“The standard pace is for chumps.” -Derek Sivers
In 2014, Scott Young (author of Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career) was a few years out of college when he decided on a unique goal:
He wasn’t going to speak English (his native language) for 12 months.
He was testing a new framework to see how much faster he could learn a difficult skill (foreign languages) than the average person.
He traveled to Spain, Brazil, China, and Korea, becoming fluent in each respective country. In a few short months, he had mastered conversational Spanish, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Korean — skills that normally take the average person years of practice.
But the most surprising part? Young discovered he could apply this new framework to learn just about anything, learning skills 10x and even 100x faster than the average person. Over the next few years, Young would earn the equivalent of a 4-year degree from MIT in just 12 months. He quickly mastered creative skills like photography by rigorous experimentation and repetition.
As best-selling author Derek Sivers once said, “The standard pace is for chumps.” When you decide to increase the quantity and quality of your effort, you can master just about anything — 100x faster, too.
Ordinary People Focus on the Traditional Path. Extraordinary People Finish 100x Faster With Wormholes.
For every goal you set, there is a long traditional path, and a shorter alternative. If you want to increase your results by 100x, it’s up to you to find these “wormholes” and exploit them.
Here’s an example. In 1995, Matthew Syed (author of Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice) became the #1 table tennis player in England. He described the common response he heard when people found out about his Olympic-level talent: they’d say he was “talented,” or “lucky,” or had something others didn’t. Obviously, right?
Not quite. Syed explained that he had the perfect conditions around him to succeed — he had a brother who was also excited about table tennis, a great coach, and a 24-hour practice table where he was able to put in thousands of hours practice as a teenager. As a result, he was uniquely positioned to succeed.
Here’s another example. In his book Essentialism Greg Mckeown described a smart individual who created several extra hours in his workday by skipping meetings. After the meeting, the individual simply asked his colleagues, “Hey, what’d I miss?” Since most meetings are largely irrelevant to many attendees, he was able to learn in 2 minutes what it took everyone else 2 hours to learn.
Look around you. What’s your “unfair advantage”? How can you find a wormhole and speed up the process? What context are you in that nobody else has access to? How can you use that to learn ultra-quickly?
Most people stick with the traditional path — it’s safer, familiar, and just about everyone’s done it that way for a long time. It seems to work.
But if you want to learn a new skill 100x faster, there are several ways to do it. And once you begin taking these “wormholes” — shortcuts that take you to mastery in a matter of months — you’ll start seeing huge increases in income, focus, and opportunities.
Here’s another example, taking from Derek Siver’s full article here. It’s one of the most eye-opening stories I’ve ever read.
I was 17, and about to start my first year at Berklee College of Music.
I called a local recording studio, with a random question about music typesetting.
When the studio owner heard I was going to Berklee, he said, “I graduated from Berklee and taught there too. I’ll bet I can teach you two years of theory and arranging in only a few lessons. I suspect you can graduate in two years if you understand there’s no speed limit. Come by my studio at 9:00 tomorrow for your first lesson, if you’re interested. No charge.”
I showed up to his studio at 8:40 the next morning, super-excited. After a one-minute welcome, we were sitting at the piano, analyzing the sheet music for a jazz standard.
The pace was intense, and I loved it. Finally, someone was challenging me — keeping me in over my head — encouraging and expecting me to pull myself up, quickly. I was learning so fast, it had the adrenaline of a video game. He tossed every fact at me and made me prove I got it.
In our three-hour lesson that morning, he taught me a full semester of Berklee’s harmony courses. In our next four lessons, he taught me the next four semesters of harmony and arranging classes.
Then, as he suggested, I bought the course materials for other required classes and taught myself, doing the homework on my own time, then went to the department head and took the final exam, getting full credit for the course.
Doing this in addition to my full course load, I graduated college in two and a half years.
He taught me “the standard pace is for chumps” — that the system is designed so anyone can keep up. If you’re more driven than “just anyone” — you can do so much more than anyone expects. And this applies to all of life — not just school.
The standard pace is for chumps. It’s so that everyone — even the most unmotivated and lazy ones — that finish on time.
If you’re reading this, I know you’re not lazy. You’re probably very motivated and ambitious. Like Sivers said, if you’re more driven than the average Joe, you can go so much faster than the standard pace. There’s no need to go the slow, traditional path.
Don’t go the speed everyone is going, just because that’s how fast everyone else is going. The truth is, mastery only takes as long as you want it to take. Speed up. There’s no speed limit.
By setting huge, absurdly big goals most people call ridiculous, you’re not acting crazy — you’re just finally going the speed you could go all along.
Mastery Only Takes As Long As You Want It To Take
A while back, I wrote an article about mastery with a simple principle: that achieving mastery only took as long as you wanted it to take.
A reader left an interesting comment:
I want to master the cello by next weekend.
I want to master origami by tomorrow.
I want to be a master carpenter by the end of the month.
I want to master genetic engineering by the summer.
I want to master chess by noon.
I want to master powerlifting by the end of this article.
I am FULLY COMMITTED to all these pursuits of mastery!!!
I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Thanks for making my short list one shorter.
I actually think he has a fair point. “Mastery” is supposed to take a long time, it’s ridiculous to think you can master a complex new skill like chess or genetic engineering in a few weeks. Right?
Actually…no. It’s not ridiculous at all.
This is high-level thinking. Most people refuse to believe they could ever learning something as complex as a foreign language or a new instrument in a matter of months.
But this is traditional thinking — the belief that it takes 10 or 20 years to master a complex skill. Remember:
The standard pace is for chumps.
You don’t have to go the traditional route. You choose how focused you are, and how long you focus. It might take the average person 12 months to learn a simple guitar tune.
But it might only take you a few days, if you increase your intensity and length of focus.
“As a man thinketh, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains.” -James Allen
What you think is true usually becomes true.
Many people (like the reader who left that comment) still won’t believe they can achieve mastery quickly. They refuse to believe learning new skills can be done quickly.
Remember — this is traditional thinking. It’s on you to start thinking bigger and higher.
The standard pace is for chumps. If you want to learn something 100x faster than someone else, take shortcuts. Increase your focus. Increase your intensity.
There’s no limit to what — or how quickly — you can learn.
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