deconstructing your goals for more effective learning

Deconstructing Your Goals for More Effective Learning

Erik Learning, Personal Development and Lifestyle, Thoughts of a Mastermind 2 Comments


Self-improvement and personal development is something I’ve been working on for many years.

The skill of learning has never been a main focus of mine, but looking back and reflecting, if I could have become better at something, shouldn’t I have focused on my strategy of going about gaining skill and learning?

In May 2018 on The Mastermind Within, we are learning how to become a better learner. In the last post, I shared with you why I believe it’s so critical to first have a goal in mind before starting and doing anything.

For this post, we will start to learn how to learn and start becoming a more effective learner.

The Strategy to Become a Better Learner

4 hour chef learning

As I mentioned, I’ve never done a deep dive into becoming a better learner.

Last weekend, I was playing basketball with some friends, and one of my good friends recommended I check out the 4-Hour Chef, by Tim Ferris.

The 4-Hour Chef is a book all about learning and how to become a better learner (and at the same time, teaches you how to cook… but that’s not what we are going to focus on this month).

In the book, Tim Ferris explains how anyone can be an expert in anything in 6 to 12 months, and if practiced effectively, even 6 to 12 weeks.

In his teens, he was a student in Japan and had to learn Japanese on the fly to perform well in school. Over the next few months, he struggled, but finally it clicked.

Instead of trying to memorize and learn the entire language at once, he figured out patterns and tricks to “unlock” the language more effectively.

After scoring at the highest level in his Japanese tests, he wanted to see if his strategy could be applied to other languages. Now, he has mastered many languages – some he learned in as little as 2 weeks!

What’s his learning strategy? What are his secrets?

The 4-Hour Chef Learning Strategy

The 4-Hour Chef Learning Strategy is simple. Complexity is what trips up many people when they go to learn.

Ever heard of keep it simple stupid? K.I.S.S.?

The 4-Hour Chef learning strategy is simple as well: DiSSS.

DiSSS stands for the following:

  • Deconstruction
    • What are the smallest learnable pieces of information or tasks which you can break the learning into?
  • Selection
    • From those smallest blocks of information, which ones should you focus on? (20/80 Principle)
  • Sequencing
    • What is the correct order you should go about applying the important small blocks?
  • Stakes
    • How can ensure you follow the program? Can you set-up a system where if you don’t do the tasks you identified that there are real negative consequences?

What I love about these steps is at each step, it requires critical thinking.

This May, we will be going through all of these, and I will be applying them towards piano and showing you my progress through applying this method!

Let’s get started.

Step 1 of Becoming a Better Learner: Deconstructing Your Goals

deconstructing your goals for more effective learningIn the DiSSS acronym, deconstruction is step 1.

What is deconstruction?

Essentially, deconstruction is exploration.  To deconstruct something is to dig around, get the lay of the land, and understand what there is to learn to become an expert.

After getting a feel for what is out there, the next step is to try to figure how the smallest learnable blocks which you will be learning and performing.

How can you find these blocks?

Tim Ferris recommends the 4 following methods:

  • Reducing
    • What are the common patterns, strokes, actions, etc. which make up the desired skill?
    • Figure out the mechanics of the skill, and try to break it down:
      • For example, in running, there have been countless studies on how to bring your foot up and then bring your foot down, for maximum power.
      • Without this knowledge, just going out and running probably won’t get us to our goals as fast as possible.
  • Interviewing
    • Who are the experts in the skill you want to become better at?
    • Better yet, who are the people and practitioners who aren’t just talking heads, but actually have practiced and became better over time?
    • Find out from others who have been successful – stand on the shoulders of giants!
  • Reversal
    • Have you ever heard of reverse engineering? Essentially, you go from a finished product, back to the bones.
    • This method works well with physical objects: cooking, electronics, etc.
  • Translating
    • Are there any parallels you can draw to the current task at hand from previous experience?
    • The method of translation works well with languages: both spoken, but also in programming.

Some of these methods will be better than others, so thinking critically about which one makes the most sense for you will be important.

How I’m Using Deconstruction to Become a Better Piano Player

Show me, don’t just tell me.

Anyone can put up anything on the internet these days.

I can write all about learning and how to become a better learner, but all of that is wasted knowledge if I don’t actually apply it in my life. (it’s also bogus if I don’t practice what I preach!)

This month, alongside this series of posts, I’ve started playing piano again with the intent to learn how to become a better piano player.

In the last post, I talked about goals. For my piano playing, my goals are as follows:

  • Improving my sight-reading
  • Improving my musical ear

Over the past few days, I’ve been doing some research into learning how to become a better sight-reader.

As discussed in the previous section, there are 4 ways to deconstruct your learning goal. I think reducing is the best strategy for my piano playing.

Thinking simply, if I want to become a better sight-reader, then should I just practice sight-reading? I’ll naturally become better, right? Norarely are brute force methods effective.

While yes, one of the recommendations to learn how to become better at sight-reading is doing more of it, there are other strategies as well: some of these include learning some music theory, becoming better at recognizing and staying with a rhythm, and also pre-reading before going to play.

There’s obviously a lot more to these areas… so I’ll need to do some more research into these areas to break it down further, but this is a good start.

For each post in this series, I’m also creating a video as a supplement. Here’s this post’s video I recorded,  I talk about deconstruction and how I’m going to looking to learn about chord progressions, the circle of 5ths, and music theory to become a better piano player.

Concluding Thoughts on Deconstructing Your Goals to Become a More Effective Learner

While being an effective learner can be achieved, I’m glad we now have a strategy for which we can leverage.

Over the next couple weeks, we will be diving into the remains steps of DiSSS and become a more effective learner.

After setting goals and figuring out your why, the next step is to deconstruct the task at hand: what are the smallest blocks you can learn on the way to achieving your goal and mastery of a subject?

In the next post, we will look at the next step to learning: selection.

Readers: what are the minimum blocks of your goal? What do you think are some necessary “sub-skills” you need to work on to improve on the bigger skill?




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Comments 2

  1. With languages, it does get easier to pick up new ones once you’ve gone through the effort of learning just a second language. Even if they don’t have the same language roots, just the process of having your brain think it through helps a ton for learning new ones.

    1. Post

      Certainly, and I’ve noticed this with programming in particular (I only speak one language – English, but code in many).

      This is similar to the “translating” point which is brought up in the book – taking something from something else and drawing similarities.

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