Ultralearning – Scott Young Book Summary

Ultralearning – Scott Young | Free Book Summary

Ultralearning – Scott Young

Learning Version 2.0


The best way to tackle autopilot is to use interleaving. Interleaving is the act of breaking a project into several short and regularly-spaced sessions.

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Finally, monitor your attention and arousal levels and decide on which task to tackle based on these levels. For example, if you feel intense with a narrow focus, you should choose a repetitive task. Conversely, if you are relaxed with a wide-ranging focus, you should choose a creative task.

Learn By Doing

To hone your directness, you need to start learning things by doing. Young also calls this approach “project-based learning.” Situating your learning directly in your target environment means you skip the challenge of transferring your skills. Arguably, the most effective way to adopt project-based learning is immersive learning—for example, a French student spending a year working in France. The author admits that some skills are unsafe to learn immersively, like flying a plane. But you can engage in a similar environment to an immersive environment through simulations.

The Direct-Then-Drill Approach

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Elite athletes, piano prodigies, and successful ultralearners all perfect their techniques to maintain their competitive edge. Start practicing a skill by adopting what Young calls the “direct-then-drill” approach. Start with a direct approach to your skills, so you can identify the areas you need to hone in on. Then, drill through the skills you need to hone and return to direct practice until you notice more skills that need drilling.

Optimize Your Drilling

To optimize your drilling, apply yourself to a rate-determining step. In ultralearning, this is the step that unlocks the next level of knowledge. Identify these steps and then adopt one of the following approaches: First, you can time-slice by isolating one step and repeating it until perfection. But you can only adopt this approach if you can easily isolate a step from the entire process. If you can’t, you can always separate a skill into cognitive components and time-slice them. Alternatively, you can use the copycat method. Choose an idol who excels in the area you want to improve and emulate.

Improve Retrieval Rates Through Testing

Testing yourself is often an effective way to improve your ability to retrieve a skill. Young offers two methods to improve retrieval rates. Firstly, you can review your learning materials. Specifically, go back over the materials you used when you first studied this topic. The alternative to recalling facts and concepts from memory is significantly more effective. Young cites a 2011 study from Purdue University that found recall is far more effective for long-term learning retention. Despite this, most learners fall back on reviewing old material.

Outcome, Informational and Corrective Feedback

Even if you believe you excel in a field, you still need to accept feedback to continue progressing and improving. Almost all feedback is valuable, but some feedback is more helpful than others. Firstly, Young considers outcome feedback. This is the most basic form of feedback and involves determining whether you have reached your desired outcome. This type of feedback can be encouraging but often lacks enough information to make meaningful changes.

Informational Feedback

The next type of feedback is informational feedback. Informational feedback involves highlighting problem areas and isolating mistakes based on the moment you receive it. For example, when an audience member walks out of your speech,

The final and most effective form of feedback is corrective feedback. This type of feedback tells you precisely what you are doing wrong and how to rectify it moving forward. When obtaining feedback, you should accept all feedback. But you should always prioritize corrective feedback, then informational feedback, and finally outcome feedback.

Avoid Cramming Information

In 2015, Nigel Richards won the World Scrabble Championships. The remarkable thing is that he did not speak French. Despite the 386,000 French words approved by Scrabble, Richards could win by committing these words to memory. This is a perfect example of ultralearning.

To become highly effective, you will need to commit important information to memory. Don’t commit things to memory in one burst. Avoid cramming and space out your memorization sessions to ensure long-term memory. So, set aside a few days per week to memorize the information.

Spaced Repetiion

Spaced repetition is potentially the most effective technique to learn information. Test your knowledge of discrete chunks of information in a randomized way. If you can easily remember a topic, you can push it further back in your revision schedule. On the other hand, you should revise the topic you have difficulty with sooner. Attempting to retain information while it is difficult will create stronger long-term memories.

Experimentation Is What Makes You a Genius

Experimentation Is What Makes You a Genius

Young uses Vincent Van Gogh as an example for this final principle. Van Gogh was an art school dropout who was consistently described as an unremarkable painter. Today, he is considered one of the greatest artists ever to live. He achieved this success through consistent experimentation. His distinctive art style changed considerably from his early years. He did not immediately hit on his distinctive aesthetic. So, Young describes experimentation as ultralearning’s secret ingredient.

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