If I'm doing this right, what I do today should give me a discount for tomorrow.
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
Being elite at one thing is admirable, however, there's a lot to be said for being good at many things. Skill in one area with little crossover into other disciplines means that you are specifically competent. Being a Jack of all trades doesn't mean you're a master of none, it means you're a good learner. Having expertise in several fields requires initiative and self-study, but unlike Jack, our education has mostly been directed by others. And outside of school, our acquisition of knowledge slows to a crawl. It's not that we're incapable of learning or disallowed from it, but, rather, why should we learn on our own? We've already paid our dues. Why go through all that work again when school has already taught us everything we need to know?
We think of Jack as a mediocre man, but nothing could be further from the truth. Only someone of merit could learn a variety of diverse skills. It's the mediocre who cannot learn multiple disciplines — lacking in general interest, curiosity, and drive. Since the mediocre have no interest in most things, it only makes sense that they are equally bad at most things. Mediocrity does not come from overlearning, it comes from avoiding learning. The "Jack of all trades, master of none," a recruiting tool for the assembly line, gives the illusion that specialization makes one a master. But being specialized in one aspect of the assembly line doesn't make one a master; that would contradict the whole point of the assembly line where everyone is cheap and expendable.
The advantage of specialization is that it allows a group of unremarkable people to build remarkable things. But Jacks can do remarkable things on their own. That's why during the Industrial Revolution, Jacks were frowned upon — they were worth too much, so the work emphasis changed from Jacks to cheap specialized labor. We learned to hate Jack and praise specialization. Let that sit for a moment: being multitalented — bad, and having life revolve around one task — good. And this was done intentionally, educators called it the "factory model of education."
Why is this a bad idea? Imagine two automobile factories, one where everyone knows how to build a car and another where they only know their specific tasks. Which factory would make better cars? Overlapping knowledge creates quality assurance and cohesion, and that's what eventually gave foreign automakers a competitive edge over the US. Imagine if innovators didn't tinker, if young athletes weren't allowed to play multiple sports? Specialization is cheap and easy to replace, versatility, however, is not.
Two Friends Diverge in the Woods
Imagine two twenty-one-year-olds, John and Eric, who graduated from the same university at the same time. They meet once a week for coffee, and where Eric has a week's worth of new knowledge, John remains relatively the same. If this continues, by thirty, how different will Eric be from John? This is known as the Matthew effect — the accumulation of progressive advantages — and based on compounding knowledge, it can be impossible for a slow starter to catch up.
To Eric, and the ones imagining this scenario, the differences between John and Eric will be apparent. However, to John, the differences will be invisible. How is this possible? Expertise and opinion are hard to distinguish in conversation. We all have opinions and conversations can flow without gap. Where Eric makes points from knowledge, John makes up points (a poverty of information). You say something, I say something, and it all seems equivalent. As humans with ego, why would we enjoy knowing someone is more informed than us? In tales of wise men and fools, only the wise man knows who the fool is.
Then imagine John and Eric at thirty, and whatever life advantages Eric has over John, John credits to luck — Eric's good luck and John's bad luck. Though luck can't be discounted, John is denying Eric's efforts to protect his own feelings. For the sake of ego, we'll close our eyes when others make improvements we could have made ourselves. The proof is in our lack of urgency to improve our own knowledge (and to a greater extent, our circumstances). If we blind ourselves to progress, or we deny that progress is within our sphere of control, why would we improve? If we think the drive to learn is a fixed personality trait, not a mental muscle that's regularly exercised, why bother even trying? But we'll still try to keep up. Not by acquiring new knowledge, but by purchasing new goods. (Low skill, high expenses.)
And there is no good way to bring this up. Perhaps due to leftover school trauma, in today's society, it's mean to encourage adults to keep learning: "You should keep learning." "Don't be mean!"
One could call Eric an autodidact or a renaissance man, but these are fancy terms for someone who has competence. Competence starts with general interests: general interests lead to knowledge, and knowledge leads to competence. (Therefore, zero interests equal zero knowledge and zero knowledge equals zero competence.) Knowledge can transfer from domain to domain; this is how progress works — previous innovations lay the groundwork for the next innovations. Being good in one domain makes the following domain that much easier. It's not about the subject matter, it's about you. It's not about what you learn, but how you learn. If you get good at learning, then learning becomes easier.
A competent person is adept in many areas and unsurpassed in a few. There is no exceptional skill without exceptional curiosity; they go hand in hand. Having a high IQ, for instance, doesn't imbue the beneficiary with automatic knowledge, they still have to read. The same goes for athleticism, the rules and strategies for each sport must still be learned. IQ and athleticism are measurements of capacity, but without curiosity and drive, capacity will never be fully realized. Like a large bank without money or assets — intellectually and physically bankrupt.
Minimum Effective Learning Dosage
We all have responsibilities, and juggling time can be an ordeal. Focus, initially, on your minimum effective learning dosage — what's the minimum dosage of effort needed to reap any reward? Everything is an exchange: you're exchanging "x" for an increase in "y." The value added should outweigh the value lost. If you don't consider your process — or don't know your tipping point for effectiveness (minimum effective learning dosage) — you can find yourself on the wrong end of a bad value proposition: spending too much not getting anywhere, or even going backwards.
How often must I practice to get better? Not elite, just better than I am. How many days a week would that take? This takes some trial and error. In my twenties, I was training Brazilian jiu-jitsu twice a day, six days a week. Now in my thirties, training that often is neither practical nor feasible.
My Training Volume: Days per Week I Use to Build Skill
Decay (0) – My abilities as a martial artist is high but diminishes the longer I go without training. Sometimes taking time off is not only good for my body but also my mind. (And sometimes it's unavoidable). But understanding the formula for my improvement can ease my mind when I'm not training.
Maintain (1-2) – I need one to two training days a week to maintain my current level. Maintenance needs change based on accumulated skill, complexity of activity, and the needs of the individual. In a competitive setting, however, not getting worse does not mean others are not getting better. Reevaluate periodically.
Improve (3-4) – This is where I progress. As a beginner, I had to train regularly just to be awful. To improve, I have to surpass my rate of decay. Three to four days per week is my minimum effective learning dosage.
My Magic Number
Peak (5) – Five days per week is my magic number. It's my ideal training volume where I get the most value for my time. It's difficult to maintain this consistently, but it helps to manage my schedule and expectations if I know I'm only shooting for five. Not infinite, not twice a day but also not sporadically. I don't always get five, but my aim is to get as many of these weeks in as I can a year. Think of it as an aggregate.
Knowing there is a limit to my training helps me prioritize what I need to work on during each session. What should I work on first? There are many moves in jiu-jitsu, but if I'm confined by time, I can't treat everything as equals. I have to prioritize and stick to those things that matter the most; this isn't just true in jiu-jitsu, I have found it is even truer in living a simpler and less stressful life.
Diminishing Returns (6 or more) – If I train six times a week or more, I know from experience, I'll either burn out, get injured, or both. The point at which I burn out changes naturally with age. With physically strenuous activities, I burn out sooner. With less strenuous activities, I can maintain it for longer through discipline. It's not by accident "discipline" has a dual meaning: it can be the subject of study — your discipline, but also your ability to stick to a subject — your discipline. Discipline, then, means both definitions at the same time. Therefore, your discipline must be progressively trained.
Series vs. Episodic Learning
The things I work on later in the week will build off of things I did earlier in the week. Each week builds off the last. It's cumulative, like a serialized TV show, rather than episodic, where each practice is stand-alone, having nothing to do with previous or future sessions. If my main topic is jiu-jitsu, but every day I study a different subtopic, I won't string enough information to get anywhere. (I'll know tricks but I won't know jiu-jitsu.) If I'm doing this right, what I do today should give me a discount for tomorrow.
Efficient & Deep Practice
There's a misguided saying in corporate culture, "You don't get paid for trying, you get paid for done." But skill has no point of "done," it's indefinite, it builds with you until there is no more you, and that's the only "done." If you don't spend some amount of time maintaining it, you'll lose it. If you spend too long, you'll burn more than you gain. Get the most for the least. Subtract to add.
Rather than learning everything at once, create constraints and structured boundaries: What do I want to learn for this period? What are my objectives? Set aside time and time constraints, but don't also forget to eliminate distractions. Make it worth your time and effort.
Limit materials (books, information products, and the number of topics) and give yourself breaks. If you're only retaining 30% of what you're doing, then increase retention by decreasing raw input and spacing out learning. This is known as the spacing effect, and when coupled with proper sleep, you maximize capacity.
You can learn quicker or deeper, but not both. You can't retain everything at once; you need space and rest to transfer information to long-term memory. (Spacing doesn't have to be long, from a few minutes to a few days.) A systematic approach might feel slow, but a machine gun learning style, cramming and moving from topic to topic, mortgages long-term success for short-term benefit. Once you feel like you've learned it is when you begin to retain it. You can learn to ride a bike in a week, but if you want to keep it, you have to ride for years. How much time do you want to spend on something you won't keep? Is spending a day on something that takes weeks to learn, really saving time? Or is it a waste of a day? And that depends on your intent; if it's for novelty, experience, or leisure — like paddle boarding on vacation — or to complete a simple task or relieve a curiosity itch, then a day might be adequate. But if your intent is to learn, it's better to learn it right or not at all. Otherwise, it'll rob you a day for something else.
My Proficiency Scale
How good do you want to get? How good do you need to be?
Having clear reference points takes the emotion out of learning, especially deep-learning. If I'm studying for the SATs, knowing I'm advanced in verbal, but only adequate in math will decide how I study. If I'm a fighter with strong takedowns but no takedown defense, I'll be a better fighter if I work on my takedown defense. Our natural inclination might be to work the areas we are most comfortable, like our strengths. Resist that urge.
Learning How to Learn
On one end of the learning spectrum, someone might say, "I quit tennis because I suck and I never got better" — the reality might be, their ability to improve lagged behind their tendency to give up. Or how about, "I was studying hard and really getting this subject, then I got sick" — they're burning out too quickly. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who seem to know everything — legitimately. Someone might ask, "How do you know so much?" And it's not about knowing so much — well it is, but before that — it's about learning how to learn. Optimizing your study will keep you ahead of your burnout curve.
I have a regular training partner named Al, and whenever Al's doing a move, he explains the move to me. One day, after numerous explanations by Al, I said, "Hey, Al, I know the move. You don't need to explain it to me." He replied, "I'm not explaining it to you, I'm explaining it to myself." He's teaching me to teach himself — whether Al realizes this or not, this is the Feynman Technique.
Made famous by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, the Feynman Technique has four steps:
- Pick a topic and learn the material on your own.
- Teach the topic to someone else and find the limits of your knowledge.
- Study again and fill in the gaps.
- Teach it again and use simpler terms, metaphors, and analogies, making connections to preexisting knowledge. (Repeat the process.)
However, Al knows when it's my turn, I like to train in silence, without distraction — this allows me to be fully present during each repetition. Even though Al and I are practicing the same move, we're in different stages of our learning process. He's conceptualizing, and since I've been training for much longer, my primary focus is mastery. (Learning vs. retention.) Individually, we all have different needs, which is what makes classroom teaching so difficult. We must fill in our own gaps with self-driven learning.
When it's time to learn a new subject, the first thing I ask myself is: "How do I want to study?"
My Four-Step Learning Process
1. Scripted – Follow the traditional approach. Practice mechanically, as is, and drop the unnecessary. Seal up learning leakages and make slight incremental improvements. Break up large chunks into smaller pieces. You'll spend the most amount of time here. I study intensely for twenty minutes, then reflect.
2. Situational – Learning recurring patterns. What situations commonly arise? If I were learning an instrument, it could be musical transitions. In sales, it might be common objections. In chess, classic openings. This is still controlled but no longer scripted. Stretch your creative muscles while having a definite aim. Situational learning forces concentration to key elements.
3. Live-learning – The opposite of scripted, this is where I run experiments and apply everything I've learned. This gives purpose to my learning, something real and tangible — whether it's the big game or the first test flight. Take theory to practice, then note what worked and what didn't. Test your fluency. Can you adapt to new information and results? Do you understand the broader systems? Do you know the rules? Or are you hacking away and just using tricks?
Some things will work, some things won't. You won't know until you get feedback. There is no failure, only beta (measurements of fragility). Imagine buying the first self-driving car, then finding out they never tested it or ran any experiments? How dangerous is this car? Perhaps it's safe; perhaps it's a death machine. Do you want to be the one to find out? And that's what our emotions do, it tries to sell us on ideas without testing them. But learning requires data, even data that hurts our feelings. Resilience, like discipline, can be progressively improved.
4. Teach – If you were to teach the subject, what would be the areas of focus? What areas would you drop or only spend a minimum amount of time? How would you simplify it? (The Feynman Technique.) Then read, read a lot. Take time to reflect. Then write, see if you can synthesize the material and make it coherent to others. The common mistake people make is that they write for themselves. If I can't explain it to others, chances are it's still unclear to me as well. And if you read it later on, chances are it won't make sense to your future self either. It doesn't actually matter if others read your writing or whether you actually teach, the purpose is to improve your learning. So write for an imaginary reader. Write it clearly so a novice can understand. Then teach again.
I can't stress how valuable this approach of reading, reflecting, writing, and teaching has been for me. It has helped me to make sense of some of the most challenging times in my life.
Mind is Body
I know a respected scientist who learns at his best while doing karate. His colleagues don't question it because it works for him. Just as you can't judge the learning ability of a fish by seeing how well it climbs a tree, you can't judge those who respond poorly to traditional learning environments. Every learning modality works to some degree, but the amount in which they work is not uniform.
Though teachers might prefer the opposite, children are evolved to think and move — not sit and learn. Their brains can't differentiate learning how to run and learning how to read. To kids, it's neither mind or body, nor is it New Age mind and body, it's much more biological than that — mind is body, and body is mind. The mind does not exist in the world outside of the body, and a body without a mind is a corpse. Our adult view of the body-mind is subjective, but ironically, the child sees the reality of things as they are (without adult constructs). Because learning is learning; we're born polymaths, then we specialize (this either leads to specialty or low skill).
Many schools have adopted standing desks because it has helped their students focus. It's no different from learning improvements after recess, students do better when they can move. Mark Benden, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Texas A&M Health Science Center, says:
Einstein did his best thinking while riding his bicycle. Some world-changing ideas have occurred while people were walking. Artists have been inspired to paint their masterpieces after nights of dancing. Some of my best critical thinking happens as a natural byproduct of physical movement. When I get up and move, my mind literally moves through space and time; it navigates three dimensions of reality. It's easy to take it for granted since it's ubiquitous, but we're giving theory physical form — relating abstract concepts to experience. If learning is to be grounded, we have to move it from our imagination into the world.
Sounds are powerful tools in physical learning, whether to improve retention or to elicit a memory. It's common practice to use sound effects, as silly as that may seem, to underscore physical points. Coaches snap their fingers to lead athlete eyes to key sequences. A whistle or verbal self-talk highlight regularly missed errors. Crowd recordings evoke the realities of the event. Sound, a form of classical conditioning, focuses our attention.
Up until modern safety nets, being born a polymath was a matter of survival — figure out new ways to live or die as a species. (Fortunately, or unfortunately, our ancestors have done most of the legwork of survival for us.) From childhood, our minds naturally search for universal rules and patterns — for one consistent system of learning. Children see similarities and patterns where adults do not. Adults think that's silly and tell children to grow up, even though children learn at a higher rate. If learning is learning, and this subject is similar to that subject, then it's only natural that every subject becomes easier to learn. For this reason, rather than dismissing pattern recognition, we should encourage it. (And play is the building block for pattern recognition, which is why it's instinctive.)
We're forced to pick titles to create self-categories. If someone has the title of scientist, we might assume they only know science. Yet it's not so rare to meet scientists who are also skilled in music, art, and even athletics. This level of multidisciplinary talent shouldn't come as a surprise; in fact, being good at many things is quite human. (It's what separates us from machines and simpler biological organisms.)
To improve learning, we must reflect on what we learn — deliberately as conscious beings, not automatically as philosophical zombies.
"I know the answer, but don't ask me how I know it." If you can do it, but you can't replicate it, then you don't actually know it. You know the "what" without knowing the "why." We can learn through mimicry alone without conscious thought, as p-zombies, doing it because everyone else is doing it. Let's say you're six and you see your parents sticking a plug into the electrical socket. Just as you're about to do the same thing with a metal knife, you're told, no, that it's dangerous. So now you know sticking a knife in the electrical socket is dangerous. Later, you try it with a metal spoon. After a week-long stay in the hospital, you now know neither to put a knife nor a spoon in the electrical socket. But if you knew the overarching reason of why, about metal conducting electricity, or in more practical terms, that you're too young to touch the electrical outlet, you would have saved yourself a lot of time and consequence.
Imagine the same scenario with a teen, if they do something wrong and tell the parents, and the parents punish them without proper explanation, what the teen will learn is: Telling parents the truth is stupid. They know what the consequences are, but they don't know why. What needed to be explained was, they aren't being punished for speaking the truth — that's a good thing — why they're being punished is because of their wrongdoing. Part of teaching is to elicit others to think. Learning without reflecting is a shortcut that only costs more time and heartache.
This reflection on learning is called meta-learning — learning how to learn. When we reflect beyond the subject, but the method in which we learn the subject, is when we improve the whole process. School became easier for me when, rather than just studying for individual tests, I spent some time improving my overall test-taking ability. Not only did this save me time in the long run, for extra sleep and rest before tests, but it also increased my test-taking confidence. (True story, I went from a C- average in freshman year of high school to becoming a 4.0 AP student by senior year. I graduated college with a 3.98 GPA, with all the accolades that come along with it.) A salesman believes, whether it's a pen or a car, selling is selling. Maybe it's a test in English or a test in math, but I've been here before, this is not my first rodeo.
Some can sit down with a book in a bustling café, while others demand complete silence. Some want music, while others enjoy the communal quiet of a library. These are our preferences, and they may not always reflect our best ways to learn. We shouldn't limit ourselves to our comforts. There are many ways to improve; we should take full advantage of them.
Double-loop thinking is when you can step outside yourself, outside of your ego, and to constructively look at what you're doing. It's thinking about yourself from the outside perspective. The first loop represents goals and parameters; the second loop is how best to achieve those parameters. Any form of meta-thinking, whether it's meta-learning or double-loop thinking, requires the same qualities emphasized in meditation. And that's the point of meditation, deep reflection/ deep learning.
Imagine you're doing something and it's not working. A single-loop thinker will double-down and keep doing the same thing, expecting new results. Double-loop thinkers will abandon the ideas that no longer serve them and modify their methods until they achieve their goals. Double-loop thinkers will ask: "How has this worked for me so far?" And if it hasn't, they'll change something. Single-loop thinkers don't change.
Adapt your learning to the demands. Change your methods to overcome learning plateaus.
Other Learning Methods
- Visual: Demonstrations, images, and spatial reasoning.
- Aural: Sound and music.
- Verbal: Words — written, read, or spoken.
- Physical: Body sense and movement.
- Social: Participatory and feedback.
- Isolated: Alone, void of distraction, and self-directed.
- Systematic: Logic, reasoning, structure, and formula.
And each of these methods can be broken into active and passive.
Learning Tool Chest
Learning is a tool chest; the more tools in the tool chest, the better. Think like a master craftsman, with his tools, he can make anything. He doesn't need a new chest for every new job, that would only make things worse. Imagine a chef who has his kitchen organized the way he likes it, how inefficient would it be if he had to go from kitchen to kitchen for every new dish? Don't overemphasize surface-level differences. You want options, but a rodeo is still a rodeo.
Different Tools for Different Jobs
A hammer is better than a screwdriver for driving in nails. Based on the situation, different tools have different value. In the example of jiu-jitsu, though you may learn better when things are explained to you, having it explained a hundred times will not equal the experience of applying the move. Jiu-jitsu is kinesthetic and requires knowledge through the senses. Complement the default learning method with other learning methods. Active with passive, physical with the written. Note-taking is recommended even in athletics.
Note-taking is the standard learning aid, and nothing so far has replaced longhand note-taking as far as effectiveness. Compared to verbatim computer notes or audio recordings, longhand note-taking ranks the highest in retention. Longhand has less distraction, and it forces the note-taker to slow down and be selective. And it's that extra processing time that allows for better encoding of memory. Other forms of note-taking that try to capture everything, rather than helping our memory, overloads our memory. Longhand creates better external-storage for faster information retrieval.
I use multiple modalities to learn. Each layer adds another dimension, so, not only do I understand it better, but I retain it better. I often take visual notes (images with words), especially when dealing with complexities that cannot be expressed with words alone. Ideas flow, spread, and explode, and my notes should be able to express that. And when I do it by hand, concepts become linked to the experience of drawing, writing, editing, and imagining. This is multiple-coding, using different cues and mnemonics to retain. Once you have your notes, quiz yourself, use your notes to check your answers. This will force you to recall and own the material.
Teachers & Feedback
There is a need for self-study, this is where we make our biggest strides. However, no matter how optimal our learning is, without a teacher for guidance, we can learn the wrong thing perfectly. Get direction and lots of feedback. And it doesn't have to be verbal. Consequences are natural learning aids; this is why I love physical activity. Look for accurate feedback, trust the people willing to hurt your feelings and don't trust the ones that won't.
Leverage All Learning Styles
Let's say I have to deliver a historical speech. After reading the speech, I'll practice writing it down from memory, using the original as my reference. Then I'll practice reading it out loud. I'll record myself and listen to it on loop until I can anticipate my words. I'll practice along with the recording. I'll block out physical movements that go with the speech, highlighting points to the audience but also for my memory. I'll make a video recording. I'll practice with the video, making modifications, then re-record. Then I'll do it again from memory. I'll keep testing my fluency.
I'll chew a distinct flavor of gum while practicing the speech. I'll print the speech on parchment paper, so it has a distinct texture. I'll put a particular cologne on it, so it has a distinct smell. The speech will have a taste, a feel, a smell, a sound, a movement. I won't just learn the speech, I'll embody it. It's sense-memory. It's the memory we have of people we can no longer see; we can still feel them, we can still smell them. We know them deeply. That's synesthesia.
Finally, I'll practice in front of people and get feedback.
Start Specific Then Broaden Out
Whether my cup is used for water or grape juice, what's important is, does my cup have a leak? Can my system support my learning? If my system can learn one thing well, it should be able to learn multiple things well. If we believe we're born to specialize, each discipline becomes its own battle that has no payoff for anything else.
In Pebbles of Perception: How a Few Good Choices Make All The Difference, Laurence Endersen writes:
Why are many great fighters also great dancers? Why are many scientists also great classical musicians? Through knowledge transfer. Your brain works much like network nodes, as one node lights up, so do its nearest nodes.
Miyamoto Musashi said:
When learning a subject, consider how you can apply the same principles to everything else. Use each discipline to beta test overall learning methods. Find the underlying system for multiple ideas and learn their framework. What are the rules? What are recurring elements? Are there patterns and formulas? The end of one thing starts the next thing (transfer), just as in boxing, one technique feeds the next. Recognize patterns, chain ideas, chunk themes, and combine principles — excellence is not specific, it's universal, and so are its keys.
Work on a few things at a time; it'll get easier as you go. There is no rush; you'll be accumulating talent for a lifetime.
Jack of All Trades, a Master of Learning
We listen to billionaire investors and Silicon Valley CEOs because their singular expertise is so exceptional, we assume their knowledge will carry over to other areas. No matter what we've been told, our instincts tell us that talent does bleed over. And when we do find multi-talented people, the Jacks of the world, they don't buy into the adage of the master of none, they believe the opposite, that knowledge is power. In innovation, tinkerers, not masters get all the respect.
A competent person possesses a strong universal framework of understanding that can be applied in many ways. They're versatile problem solvers that can draw from their complex knowledge-base to solve specific problems. Learning is problem-solving, and a competent problem-solver should be able to solve many types of problems. A leader who can only shine in particular circumstances is not a leader but a specialist. Elite universities only enroll those students who are the most competent, not narrowly intelligent. You groom for excellence, not for specific tasks. Then you have options, not limited by any one direction. Once you develop a framework, the rest is about connecting the dots and applying those concepts in innovative ways. This is why inventions and innovations are created by tinkerers, people who are curious and try many things, rather than masters of single ideas. This is why sports coaches look for young athletes who are versatile, stars in multiple sports, because they are the ideal clay, and have already proven they can adapt to many different styles, situations, and coaches. For these reasons and so many more, the inferiority of Jack is a myth.
After learning how to learn, it all became the same rodeo, no borders only intersections — from academics, martial arts, to pop culture — just one big unified field of learning.
In reality, these are just best practices for academic study. I just never stopped using them and have applied them to everything.
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- A book I always keep returning to is The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (translated by William Scott Wilson). It's infinitely useful.
- If you want to understand the science of skill-building, I recommend Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool
- From tips on note-taking, retention, to good study habits, I recommend Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel
- On the importance of play in creativity and learning, my favorite book is Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch
- If you want a crash course in Eastern philosophy, my first recommendation is Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries by Confucius, translated by Edward Slingerland
- For more on Richard Feynman, check out Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
- Why do we see things that do not exist in the world? Why can't we differentiate mental constructs from material reality? Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is one of the most powerful books I've ever read
- If you have a hard time receiving feedback, or can't discern feedback from criticism, you have to read Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen. All of my professional writer friends have read this book.
- How does a chess prodigy learn? How would he learn martial arts? It's all in Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
- What is the book I gift most often? Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. Mastery is something we don't put enough time into.
- On curiosity, character, and best practices, Pebbles of Perception: How a Few Good Choices Make All The Difference by Laurence Endersen is a short book chock full of wisdom.
- Why are some people talented when others are mediocre? Was it hours of practice? Was it a certain type of mindset? This is what's explored in Matthew Syed's Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success