Learning About Learning in Ultralearning


Pretty exciting to follow Scott Young on his cool book Ultralearning.

Seriously, made me reconsider how I approach all projects that I do. Including the one I’m currently on, which I would affectionately call my 100 book challenge.


Well there’s a lot of things about this book that I don’t necessarily agree with, I think that the practical nature the practice , of this book  any reader regardless of skill level in any project that they find themselves in.

Where I do find that Scott young falls short is in his understanding of learning, from a psychological basis. In psychology learning is a really difficult thing to measure. So learning has kind of been defined to a change of behavior. Psychologists and scientists can determine whether learning has occurred if behavior has changed. This point is entirely missed by Scott Young, and I think not using a psychological definition of learning underminds a lot of the work that he’s doing in this book.

So ultimately, Scott Young’s book is describing how to learn, or change your behavior, at a very aggressive rate. Other than that, there’s nothing else that I would add or detract from the book. It was a great read through, lots of fun examples and exercises, and useful to anyone who takes self-education seriously.

You can find my bullet notes below:

Alixander’s Bullet Journal Notes

These are my bullet journal notes from Ultralearning, by Scott Young

There are three kinds of learning: low-intensity habits, formal learning, and ultra learning

  • There seems to be a subset of learners who take on the task of learning at a super accelerated rate.
  • Barring genius, these learners rigorously test their limits by making learning an active process.
  • There is a valid need to adopt ultra learning:
    • Specialization can easily be disrupted in the market space
      • Solution: learn new stuff fast
  • Answer these questions when starting out:
    • Why am I learning X
      • Is this subject instrumental value (ie increases my marketability to employers)
      • Is it intrinsic (ie make me happy to do it or brings me value knowing I can)
    • What am I going to learn about X
      • What concepts am I going to learn, or have learned
      • What facts am I going to learn, or have learned
      • What procedures am I going to learn, or have learned
    • How am I going to learn about X
      • Seek scaffolds, like online syllabuses
      • Seek mentors who have done it before, or something like what you are trying to accomplish
  • Focus: initiate, maintain, and optimize
  • Direct or “hands on learning” is best
  • Drills are what make the fundamentals stick
  • Retrieval Testing is how you solidify knowledge
    • SRS (spaced repetition software)
    • Concept Mapping
    • Retrieval quizzing
  • Feedback can lead to a greater level of learning
    • Self-assessment feedback is how did I do
    • Corrective feedback is choose the right answer from many
    • Information feedback is fill in the blank
    • Object feedback is pass/fail
  • Remembering
    • SRS
    • Proceduralization
    • Over-learning
    • Mnemonics
  • Intuition
    • Come up with examples
    • Start from the beginning like you don’t know
    • Try to make it concrete by making real the concept
      • The Feynman Technique
  • Experiment
    • Meta-learning
    • Aggressive experimentation
      • learn from diverse realms
      • Drill down to learn more
      • Try different styles
    • Adopt a growth mindset
      • Copy (ie recreate another artist)
      • Compare (ie compare your work to theirs)
      • Constraint (ie try it again with your other hand)
      • Consistency (ie do it again and again and again)
  • How to do an ultralearning project
    • Do research
      • Topic & Scope
      • Primary Sources
      • Benchmarking
      • Direct Practice
    • Schedule Time
      • How much time
      • When (consistency)
      • Length of time
      • Pilot week (trial run)
    • Execute
      • Metalearning
      • Focus
      • Directness
      • Drill
      • Retrieval
      • Feedback
      • Retention
      • Intuition
      • Experimentation
    • Review results in the end
    • Maintain or master


Going back to the things that matter

If this is your first time on my website, thank you.

This post was inspired by my recent conversion to bullet journaling, my reinvigorated interest in the blogs that I used to read as a kid, and the following comment to a post that I was reading on Cal’s Blog:

I agree with Jane’s comment “I don’t need to get [daily] updates about people who aren’t actually in my day-to-day life.” This also influenced my decision to deleted my FB and IG accounts in January of this year. I knew I would still stay in contact with the people who mattered to me and who I mattered to. I have no regrets and haven’t missed it at all.


My Reply

Melissa, I love your comment. And I am surprised that you took the freaking words out of my mouth.

I started back into using social media again when I started getting nervous about not having enough leads for my business as a real estate agent. They drill this thing into your head that you need to be using social media or another agent is going to win your customer.

If you haven’t lost a potential customer out of a friend or a family member all because your competitor beat you to them on social media…

Let me tell you what, it sucks.

Especially when they leave your competitors a five star review on fb and let everyone know on IG how great your competitor is too.

Lost revenue, lost opportunity, and lost trust in your community was what not having a social media presence told me.

So I got back at it about a January…

Hello, social media

I went ahead and reissued the FB profile after a year of being away. And I decided to take my private IG profile live about the same time.

At first, all the attention was invigorating. Look at me, look at me, I am validated and important.

That’s just the start of it.

Pretty soon I watched as I each post I made dwindled and dwindled in likes (ie audience validation) until the only people who engaged with it was… not even my wife…

How was I going to stay in front of the competition when no one seems to care about what I make?

So who am I

I am an ameteur content creator who hopes to be considered a pro.

I make poetry for this group called The Poem Pros (, and I really love it.

But this side hustle doesn’t pay my bills. And unless I am out in the world educating people of what this letter writing service does, I have to use social media to get the word out…

It seems like even when I want to escape the career I have made, and focus on my typwriter project, or my art form of writing, I have to use social media to get leads for the business

And know I am right back to watching people going with the other agent and I think, “It’s damned if I do my career and damned if I don’t… But at least we’re all stuck together in this social media sink.”

What made the sparks happen

We are what we consume and we become what we produce, and I recently asked my self in my bullet journal “What were the sources of content I followed online before I (and the rest of the world) fell into the social media trap?

I never imagined that I would go back to some of the blogs that I had been reading as a kid. But after doing some soul searching recently, I downloaded a simple RSS Reader and rediscovered the blogs that I used to follow almost everyday.

Rewind back more than ten years ago

It was 2007, and I just discovered how to send my favorite blog feeds to my email with RSS.

I loved it.

Every day I would run to the family computer in the back room of that farm house and I would see if Leo posted to, or if Cal had some awesome insight on how I could study better, or Ramit would teach me how to be rich, or how to be a better man.


Being 17 was awesome.

Today I saw truth

And today, as I scroll through my RSS feeds I see this:

“I don’t need to get [daily] updates about people who aren’t actually in my day-to-day life.”

There it was, right there. The truth.

It got me thinking, reflecting, and looking to see what others had to say. It felt like what I would do in social media, except, I cared what these people had to say.

That’s when I saw the brilliance in Melissa’s comment:

I knew I would still stay in contact with the people who mattered to me and who I mattered to.

I also want updates from someone who matters to me, even if we’ve never met. And also want to update people I have never met about what matters to me. Those people who like what I like and have opinions similar to my own are worth the effort of letting them know where I am now, and I hope to hear from them too, it’s called clarifying common context.

Where am I now?

Now I am troubled by Twitter, fractured by Facebook, ghosted on Snapchat, and watching my life Tik Tok away.

It seems like there is nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do to become loud enough for people to hear me. Especially those closest in proximity.

Even as I write this, I feel like I am trapped having to sacrifice having conversations I want to have while living the dream I want to live for.

The dream I want to live…

I only want to write poetry with a typewriter, write the heartfelt word others want to share with those whom they care about, and to travel the world with my wife.

What I sacrifice it for…

Even this evening, I am contemplating how am I going to make enough content for to become locally relevent.

And let me tell you what, trying to compete against the lifestyle/fashion blogs that are exceptionally popular in Utah… Can I keep up with that? I am just a one man show with hardly any credibility…

Humble Pie In The Sky

Heck, even just thinking about this personal blog.

I have deleted every post I have made and started over three time in the last decade.

What a waste!

I can’t believe I have been so pig headed and foolish to think that I could write a blog post that would change the world simply by sharing it to the highschool friends-I-forgot and my college wish-I-could-forgets.

What now…

I am not saying that I have an answer for any of this social media stuff, but when I read the words:

I don’t need to get [daily] updates about people who aren’t actually in my day-to-day life.

I am reading truth.

I don’t need to try to keep up with all these people. I don’t need to know their lives, and I don’t need them to listen to me.

I need to go back to what I had left behind in 2009, right before I went to college.

What I Left Behind Was My Head Up My Own…

When I went to university, all I wanted was for others to see me as someone who got laid, went to a lot of parties.

But you know what…

I wasn’t living a life that gave me what I needed.

What my life hasn’t been missing

My life hasn’t been missing the FB or IG likes…

My life hasn’t been missing making a joke of myself to people on fb or ig who don’t understand me….

What I’ve been missing

It took me a long time to see what was missing in my life.

Shoot, it was a simple comment on Cal’s blog that got me to write this blog post.

A flash of brilliance, will it be short lived?

I felt I connected with someone, and it got me creating. I hope what I made will connect in return.

That’s what my life has been missing!

My life has been missing that feeling that there was someone in this world that connects with the truths that I connect to.

My life has been missing people who look at what I do and say, “You know what, I like what you are trying to do there. It wasn’t perfect, but I will share it with a friend who might like it.”

Final Thought

I am not saying that I am my dumping social media channels. Or that you should either

What I am saying is that I needed to have listened to what Cal Newport said years ago. Or what Chris was telling me before I sacrificed living a genuine life for authentic stupidity.

What I needed was to find those who speak the words I need to hear, and to reverberate them in the world I live.


Everyone has a weird

Talking with a coworker today.

Mid conversion I open up the snack I brought to work. Seemed natural, he was eating and so thought I’d join.

He was picking at a lemon poppy seed muffin (156 grams) and washing it down with a large iced latte (590 grams) from McCafe.

When he saw what I had for a snack, he nearly choked on what he was eating. He walked over to me and stared down at my food. I guess he was a little shocked by my snack.

I told him that I have been meal planning lately, I’ve already had breakfast, and this is what I had on the slab for today’s snack:

  • Mini Pickles (135 grams)
  • Cream Cheese (60 grams)
  • Slice of Ham (20 grams)
  • Cucumber snagged from the office break room that someone brought in from their garden (? grams)

The snack was supposed to be cream cheese and pickle stuffed ham-wraps. But my pickles were miniatures so I was eating it all separately. The juxtaposition between pickles and a fresh cucumber was awesome!

Shaking his head, he went back to eating his muffin and slurping at his iced latte. Mouth full he said, “Everyone’s weird has a place in this office.”

If only he knew how obsessed I have become with weighing food lately…

Thanks Eat this much.