Ultralearning by Scott H. Young — Practical Book Summary

Why you should read Ultralearning

How can start-up founders or founders of any type — without a lot of experience and limited knowledge — disrupt and challenge our thinking? Of course, they have to be smart, but most of all, they have to learn lightning-fast.

3 Ideas you can implement right away


Directness is one of the critical elements of Ultralearning. By applying directness, you learn the skill you need without wasting any time. Let’s take learning a language as an example. Yes, there are helpful apps if you want to learn a language. However, in the end, nothing beats talking to a real person. If you go to the corresponding country and try to speak right away, you don’t need an app, and you will progress much faster. This way, you also avoid learning to use the language in a way only the app uses it and is hard to transfer to real life.

Stop forgetting what you learn

Forgetting is a natural process. Nevertheless, we want to remember as much as possible. How can we achieve this? Space out your learning. This means finding the sweet spot between practicing too frequent, which isn’t bad but not efficient, and waiting too long that you already forgot what you’ve learned. In my experience, its best to at least get a good night’s sleep in-between sessions.

Make sure you know what you are talking about

We often tend to overestimate our understanding of a subject. An excellent way to avoid this trap is to use the Feynman technique.

  1. Below, start to explain the concept or problem as if you had to teach it to someone new to the subject.
  2. Every time you are stuck, go back to your book, course material, or ask your teacher to find an explanation.

Practical example

Towards the end of the book, Scott guides us on how to plan our fist Ultralearning project. Let’s apply it to learning Spanish.

Step 1: Do your research

Set yourself a clear goal. You could say that you want to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker. Looking at others who already done it, a good idea would be to go to Spain and immerse yourself in the culture. Make sure to spend about 10 percent of the total time on preparation.

Step 2: Schedule your time

Make a plan on how your days should unfold. You cloud start your day with 2–3 hours of online Spanish class and then apply what you learned for the rest of the day. Maybe you get a job at a local store, or you join a sports club. Just speak as often as you can. You can then end your day with 30 minutes of reflection. Write down the essential words and phrases you used during the day. This way, you can build your real-life library.

  • Directness
    Focus on learning the language the way it’s used. You don’t need to know fancy words or every grammatical exception. Pay proper attention to the vocabulary you need in your day-to-day life and review your real-life library often.
  • Drill
    Are there parts of the language that are holding you back? Maybe the pronunciation? Spend time focusing on those weak points, so they don’t limit your progress.
  • Retrieval
    Don’t spend too much time rereading words or grammar. Instead, use flashcards, go out there and talk.
  • Feedback & experimentation
    Challenge yourself. Go to people and ask them about their day or what their passion is. This way, you get immediate feedback on your ability to understand and be understood. Try to make those challenges harder over time. Like talking to someone in a noisy environment.
  • Intuition
    Get a feeling for the language. Don’t go to the same places all the time. Speak to as many different people in different situations as possible.
  • Retention
    How do you prevent forgetting the Spanish you learned once you’re back home? You could Skype with a Spanish speaker once a week. Additionally, you can watch or read the news in Spanish as well.

Who is the book for?

This book is for everyone who wants to take learning to the next level. It’s for the graduate struggling to find a job. Or the entrepreneur who feels like she won’t ever be able to master all the skills necessary. It’s for everyone because, in an ever faster changing economy, we all need to become Ultralearners.

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