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How to Deconstruct Any Skill You Want to Learn Faster

How to Deconstruct Any Skill You Want to Learn Faster

“One skill you want to master in this day and age we live in, if you want to have an extraordinary life, is the ability to learn rapidly.” — Anthony Robbins

The first step to learning any skill faster requires deconstructing the skill we want to learn. Deconstruction means taking something that is very large or complex and breaking it down into smaller pieces. Most, if not all, of the skills we want to learn are just bundles of smaller sub-skills that occur in combinations simultaneously.

By breaking these sub-skills down to their minimal components, you can figure out exactly what you need to learn, which sub-skills are important, and therefore which you should learn first.

Tim Ferriss shares his learning framework, called DiSSS:

  1. Deconstruction: What are the minimal learnable units I should be starting with?
  2. Selection: Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?
  3. Sequencing: In what order should I learn the blocks?
  4. Stakes: How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?

We’re going to refer to DiSSS a few times throughout this sequence.

So, how do we deconstruct a skill that we want to learn faster?

1. Have a goal

Knowing your end-goal is the most critical part to learning anything. It’s what will keep you focused towards a direction, and accountable when things get hard (which they always will).

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For language learning, this could be to reach conversational fluency, with the ability to have a 60-minute conversation with a native speaker.

For learning guitar, it could be to play 5 of your favorite songs for your partner in 90 days.

It’s important to have a bigger purpose to learning that you can refer to when you inevitably lose motivation, as learning for the sake of learning rarely lasts.

When Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, he didn’t wake up every morning to shoot thousands of free throws so that he could make next year’s basketball team. His goal was to become the best player in the world.

2. Break it down to its LEGO blocks

The next step is to do some research online. Look at online forums or research the best language experts, business experts, or experts in whichever skill you want to master.

The goal here is to identify and list all the components involved when learning your skills, no matter how small. Don’t worry about being perfect, as you may not know all the components involved until you start, but list as many as you can before you start.

For example, if you want to become a powerful keynote speaker, it could be learning:

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  1. Body language: hand gestures, eye contact, walking style and speed
  2. Presentation slides: design, flow of the slides, content
  3. Speaking: volume, speed, content

and so forth…

Laying out all the individual components will allow you to observe the individual sub-skills involved from the outside without feeling overwhelmed. More importantly, you can now see which parts you need to focus your efforts on to reach your goal.

3. Figure out why you may quit

The first few weeks, or even days, of learning a new skill is the hardest. It’s the vulnerable moments when we’re most likely to quit and lose motivation.

You should try avoiding these obstacle points completely, at least for the first five practice sessions. You can do this by breaking down all of the actions involved to acquire the skill. For language learning, it could be searching for the right teacher, having to take the bus to meet them everyday, and needing to do follow-up homework exercises after the lessons.

When we accumulate all of these actions that are required to acquire a skill, it can be pretty daunting. Initially, we should focus on just one of these actions. One easy way to get around this would be to work with a language teacher online, so you can avoid the pain points completely.

Tim Ferris did this when learning to swim. His pain points were difficulty breathing and exhaustion from kicking, so he discovered Total Immersion Swimming, which is shallow water swim training.

We all lose motivation eventually, and it’s better to know how you will deal with it ahead of time than face it straight on without any preparation.

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4. Focus on the 20%

If you haven’t heard of Pareto’s Principle, you should read about it before continuing. The basis is that 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your desired outcome.

For language learning, 1200-2000 words is the range of the most common words you need to know in order to be conversationally fluent in any language in the world.

If your goal is to reach conversational fluency, it could be a simple as scheduling a weekly lesson with a language teacher who will provide you with immediate interaction and feedback.

If your goal is to play guitar fluently, it could be memorizing four chords that make up a majority of the popular songs.

If your goal is to become a better cook, you could choose 3 fancy dishes and become a master in learning those dishes.

Whichever sub-skill you decide to focus on, make sure they’re the most impactful ones, and focus all of your energy on them while removing any distractions along the way.

5. Focus on one sub-skill at a time

It may be tempting to jump in and learn multiple sub-skills at a time, especially if the end result is to master one skill. But, just as we get nothing done by multi-tasking when working, we’ll need to avoid multi-skill acquisition to maximize our progress.

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As the founder of Rype, I personally hear from dozens of aspiring language students every week who are attempting to master their Spanish speaking skills and writing when they have yet to learn basic grammar rules.

It’s a common feat that all of us ambitious individuals have within us, but a weakness when it comes to mastering a skill faster.

Get good and master one sub-skill before moving on to the next. As long as you have Pareto’s Principle in mind, you’ll feel productive knowing that you’re focusing on the sub-skills that will result in 80% of your desired outcome.

That’s all it takes to become a learning master.

Remember: the first step is deconstructing your skill, and if you can manage to do this properly, you’re well on your way to becoming a learning expert.

More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Pulsing. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on August 25, 2019

How to Find Your North Star

How to Find Your North Star

Most of us are familiar with the concept of a North Star–it’s the star  (currently Polaris) that helps travelers on their journeys… acting as a guide to keep them on track. And, I firmly believe that we all have our own individual North Stars as well, which act in a similar fashion.

When I talk about a North Star, I’m referring to a life purpose. If you don’t have one, you’ll be lost in life. But, if you do have one, you’ll have a guiding light that keeps you firmly on track for fulfillment and success.

A life purpose is exactly as it sounds: a purpose that drives your life. For example, think of a famous athlete or musician such as Michael Jordan or Ed Sheeran. People like this live to express their physical, mental and artistic abilities. They’re passionate, energetic — and they know what they want to achieve in life. In other words, they’re following their North Star.

So how about you? Have you discovered your life purpose? Or are you simply drifting aimlessly on an ocean of wishful thinking?

Why We Should Seek out and Embrace a North Star

American author Denis Waitley said:  “Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”

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In my experience, this is absolutely correct. Winners know what they want, and they have a plan on how to get it.

If you’re struggling to achieve the level of success and happiness that you’d like, then you may need to spend some time to find and embrace your North Star (see the next section for help with this).

What benefits will following your North Star give you? Well, first, you’ll develop an almost super-human ability to overcome and defeat obstacles that come your way. This is because, you’ll be fixated on your end goal and won’t allow small things to stop you from getting there.

Let me give you an example of this:

You’ve decided you want to learn electric guitar. You purchase the relevant equipment (guitar, amp, leads, picks, etc.), and you subscribe to an online guitar tutorial site. For the first few weeks, things go well, and you make solid progress. However, unexpectedly, you break the top string on your guitar while playing.

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If you were just casually dabbling with learning how to play guitar, then the hassle of purchasing a new string — and learning how to fit it on your guitar — could be enough to end your fledgling hobby. But, if you were set on being a proficient guitarist, perhaps even a professional musician, then you certainly wouldn’t allow this obstacle to stop you in your tracks. On the contrary, you’d most likely head off straight to your nearest music shop to pick up a few packs of replacement strings, watch a YouTube video on how to fit it, and then carry right on with your playing! And, the next time you break a string, you won’t miss a beat.

Can you see now how a North Star (or big goal) can give you incredible energy, drive and persistence?

It’s the difference between a care-free attitude and a must-do attitude. The former will cause you to drift through life; the latter will keep you firmly on track to reach your desired destination.

A North Star is really just a greater overall goal that will allow you to align smaller, achievable goals to it. For instance, if you want to become a school teacher, you’ll need to pass your grades to go to college, then pass your college exams, then gain the appropriate work experience — and then attempt to secure a job. Without completing each of these steps, you’ll never make it to the front of a classroom.

In other words, big goals only become manageable when we break them down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. If you attempted to join a professional basketball team, for example, but you’d never played before, you’d be laughed off the court. But, if you trained hard, found a great coach, and had a burning desire to make it — the right doors would probably open for you.

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Let me ask you a question: Do you currently feel a little lost or unsure about your future?

If you do, don’t worry. Once you start following your North Star, all the other stars will begin to align for you! You’ll be able to keep your mind on the bigger picture, and you’ll understand the best actions to take in life to realize your dream. And, when you do this, your confidence will inevitably grow, you’ll give your health a boost.[1] In a research-backed article by Psychological Science, it reveals that following a life purpose can even help you live longer.[2] You’ll also feel energized by your progress in pursuing goals that genuinely mean something to you.

5 Things That Can Help You Find Your North Star

So are you ready to discover your purpose?

If yes, then read on to find out five ways that will help you do this: 

1. Break free from mental limitations— You know what I mean, your inner voice that keeps telling you that you’re not good enough to do or achieve the things you dream of.

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2. Ask yourself these questions: What do you love to do? What activities set your soul on fire? If money was no object, how would you spend your time?

3. Think back to when you were a child — What things brought you immense satisfaction at that time? And, were there things you loved to do, but adults told you to forget about them? …perhaps a dream about becoming an actor, dancer or astronaut?

4. Spend time in contemplation — Dwell on the answers to the above questions for as long as you need. And, then wait for answers to come into your mind. This may take minutes, hours, days or even weeks.

5. Listen to that feeling deep in your bones — You’ll instinctively know when your life purpose has been revealed to you. It will feel right to you, and it’ll also excite you to begin taking action.

Finding your North Star is a crucial first step on your journey to success, but navigating your way to it is a whole different challenge. To help you with this, check out my recent article: Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Featured photo credit: Heidi Sandstrom via unsplash.com

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