Ultralearning with Scott H. Young—Episode 295 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

Scott Young

Scott H. Young rose to autodidact stardom when he learned MIT’s 4-year computer science curriculum in less than 12 months. Next, he taught himself four new languages in a year. Such extreme self-improvement projects may seem outside the realm of most of our capabilities, but Young believes that the principles and methods that he and other ultralearners employ are essential tools for anyone who wants a competitive edge in the fast-changing, aggressive workplace. In ULTRALEARNING: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career, Young reveals how basic strategies that he and other ultralearners embrace can give anyone the edge in organizing and executing a plan to learn something new deeply and quickly—and without teachers or tuition.

“Although the ultralearners are an extreme group of people, this approach to things holds potential for normal professionals and students,” Young writes. “What if you could create a project to quickly learn the skills to transition to a new role, project, or even profession? … What if you could learn a new language, simulate a university degree program, or become good at something that seems impossible to you right now? Ultralearning isn’t easy. It’s hard and frustrating and requires stretching outside the limits of where you feel comfortable. However, the things you can accomplish make it worth the effort.”

Sharing stories from his own experiences and those of other ultralearners he has encountered—as well as such iconic autodidacts as Ben Franklin and Richard Feynman—Young extracts his curriculum for mastery from the ground up. Beginning with a metalearning map that breaks down how a subject works and what kinds of information and skills you need to conquer it, he shows how and where one needs to focus one’s attention. A firm believer in directness—hands-on practice doing rather than mere theory—Young explains the need to identify and drill your weaknesses to bolster retrieval and retention. Applying ultralearning ideals also requires the vulnerably to admit those weaknesses, to seek advice and criticism, and to experiment outside your comfort zone. The more one learns, the greater the craving to learn more, Young says. And the better you get the more you recognize how much better you could become.

ULTRALEARNING is a fascinating and inspiring read,” James Clear writes in his foreword.

“Scott has compiled a gold mine of actionable strategies for learning anything faster. His effort is now your gain.” “Ultralearning is like a superpower in our competitive economy,” adds Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work. “Read this book! It will change your life.” In our tumultuous age of rapid economic and technological change, ULTRALEARNING provides the ultimate ticket to success.

Show Highlights:

  • I say self-directed learning instead of self-education, because in many ways, whether you’re sitting in a classroom or you’re not, the experience is similar. —Scott H. Young
  • Most of the learning that we do has to occur inside our own heads. What matters is the attitude and the approach you take toward it. —Scott H. Young
  • Focusing too much on talent can be a red herring because it focuses on most of the things you can’t control. —Scott H. Young
  • Learning is always a process of being bad at things. You should embrace that and adopt the attitude that it’s okay to be bad at things. —Scott H. Young

Scott’s final thoughts: No matter where you are in life, there’s always some project you can tackle now that can give you confidence for other things.

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Dan Moore, President of Southwestern Advantage, the oldest direct-sales company in America, and Partner with Southwestern Consulting. With more than 45 years in sales leadership and marketing management, Dan has a wealth of knowledge to share on how to make better use of time to achieve life, sales, and other business goals. Each week, he interviews some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

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