Ultralearning by Scott Young: Book Summary

Mastering a skill in the shortest time frame through intense effort and optimal learning.

Can you really become proficient in any skill within 3 months?

Most say no. The wise tortoises say fuck yeah.

You just need the right structure. And Ultra Learning gives you that. Here’s a quick summary overview:

Hyperfocus on ONE skill → Create a plan → Direct practice → Get feedback → Keep practicing.

Sounds easy, right?

It’s not. On the contrary, it’s fucking hard. It’s repetitive and boring. You’ll need to put in time and intense effort. You’ll be uncomfortable and want to quit.

That’s why most people won’t do this. But we aren’t most people. We are wise tortoises.

What? Never mind. Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to put in time, effort and get uncomfortable to get fast results, then Ultra Learning is for you. If not, then go read something else like “The Art of Listening to Wise Tortoises“.

For the uninitiated, let me show you how to Ultra Learn, starting with…

Step #1: Create a Plan

This is the foundation of your project.

Your learning results will vary based on how well you research a plan. Better research = better results. So spend a few days researching. Use this template and fill in the deets:

  1. Identify skill. What are you ultra learning? (Ex: Spanish, volleyball, social anxiety, surfing, piano, etc.)

  1. Goal. What do you want to achieve? Be specific. This will determine what you need to focus on. (Ex: ‘I want to be fluent enough in Spanish to hold a conversation.’ ‘I want to successfully spike the ball every time’ ‘I want to no longer fear talking to strangers’

  1. Resources. What sources are you going to use to learn? Listing the first source you find on Google isn’t research. Spend time here and dig deep. Here’s a good starting point:
    • Copycat Method. See how other people learned the skill (typically found in forums).
    • Gather sources like books, courses (Udemy), videos, etc. 

  1. Break skill into subskills. As you’re researching, break skill into subskills. Note any fundamental subskills that align with your goal. (tip: throughout your project, you may alter subskills and priorities).

  1. Select starting subskill and sources. By now, you have a list of sources and subskills. Select 1-2 subskills that aligns with your goal (or that’ll have the largest impact). Then, find specific sources for those subskills. 

Step #2: Direct Practice

The best way to learn is through direct practice. Learn by doing.

If you want to get good at painting, then paint. If you want to get good at speaking Spanish, then speak Spanish. If you want to overcome social anxiety, then talk to people.

Don’t sit around and read like a lazy fook. Learn the material and immediately apply in real life. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but it’ll pay off. Here are three ways to direct practice:

  1. Full immersion. Practice the skill in an environment that aligns with your goals. (Ex: Learning Spanish? Move to a Spanish-speaking country. Overcoming social anxiety? Go to a new Meetup every day. Learning volleyball? Play volleyball every day.)
  2. Work on a project. Any project where you produce what you’ve learned. (Ex: Learning coding? Build a custom website. Learning copywriting? Publish articles online.)
  3. Do a challenge. This will give you deadline and motivation. (Ex: Bodybuilding? Join a bodybuilding competition. Coding? Join a coding bootcamp. Public speaking? Join the Toastmasters speech contests.)

Doing all three is ideal. If you can’t, then at least do full immersion.

End result:

Step #3: Hire a Mentor

This is the MOST important step. 

If you want to accelerate results, hire a mentor. There are three ways of doing this:

#1: Optimal Approach 

  1. Find someone that’s achieved your desired results fast. (Ex: Bodybuilding? Chris Hemsworth. Language learning? Benny Lewis. Social skills? Daniel Wendler) 
  2. Find out who trained that person. 
  3. Work with that trainer. 

Pro tip: Most people can’t afford to work with world-class trainers. The solution? Hire that trainer to create a plan for you and work on that plan with someone cheaper. 

If you can’t find a world-class trainer or if they are too expensive, then use the second approach…

#2: Book Approach

  1. If the skill you’re learning is mental (language, coding, marketing, writing, etc.), then look up the top books on that subject.
  2. Read through the book. If you like the author’s explanation (streamlined and clear), then hire the author. 

Pro tip: This also applies to blogs and forums. If the writer seems knowledgeable and the way they teach hits home, reach out to them. 

If the author is unavailable, then use the final approach…

#3: Hybrid Approach

  1. Create your own plan through research (courses, videos, forums, books, etc.). 
  2. Go to the environment where the skill is practiced and gauge the professionals there. If promising, then hire that person. 
  3. Have him look over your Ultra Learning project and adjust.

But before you hire a mentor, heed my warning youngling: 

Most mentors don’t know how to get rapid results. Most got to where they are at with years of practice — the conventional way. What we want is to shrink that time in 1-3 months. 

So what do you do? Two answers:

  1. Find that anomaly trainer. Someone that transforms people in the shortest time frame. Example: Duffy Gaver. Although unrealistic, possible. Or…
  2. You create your own plan, share it with the mentor you hired, make sure he understands what you’re trying to accomplish, and YOU guide the learning sessions. YOU decide what you’ll be working on. The mentor’s role is to give you feedback. Your role is to make sure you’re learning the necessary subskills within the time you set. 

End result:

Step #4: Schedule Time

First, estimate how long the project will take. Stay on the shorter side (1-3 months). If it’s a longer project, then break it down to shorter chunks.

Next, set a day, time, and place for where you’ll learn.

Finally, make your curriculum fit within the time frame you set.

Step #5: Track Progress

Progress builds momentum. Momentum is motivating. Motivation will help you get to the finish line.

So you better fucking track. Here’s how:

  1. Daily log. Something that you can see and check off daily. A physical calendar or app works fine. I use this template. Track attendance and measurable unit for improving.
  2. Weekly review. This ensures you’re on the right track. Set a day, time, and place to do this 1x per week.

Step #6: Execute

Either come up with your own format or use my ultra learning format.

Fill it with your own project details and get your ass to work.

Hyperfocus on 1 project. Show up every single day and give it your all. No excuses. Put in the time and effort — it’s only for a few weeks. Because once you’re done, you’ll have achieved a skill that has taken someone else 1 year to do in 1-3 months.

Fuck yeah. 

Learning Techniques

Here are the 4 pillars to learning effectively:

  1. Procrastination. Not getting shit done. Solve this by applying these 3 techniques:
    • Environment – work outside your home in a distraction-free place. No phone, TV, kids – anything that can pull your attention.
    • Start small – if you can’t work every day, try every other day. If that’s too difficult, then maybe 2x a week. Start small and slowly increase with time.
    • Pomodoro – work for 25 minutes then break for 5 minutes. Repeat as desired.
  2. Sustaining focus. Not focused while trying to get shit done. Solve this by asking yourself: Why are you distracted? Here are the most common reasons:
    • Environment – something around you is distracting. Remove it or go somewhere else.
    • Task – the task at hand is too difficult. If so, break it into smaller chunks or work on something else.
    • Rumination – you’re dwelling on something negative. If so, exercise and deep breath (Wim Hoff technique) before working.
    • Prolonged sessions – you’re working for too long without breaks. Use the Pomodoro technique (25/5).
  3. Memory. What’s the best way to remember what you’ve learned? Two methods:
    • Active recall (short term memory). Recall information from memory – not rereading notes. Do this at the beginning and end of each session. 
    • Spaced repetition (long term memory). Recall information from memory through optimal spacing intervals. I use Anki.
    • Optional: memory supplement stack.
  4. Understanding. Use the Feynman technique (simplify to 4th grader level by using analogies) at least 1x per week.