, and am really excited to try using your plan. I am a frustrated golfer been playing for 30 yrs, and have been between 10 and 15 hdcp for the past 15 yrs. i have taken dozens and dozens of lessons, read book after book, including my favourite, and yours Hogan’s 5 fundamentals, yet am frustratingly stuck, i am resonably intelligent, yet what I have been doing for years is a sign of insanity, could you or one of your readers point me in an alternative direction or give me a starting point, based on DiSSS.

    Thank you Paul Martin

  6. Dear mr. Ferris

    I was wondering if you could give me your keep opinion on applying these mastery principles in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments.

    I know Marcelo Garcia uses a simple system of strong fundamentals and this why his students are successful also adding the amount of time they spend training.

    But what I have noticed is many competitors bring to the table one small system of moves that are fairly unfamiliar and new and are able to practice that to a point where they are winning or have a great advantage.

    This could shorten the time needed to train to build a higher level skillet because the opponents are unfamiliar with the attacks.

    Examples would be Eddie bravo when he starting the Twister or Rafael mendes recent years when he start using the berimbolo. Anytime someone introduces a new effective technique it gives them and advantage for a short while.

    Do you think there is a way to do something like this? And are there any other things I can look into for mastery skills of body movement mechanics and move muscle memory.

    Thank for your time,


  7. BJJ I know Tim is a practitioner and would like to know how he applied his system to jiu jitsu and how it can help me learn jiu jitsu

  8. I’m trying to design a meta learning program for investing. Any ideas on how I can apply tim’s rules of deconstruction, compression, etc. best?

  9. I really want to do whatever I can to improve my memory. I see people memorize a stack of cards in 5 minutes and it just blows my mind. I’d like to just be able to remember the people I meet at a networking event. I bet there are some mnemonic techniques I can implement, but this really makes it seem like it won’t be as hard as I think. Great video, thank you so much for sharing it!

  10. Ever since I began Chinese I wondered if there was a more efficient way to memorize Chinese characters, and in the video, you mentioned deconstructing characters. What ways are there to do this, and of them, which would you recommend?

  11. Love this Tim, thank you!

    Used these techniques to learn the guitar in 4 weeks in order to perform in a stage production. Terrifying, but deeply rewarding.

  12. Two questions I am 59 love reading but I am not overly quick and need to jump around to remember names etc( a specially in science fiction ) this was a problem even when I was young I have a nine year old son in grade four and he is a good student but I can see that he struggles to retain info he is a c+ student and a good contributor in class according to his teachers. Would your system help him( he doesn’t see a problem and I don’t want to be one of those pushy fathers)

  13. Ok. The cooking thing seemed overly complicated, time consuming and used to many resources that most people do not have access to. So, I decided to try to learn a skill using the principles to “feel” the process for myself.

    The skill: Bartending

    The 80/20:

    1) The pour. Everything revolves around this and (using the “start with a win” principle) seems the easiest to learn.

    2) Recipes- I will Google “100 most popular bar drinks” and “100 hundred bar drinks every bartender should know”. I will omit single liquor/mixer drinks (i.e. Jack and coke)

    3) I will divide into groups using main (first) liquors ( vodka, gin, ect.) and into groups within using the number of liquors in each drink. (i.e. vodka drinks with two liquors in one group, three liquors in another)

    4) I will then use the site “Flashcard Machine” to develop cards for each group.

    5) As I study the cards I will “pour” the drinks. I will use liquor bottles filled with water to simulate the pour of each liquor in the recipe.

    There are of course things that may seem important that have been omitted such as cutting garnish but as a server I don’t think that the transition should be difficult. Also, things that will be trained at any new establishment that you work at, how to run their register and how they set the well and speed rails, are cut to save time.

    Good luck to me. LOL!

    But, Still I wonder won’t skills like learning to snowboard or scuba dive be very complicated to decode?

    Your thoughts please.

  14. Hi All,

    Thanks a lot for this very useful videos and I am 100% sure that always there will be a better way to do things and continual improvement is the biggest room in the world.

    Just a small suggestion you may replace deconstruction by decomposition.

    Best regards

    Hassan Farrouh

  15. Mine has always been learning my mother tongue. I never learned it as a kid, and this was a source of much ridicule growing up. Still gets to me till this day. I guess its just like Tim’s fear of swimming, which congrats are in order for overcoming that.

  16. PLEASE recruit some collaborators to apply your accelerated learning method to drawing and painting (The Four-Hour Artist?). I’m sure a TON of people would be very interested in that.

    1. OMG how I would love this! Its exactly where my mind went, and what I’m wanting to apply the 80/20 rule to! If Tim responds, please let me know, as I’m eager to learn the essentials too.

  17. I want to learn IB level math in a week, or even an entire syllabus in a week, it’s kind f urgent so i have to do that. Is there any way i can do it?

  18. Do any of you have strategies/advice on meta learning massive amounts of theory? (Human psysiology and anatomy)

  19. In the next few months I’m going to be going back to business school. To achieve my goals I need to:

    a) get a GPA of 3.8+

    b) Network extensively

    c) Participate in case competitions and pitches

    Everyone I have spoken to says the combination of the above is extremely difficult to achieve and that it is very competitive. For this reason I’m trying to figure out how to maximize my overall performance without burning out. Any tips/resources/advice is greatly appreciated.

  20. I want to learn MS excel. Can’t get myself to do it to save my life. Just hate the monotonous boxes all across. Can you help me learn it in a few days? Would really really appreciate it.

  21. One thing that keeps getting pushed back is a musical instrument. I get scales and chords down fine but when it comes to actually learning pieces I tend to fall flat on my face

  22. Learning new languages… started learning arabic using pimsleur and also Coding languages (html, css) and slowly starting to learn javascript. (using codecademy)

    I love it but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to finish it in time (The school-year starts at the end of August, so with the teaching, correcting, etc, I don’t think I’ll be able to do all that I planned to do, including

    – building my own website,

    -starting an independant project ( to eventually make some money)

    -having those mini-retirements while making enough money to make sure my son is living a great life,etc.

    1. Read “The 4-Hour Chef” and several specific articles Tim has written on learning and applying the 80/20 rule to languages.

  23. Touch typing! This would save me so much time. I’ve tried a few online versions. I’m wondering if it is more about learning words, sentences rather than fingers on certain keys. I type a LOT in my job ad write a bit so this would be very helpful.

  24. Slowly learning Spanish, a good thing since I live in Ecuador now…any advice for learning vocab etc…

    1. Read “The 4-Hour Chef” and several specific articles Tim has written on learning and applying the 80/20 rule to languages.

    1. Read “The 4-Hour Chef” and several specific articles Tim has written on learning and applying the 80/20 rule to languages.

  25. I’d like to learn how to draw. I want to be a game designer and I feel like drawing is an amazing my way to express my ideas graphically. I understand that it is probably going to take me years to master the craft (if it takes me less, great), but I’m asking for a plan for my baby-step beginner journey plan.

  26. I have put off learning Spanish. Unfortunately I have bought into the idea that the older you get the more difficult it is to learn. Trying to get past that.

    1. Read “The 4-Hour Chef” and several specific articles Tim has written on learning and applying the 80/20 rule to languages.

    1. Read “The 4-Hour Chef” and several specific articles Tim has written on learning and applying the 80/20 rule to languages.

  27. I’ve never posted a comment online before but I just felt I had to thank you Tim.

    I’ve just graduated from an undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge and your learning system was my saviour in my final exams. Because of dissertation and coursework commitments I was left with only four weeks before the exams to learn four broad subjects (which for me seemed an impossibly short amount of time). By deconstructing, selecting, and sequencing etc. the material as per your system I was not only able to learn all the subjects within the short time available but learn them to such a high standard that I was able to get a First in my final exams – the highest grade you can get at UK universities, one notoriously hard to achieve at Cambridge, and a grade I’d never gotten close to in previous years. I know that result wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t used your system.

    So, for everyone else reading this, I can tell you that Tim’s learning system really works! And Tim, I owe you a great debt of gratitude. Thank you so much for sharing your work and for doing what you do – you’ve not only been my saviour but an inspiration!

  28. HTML, CSS and possibly Javascript — because I don’t want to be limited by what comes OOB with a visual editor when I put up my own hosted WordPress site (versus a .com site). And I’m definitely looking for acceleration because this is not something that is in my best interests to dedicate too much time to.

  29. Hi Tim.

    Of all the great stuff you’ve learn’t and discovered – particularly around learning – do you have any material or thoughts on how to impart this wisdom / mindset onto our children at an early age. If the next generation can have a healthy accelerated learning path what an even more amazing future they could have – and what a boost for humanity.

  30. Thanks Tim, this is very helpful I am 40 years old and going back into IT, specifically Information Security. I’m self studying and working toward increasing my knowledge for employment as well passing certifications. I knew through your books you have learned so many different areas quickly and master them.

    I went through your video which is great to understand your DiSSS strategy

    Di – Deconstruction

    S – Selection

    S – Sequencing

    S – Steaks (consequences)

    (is this correct, I ask because I thought I missed the “i”)

    I’m just trying to figure out a strategy that I can learn the information and like you mentioned become the top 5% in my industry.

    Thank you Tim

  31. I would absolutely love to learn to play the piano. I have a fairly inexpensive keyboard with no stand that I look at from time to time in hopes of getting inspired to start learning. Then I think of the huge mountain I have ahead of me and I put it away for another life…

  32. I love the idea of 80/20 rule, and want to apply it to learning to paint on canvas with brushes and acrylics. Impressionism style, not realism. I’d love to hear if anyone else has created a 20% skill set to learn to paint well….in order to reap the 80% of benefits.

  33. Any advice on how to use this method to learn a gymnastics move such as the planche? The discussion on brazillian jiu jitsu and krav maga have been interesting!

  34. I’m working on front-end web development and digital marketing. Mostly building landing pages. At least, that’s the first step. I have found myself living in Ubud, Indonesia with a few thousand dollars, an internship at a coworking space, unlimited internet and time and a guy who wants me to learn these skills so he can start paying me money.

    I need to learn how to construct an effective landing page that is aesthetically pleasing and creates results.

    I freeze under pressure and want to slam my head in an oven door but my indonesian house doesn’t have an oven. Let me know your advice amigos.

  35. Hi I’m struggling to obtain a certification in CISCO CCNA, Is there easier ways of learning content that has so much of content. Subnet and superneting is my main problem.

    Thank you

  36. Touch Typing!

    Touch Typing. Simple yet abused. I took one extra yr of shop class instead of computer class in 8th grade. Never learned to touch type properly. I hunt and peck.

    What is worse, is that I work for a FinTech startup. My peers type at blazing speeds. I’m left looking down at my laptop in meetings, missing much of the delivered message as I take notes etc. First, learn to touch type, second, learn to avoid these meetings per Tim’s advice.

  37. Hello everyone. I would love to use these techniques to master stenography. I have already started the course however I am finding it difficult understanding how to apply the Diss to my situation. Or perhaps I just don’t understand, (sorry). Can anyone help me? Especially with the deconstruction part. I would love to be able to accelerate my progress as I have had to stop for a month do to injury. Now that I have returned, I am finding it difficult to get back into it. And you did say that this method can be applied to any skill.

  38. Hi Tim, I need to learn programming language for my research, since one year, I am stuck can’t take one step forward. I am going through your book, but still can’t find any enthusiasm for my need. Please suggest me and help me out through this situation. Thanks

  39. I’m trying really hard to apply the principles in ‘The 4 hour chef’ to professional wrestling but am getting overwhelmed by the volume of content in the ever-growing sport/show. I’m trying to make a one pager like in the book but am trying to find a relevant example to help the process. More on the lines of Sport, Martial arts or Dance if they have been done. An example has probably been right in front of my nose but I’m too daft to find it.

  40. Programming… I have a awesome idea, but the skill of programming is lacking… I am now seriously considering diving into it.. can anyone recommend a good entry point?

  41. Great post. I was wondering whether and how these principles could be used to play the violin. I already have a couple of years of learning the guitar under my belt. Any tips would be appreciated!!