M2M Day 1: Completing 12 ridiculously hard challenges in 12 months

Like developing perfect pitch, becoming a Grand Master of Memory, and winning a chess game against the World Champion

Starting today, Nov 1st, 2016, I will spend the next year trying to master twelve expert-level skills — devoting one month to each skill and writing daily about the process. I’m calling the project Month to Master (M2M).

Here’s the list of challenges:

  1. November: Memorize the order of a deck of cards in less than 2 minutes
  2. December: Draw a realistic self-portrait
  3. January: Solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 20 seconds
  4. February: Land a standing backflip
  5. March: Play a 5-minute improvisational blues guitar solo
  6. April: Hold a 30-minute conversation in Hebrew on the future of tech
  7. May: Build a self-driving car
  8. June: Develop perfect pitch — identify 20 random musical notes in a row
  9. July: Finish a Saturday NYT crossword puzzle in one sitting
  10. August: Complete one continuous set of 40 pull-ups
  11. September: Continuously freestyle rap for 4 minutes
  12. October: Defeat world-champion Magnus Carlsen at a game of chess

FAQ #1: Why are you doing this?

The short answer: I have an obsessive personality, and enjoy pushing the limits of my brain, body, and genetics.

Basically, I’m curious to see what I’m able to achieve in a month, and figured I might as well turn my pursuit into a formal project and use public embarrassment as a commitment mechanism.

FAQ #2: Are you starting from scratch?

Mostly, no. The purpose of this project isn’t to demonstrate how much I can learn from scratch, but rather, demonstrate my ability (or not) to take basic skills and very rapidly push them to the extreme.

Nearly everyone has tried to learn an instrument, a new language, etc. in their life, yet most people never progress passed the beginner stage. So, rather than documenting my introduction to new skills, I’ve chosen to take skills where I already have a beginner’s background, and share my crazed month-long pursuit towards mastery.

FAQ #3: Do you actually think you’re going to be able to complete these challenges?

Most of them. My bet is on 9 out of 12.

Part of me wants to make the challenges slightly easier, so I can definitely succeed, and therefore, have a better story to tell. But, the point is about striving for an extreme level of mastery, not necessarily completion (although, that’s part of it). So, I’d rather fail because the bar is set too high, instead of unspectacularly succeeding.

With that said, I think you’ll be surprised at how many of the challenges I complete.

In an attempt to earn your confidence, here’s a video where I solve a Rubik’s Cube behind my back completely from memory.

FAQ #4: Are you working on this project full-time?

No. I have a full-time job and a decent commute from San Francisco to Mountain View, which take up a good chunk of my time.

I also plan to spend some time maintaining my app development company, Rhombus, as well as my publicly-launched products like speed-listening app Rightspeed, website builder Somebody.io, and productivity bot OneThing.

Other time requirements include sleeping for eight hours, working out, spending weekends with friends, and traveling to see my family. So, I will only have a couple of hours each day to focus on Month to Master. I hope to prove that’s all I’ll need.

FAQ #5: You’re writing about M2M every day?

Yes. Every day, I’ll write about my progress, how I’m approaching the challenge, things I learn along the way, how you can follow along at home, and anything else I find interesting.

All new posts will be published to this Medium account, labeled with ‘M2M’ (for Month to Master) and the day.

If you’re interested in previewing my writing and seeing how I attempt to make hard things digestible, you can read my post How to write with artificial intelligence, which explains how I taught a computer (via machine learning) to write in the style of J.K. Rowling.

FAQ #6: Now what?

Tomorrow, I’ll introduce and begin attacking my first challenge: Becoming a Grand Master of Memory.

If you have any ideas for a monthly challenge, let me know — I’d be willing to make a swap if your idea is compelling enough. If you’re interested in following along with this project, make sure to follow this Medium account for daily updates.

Now, time to start memorizing cards…

Read the next post.

Want to try your own Monthly Learning Challenge? Check out the ‘Month to Master’ app.

Max Deutsch is a product manager at Intuit, the creator of Somebody.io and Rightspeed, and the guinea pig for Month to Master.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.