Accelerated Learning and Mentors – My Personal Story (#240)

This episode is by request. You have asked me many times for an episode on education, accelerated learning, and my mentors. It will all be covered in the following conversation with Charles Best (@charlesbest), the founder and CEO of, a non-profit website that enables anyone to help a classroom in need. It is one of my favorite companies — profit or non-profit — in the world. (And I’m not just saying that because we used to be wrestling partners in high school.)

Charles founded back in 2000 at a public high school in the Bronx where he taught history. Flash forward to 2017, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s “ultimate favorite things” and made the cover of Fast Company as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World,” the first time a charity has received such recognition.

To date, teachers at more than seventy percent of all the public schools in America have created classroom project requests on, and more than two million people have given to those projects.

Charles joined me for a conversation at SXSWedu in front of an audience of educators and administrators to talk about learning things faster, good teaching versus bad teaching, the value of tough love, and much more. Enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#240: Accelerated Learning and Mentors - My Personal Story

Want to hear another episode about accelerated learning? — Listen to my interview with Luis Von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo. In this episode, we discuss what 2-3 books and resources he’d recommend to entrepreneurs, language learning tips, early mentors and key lessons learned, and how to recruit and vet technical talent (stream below or right-click here to download):

#135: Luis Von Ahn on Learning Languages, Building Companies, and Changing the World

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Charles Best:

Twitter |

Show Notes

  • Charles discloses our shared history and asks me to recall a teacher who made a really big difference in my life. [07:56]
  • We’re both very grateful to our wrestling coach Mr. Buxton. [09:34]
  • I talk about my framework for accelerated learning: DiSSS (deconstruction, selection, sequencing, and stakes). [10:46]
  • Which of my personal experiments could a teacher safely assign to a kid to “try at home?” [22:11]
  • During experimentation, do I ever go by intuition over data? [26:37]
  • Of all my podcast guests, who would I nominate to design the ideal school? [30:07]
  • What subject would I teach at such a school, and what might the first day of lessons look like? [33:26]
  • In this school, what other podcast guests would be a virtuoso teacher? [36:16]
  • How has technology enriched — and hindered — the pursuit of learning? [39:25]
  • My one-minute primer on Stoic philosophy and how Stoicism could inform our public school system. [43:22]
  • Why am I such an advocate for [48:55]
  • What is the number one skill I think our students need to learn today that isn’t taught enough? [51:27]
  • Is there any skill I wouldn’t recommend learning rapidly? [53:41]
  • What purchase of less than a hundred dollars has changed my life in the last six months? [54:07]
  • How tools and systems I’ve helped develop can be used to address inequity in public schools. [54:39]
  • When does the transition between memorizing and internalizing/learning happen in my framework? [57:06]
  • How do I recommend teachers address students who struggle with competition tasks due to anxiety or learning disabilities? [59:27]
  • What legacy do I hope to leave in the field of education and learning? [1:02:19]
  • Farewell from the benevolent army of learners. [1:03:17]

People Mentioned

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.

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22 Replies to “Accelerated Learning and Mentors – My Personal Story (#240)”

  1. Hi Tim, I know you are very much into keto and slow-carb, but have you thought of the possibility that that diet works best for Type O blood?

    It would be great if you interviewed naturopathic physician Peter J. D’Adamo. I would love to hear comments in regards to DNA and blood type.

    Thank you for your show. It’s been life changing for me!

  2. Tim,

    Finally! Teachers are our unsung heroes, and we need to show more appreciation to them. I thank every teacher that I meet.

    Great podcast as always!



  3. Hi Tim,

    Every week I look out for one thing specifically in my emails .. your ‘5-Bullet Friday’ email, specially the ‘Quote I’m pondering’.

    Please could put together a compilation I’ll of the previous ‘Quotes I’m pondering’ all in one place, or one book ?

    Many thanks


  4. You allude to some negative effects of being overly connected (around the time you mention the book Distracted Mind). If meditation clears the mind and physically grows gray matter, is there any research indicating the opposite? That things like internet addiction can physically shrink your brain?

  5. Tim,

    By far and away, my favorite part of the talk was dealing with anxiety in relation to competition. This is an incredibly important meta skill because we all will have situations where we need to perform under pressure (I.e. important meetings, asking someone out on a date, etc.).

    To expand more on this topic, I would love you to do a follow up again with Josh Waitzkin because I like his Philosophy of sitting with the fear



  6. So I’m the designer of an awesome kids standing desk but it’s too expensive for schools to use even though teachers and students go crazy about it. I want to see if you or DonorsChoose might be able/willing to work with me on the best possible standing desk for school environments. What do you say? If you google my name you will find my linkedin and email address.

  7. QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? That would be where Mr. Tim Ferriss said, “the whole world is a stage [fright] so.. get..comfortable with it.” Further, inspired, here three more references: The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast. Oscar Wilde

    The world is a stage, the stage is a world of entertainment. Howard Dietz

    “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;They have their exists and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,” William Shakespeare

  8. Hey Tim,

    Do you think the accelerated approach can be applied to specific subjects say Physics and other Sciences? Scott Young has a cramming like approach to this, but what are you thoughts? I’d love to know, man!

    Thanks for everything you put out,


  9. Tim, you said you see yourself as a teacher first and foremost, and your work teaches a lot no doubt, but it’s all kind of washed out all over the place (great material, tons of it, great value, just not so much of structure that makes it a bit difficult to search and apply), having all that done, maybe you might want to start putting together more “official” class materials out there? For whoever wants to learn what you have to teach?

    Meaning courses, workshops, classes or even a whole school of Tim Ferriss, a movement of some sort? Online and offline to teach meta-learning and applied modern-day stoicism, maybe particular skills using Tim’s methods of meta-learning applied to field specific skills of the GOATs you interviewed.


  10. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been getting your newsletter for maybe six months now. I love the five bullet Friday. Thank you for putting my dad’s quote in today that was such a kick.

    Angelique L’Amour

  11. Is there place where I can find all of the previous Five Bullet Friday newsletters (one PDF would be amazing).

    Always appreciate your insightful letters.

    Cheers, Jon

  12. Tim, you mentioned language learning through comics and translated screenplays. Excellent suggestion! From a simple google search I found some good suggestions on how to discover films with subtitles in a particular language (i.e. search ‘chinese subtitles’ in Netflix), but I was wondering where you found your translated screenplays (you mentioned DIe Hard and Babe)?

  13. Hello Tim,

    Amazing episode. Finished it a few hours ago.

    I wanted to ask you something different though. Can you share when the Kindle edition of the 4HWW is going to be available again on Amazon? I’ve been interested in buying it for a while now and it is temporarily not available. I am a Kindle person (my last 180 books were on Kindle) and even if I own the audiobook, I’d rather read your material, so I can reflect on it, as opposed to listening.

    Thank you,


    PS: Here is the error “This title is not currently available for purchase”. Here is the link:

  14. Based on your interest in the practice of stoicism, you msy find the works of Chogyam Trungpa to be insightful and of merit – also full of useful tools.

    Singletasking – great expression!

  15. Hi Tim. I heard on one of your podcasts a mantra you use. Having Scanned through all your hours of audio I can’t find it. Please Tweet it?

  16. After attending a few SPS Alumni events in D.C. this week this was a well timed episode! You and Charles are two people I really look up to. As for the brutal wrestling drill…we called them “Sharks” I believe, but that was after you had graduated. I’m having flashbacks to the wrestling room now so thanks for that.

  17. Looking for a mentor to help my 17 year old son start an internet business. Is their a web site etc to help with this

  18. Tim,

    Question – if body is (excersise and nutrition) what would (mind) and (spirit) be?

    Thank you,


  19. Hey Tim, if you are reading this, let me start off by saying thanks for your time and for all that you do!

    I hope it is alright if I ask a question that is *mostly* off topic but it is honestly quite important to me. After attempting (and seemingly failing) at googling it, I am afraid you might just be the only person who may be able to answer. My question is partially on topic though, as it is related to learning, and the process might just be accelerated through this brief mentorship! 🙂

    This is probably gonna seem like an odd question, but here goes nothing:

    I once saw you do a live interview in SF for the Commonwealth Club and during it you offhandedly referred to your ability to drink lots of water without having to use the bathroom frequently, for an extended period of time. A handy skill like that would be very beneficial in my life (I drink nearly 2 gallons of water a day to mediate a chronic medical issue, but running to the bathroom every ~35-45 minutes all day every day is rather inconvenient in both public and private life). Do you have any techniques or tips or links you could point me towards to help me out? It would be seriously appreciated!

    I also wanted, if I could, to take this opportunity (first time posting here) to thank you for, and mini-chronicle, the genuinely incredible contributions you have made to my life.

    I first read the 4 Hour Workweek roughly seven years ago. Using your TMI tools from the book and site, I calculated exactly what passive income I needed to be free/happy. With that newly gained knowledge of *where* I needed to go, it was significantly easier to visualize/strategize/create a plan for how to get there.

    Two short years later, I reached my TMI goal through a sustainable, low maintenance, predictable, and passive income source.

    So I quit my day job and stopped cutting my hair.

    I grew out a gnarly beard, moved over 500 miles to chase my dreams, and managed to became close friends with my nigh on estranged brother along the way.

    Three years after that, I sold my income source for a 300% profit.

    As a result, I am truly free to engage in my true passions and dreams as my career. And I am able to do it all on my own terms – something I never thought that would be possible.

    And you were undoubtably instrumental in all of that happening for me.

    All my life I have had trouble maintaining my happiness; to this day it comes and goes as it pleases. My life has been dominated by the arbitrary desires of my pain. However… now when those naggingly empty, stubbornly bellicose, suffocatingly dolorous, and simply all-too-familiar feelings of pointless hopelessness overwhelm me… they don’t quite feel as hollow anymore. And for that I thank you.

    Thank you, Tim Ferriss. Thank you.

    PS. For real tho, any ideas on holding in your urine longer?

  20. So good! John Buxton sounds like an amazing man. Is he still teaching? Great interview. I’m going to try the anti charity thing for weight loss. 🙂

  21. I am 55 years old and must memorize an equal number of pages for a show I’m doing. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been on stage and well, the words are coming like they used to. Any hacks or techniques in memorizing you might offer?