Remember the scene in the Matrix where Trinity calls the operator and asks for a training program to instantly learn how to fly a helicopter? What if you had that capability IRL to accelerate the acquisition of new languages, skills or ideas? What would you do with super-human learning capabilities?
Arthur Worsley has mastered the art of meta learning and productivity enhancement and has created a system called “Faster to Master” in which he teaches others to do what he does daily. In this interview we discuss Arthur’s background at Oxford and McKinsey, how he learned 7 languages to fluency, the mechanics of meta learning, how to apply his system for extracting the essence books in less time, the role of purpose & meaning in accelerating learning, how he maps a problem domain mentally before engaging in learning, and more. Enjoy!
0:02:25 Welcome and context
0:03:31 What led you to developing this “Faster to Master” productivity program?
0:04:55 What is “meta learning?”
0:05:42 What is the gist of the “Faster to Master” program?
0:07:22 How did your work at McKinsey influence the Faster to Master program?
0:09:32 Can you talk about the McKinsey method of deconstructing problems?
0:10:50 What prompted you to want to step back and learn the art of learning itself?
0:12:43 How do you approach learning something new- where do you start?
0:18:00 Talk about the concept of “learning collapse”
0:20:44 Where does one begin to acquire meta-learning skills?
0:23:11 The importance of rote memorization
0:30:03 What is spaced repetition?
0:36:41 How do you decide what you want to learn next?
0:38:00 Can you talk more about the work you did at McKinsey?
0:41:55 What is the crux of your method to reading books, extracting their essence faster and improving productivity?
0:46:00 What changes would you implement to fix the educational system?
0:49:01 The importance of purpose and meaning for accelerating learning
0:51:30 What is the “Tracktion Planner?”
0:55:31 What is one book that profoundly affected you in some ways?
0:56:21 What are your thoughts on speed reading?
0:59:17 One person you’d love to have dinner with?
1:00:51 What is your favorite tool or hack that saves you time, money or headaches?
1:04:40 Your tricks to wind down your brain before sleeping?
1:06:10 One piece of music or artist that is speaking to you lately?
1:07:35 What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
1:13:35 If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?
1:14:29 How can people get in touch with you?
The Art of Living
50 Book Summaries from Arthur
Arthur’s interview for the Maverick Show
Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – Baz Luhrmann
Bali Green School
David Allen GTD
The 4-Hour Workweek
Chopin – Fantaisie
The ONE Thing
How to Read a Book
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Why We Sleep
All right everybody. Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host Sean Tierney and I am here today with Arthur Worsley. Arthur is a performance coach and founder of faster to master which is an academy that helps you become a productivity powerhouse beat procrastination destroy distractions and get big things done. Or there’s well traveled location independent entrepreneur having traveled to over 100 countries. He has a degree in psychology, physiology and philosophy from Oxford. He previously served as strategy consultant consultant for McKinsey. Arthur has learned seven languages to fluency and is currently arguably conversational and four of those right now, but I cannot wait to dive in this conversation. I am a huge fan of Josh waitzkin and meta learning and all these topics. And I think you know, we’ve been talking a little bit about force multipliers and all this stuff. So welcome, Arthur, I’m excited to have you here. Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.
Arthur Worsley 3:11
Thank you. Cool. All right.
Sean Tierney 3:13
So let’s dig right into it. I guess I started watching your webinar. I haven’t gotten it admittedly all the way through the whole thing. But I did one of the early slides it, it just grabbed me because you’re talking about all the different things you’ve tried in the past with getting things done and konban and pomodoro. And one thing and all these different productivity methods, what led you to do what you’re doing now with this faster to master? I mean, like,
Arthur Worsley 3:37
like a lot of businesses with faster Master, it kind of just ended up pivoting that way. But productivity has been something I’ve been interested in, I think when I was 18, and I just got to university, I had all of this energy and I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I read the four hour workweek and I was trying to do my business. I was actually trying to run two businesses and pass my degree at Oxford. And I’d bought a house and was managing that, and I just was on the verge of collapse. And then I read getting things done, and it changed my life. And, and that really helped. I mean, I’d read a whole load of things by Brian Tracy and other things in that company, my job then in finance, and then as a consultant at McKinsey, and I kind of honed those over the years. And then what I realized, so that was the productivity element. And then when I left McKinsey, what I realized is that what I really loved was the learning component. And so that’s how I got into the accelerated learning and started learning languages and things like that. And then faster master began, it’s just an exploration of those themes, the books that I love the learning tricks that I’ve learned both learning some skills, I did a couple of skill learning challenges and, and then also the productivity stuff that I’d learned over the years and was sharing in my own journey to find you know, balancing meaning in my life to take all of the productivity time and task management that I learned and, and turn that into something that you know, could get me excited to wake up every single day and and get on with something that I love. So for the people that aren’t familiar with the term meta learning, can you define what that means? Well So meta learning is really learning about learning. It’s like them that step back from learning, which I love as an idea in and of itself. Whenever people are like, I’m going to learn a skill. What’s the first thing I should do? I say the first thing. So let’s say it’s learning a language that you want to learn Mandarin, the first thing I say is read one book about learning Mandarin, like a specific book, then take the meta step back and read one book about learning how to learn, and then take the step back, also one book about learning languages, and then take a step back and read one book about learning how to learn and at that point, you’ve captured, like the three meta levels out from the skill you want, and you’ll learn a huge amount in the process. So that’s what meta learning is. It’s like how do we learn more effectively? How do we learn faster, whether it’s knowledge or skills, and how do we apply that knowledge effectively?
Sean Tierney 5:42
And so can you break down so you the faster to master is basically this all this stuff that you’ve figured out how to do broken out into a kind of a linear course that people can go through and acquire all the skills are
Arthur Worsley 5:54
what is it so so the overall site content, there are kind of three main areas there’s The three big themes, right, the first one is how to read more. And that splits into a whole load of book recommendations. So I have this, you can take the boy out of McKinsey, but you can’t take McKinsey out of the boy, I built this crazy Excel model. Every time I get book recommendations, it goes in there, I tear all the data out of it. Anyway, it comes out with this, like, I’ve got three and a half thousand books. And it ranks every book recommendation I get from like, top to bottom in terms of which ones I should read first. So I share those recommendations across different themes. So that you can own if you can only read 1000 books in your life, you want to read the best ones. The second half of that is around reading, like reading more. So I write some Book Summaries and I share those. And that’s also sort of ties into the learning because for me, writing Book Summaries was a great way to learn some of the stuff that I was reading. So the second big theme of the site is learn more and I wrote a whole load of stuff on meta learning whether it’s learning skills or languages or, or anything else, any knowledge, whether it’s Anki, SRS, Spaced Repetition systems, things like that. And then the main to the course is really in the third theme which is around productivity. Which is how to Nailed things like task and time management, how to find more balance and decide what you actually want in a whole lot of different areas of life and how to find that big picture idea of meaning, you know, what is your life about? Like, why are you here? And what do you want to get out of the, you know, the time that you’re, you know that you’re here and the gifts that you’ve been given?
Sean Tierney 7:16
And so this so McKinsey did the methodology and McKinsey then kind of inform some of how you’ve structured the course or what it what what is the influence of McKinsey on this.
Arthur Worsley 7:27
So So McKinsey was more like, like a really strong finance, it honed everything. And there’s two things I learned at McKinsey one was like to be incredibly productive and to really go after the one thing because unlike some jobs, for example, in investment banking, where you’re, you know, you have one, you have one outcome and the only goal is to get there as quickly as possible. When you’re dealt a problem at McKinsey. There could be a million answers. You could put three McKinsey teams on the same question and come up with different answers for each one. It’s all about prioritization. It’s also a hectic, incredible Work Environment full of amazing people. And you work with these incredible clients. So it was great for productivity and growing that productivity beyond just what can I do to how can I make the people around me more successful? And the last thing, which I think everyone comes away from McKinsey with is this way of breaking down problems. So McKinsey, you’ll notice that often during this podcast, I’ll be like, it’s this one thing. The second thing, this third thing, and it’s just a relentless way of looking at every problem and going, this is a really tough, big problem. How do I break it down into manageable areas? So so for example, traction, which is the system of balance that I teach my clients, you know, most people when they mask a task and time management, they feel very frustrated. Okay, well, what next? How do I get more out of life? And that’s a really big problem. So most people get scared about that. And they run away from it, because it’s just I get it. It’s like, it’s a huge problem. But what I did is I broke life down into eight different areas, and then across five horizons, and that sounds like a lot, but when you see it on a screen, you’re like, Oh, I can work out what I want from health and vitality. Like that’s an easy question to answer. I can work out What kind of partner I want in my life, I can work out, you know what great growth and learning works for me. And so you break those problems down and each individual element becomes solvable. And that’s how you solve the big problem. So that’s the biggest thing I
Sean Tierney 9:11
do. So let’s continue. Yeah, so I and by the way for the people listening, so I first learned about you on my friend Matt Bowles, his podcast which he didn’t interview and I highly recommend if you’re listening to this, you know that Matt and I have shared some guests in the past and I highly recommend you check that episode out. So this method of deconstructing almost like the Russian dolls, it sounds like you just continuously deconstruct whatever the problem is, is that a metal learning skill like that can be applied in pretty much every scenario hundred percent?
Arthur Worsley 9:40
I think, I think that’s enough, like the ability to break problems down like that as a force multiplier. So I did a thing where I went from zero to ski instructor over the course of four months, right. And the way that I did that is I just broke skiing down into like the three components skills. And then what you do is you just work on each one individually, and then you bring them all back together with tennis, which is what I meant Learning or getting back into at the moment is similar, you can break everything down into small problems. The the time when people get overwhelmed solving a problem is they just probably haven’t broken it down into a problem that’s small enough to actually solve, right? And the same is true if you’re hiring someone, right? If you have a job, and it’s defeated, this is a, I just read the effective executive by Peter Drucker and he says, if you have any job and you put two competent people on it, and it’s defeated both of them the chance that high chances, you just need to split that job into two smaller jobs, which are more specialized right, so that they can get to it. So being able to break stuff down is an incredible way to avoid getting overwhelmed and to then solve these problems, which on the surface look like they have no solution whatsoever. But when you you know, when you eat the elephant piece by piece, suddenly it becomes easy.
Sean Tierney 10:44
It what point so you were solving problems from McKinsey and reading books. And then at what point did you make that leap to start thinking about the act of solving problems as an art form itself? Because I think that’s super interesting that not many people you know, people can are capable of figuring out solutions, but abstracting yourself one layer above that to them think about the building the machine for solving solutions, or, you know, that type of thinking. How did you arrive at it?
Arthur Worsley 11:10
I mean, I think it’s just it was a question of solving a problem, right? That meta learning is and in and of itself, like a way to break the problem of learning apart, right? So I talked about, you know, you want to learn a skill, you need to learn about the skill, but you also need to learn about how to learn that skill. And you also need to learn about how you learn. And so and I, you know, I had some background from Oxford when I studied a lot of neurophysiology and memory and memory systems. And, and so it was just a, when I left McKinsey, it was because things were getting, they wanted me to specialize, you know, and I was like, I don’t want to specialize. Like I love doing different projects. You know, I did stuff in defense in consumer goods in farmer and I was with a different team in all different parts of the world. And then they were like, Hey, you need to pick one thing and focus on it. I was like, no way. I don’t want to do that. And then when I left, I started picking up language learning and I was like, Okay, I started thinking more systematically about how can I actually learned this stuff faster and better. Because not because I care about learning things fast. But because I wanted to speak to people around me like I was driven by the problem of like talking, you know, I was in Germany and I wanted to talk to everyone around me. And then I was in China. And I was like, I want to talk. I want to understand everything. And so that’s it was that excitement that drove me to try to understand more about how to learn fast rather than it’s not a like a compulsion to always abstract, if that makes sense.
Sean Tierney 12:25
Yeah, well, that’s pretty consistent with the thing that I call punching past the board. Like, this is I’ve mentioned this on a couple episodes. But it’s this thing in martial arts, where if you’re just aiming squarely for the board, you’re going to break your knuckles. But if you’re aiming at a goal beyond the board, that’s where you just power through it each time. So yeah, I think that’s super fascinating. If you’re confronted with a novel situation, what then is your approach? Let’s say there’s like a piece of software that you want to learn and you have no familiarity with it. Like, what is like step one, what do you do when when you have that new situation?
Arthur Worsley 12:56
Yeah, I have I have a post on how to learn any skill in 10 steps to that. Like what I would follow, but I think the first, the first thing that people can get too worried about is trying to make a plan before they have any information, right? If I was going to learn a new skill, let’s say was a new sport or something like that, you know, a lot of people were like, Oh, you need to make a plan, you need to set a goal. Usually these things I was like, No, just show up for two weeks, and just do it, you know, just rock up with no expectations, and gather data, right? You know, so you actually have something to work on? Like, do you even love this sport that you’re learning? Do you even love this language? I get a feel for it. You know, do you love to dance salsa, you know, don’t, don’t make it into a big project. Then when you’ve gathered a little bit of data, that’s when you can start setting some goals because then you you’re already going to have this idea that you could, you’ll be able to see, okay, I kind of see it splits into these areas. Then you go, okay, maybe I’m gonna read a book about it. And then once you’ve kind of understood a, the, you know, the, the actual problem, you’ve broken it down and also, you understand how other people have approached solving it. Then you can start saying, Okay, well, maybe I’m going to try and pass my B two exams, my fluency exams in Germany. Five months time, because that’s a realistic goal. So many people The reason that they, they give up on these, these, these new things that they try and take on is they, they set goals super super early and those goals are totally unmanageable. And they feel like they’ve committed to it and they can’t get out of it. And the more they learn about the skill, the more unmanageable that becomes. And so learning actually becomes a negative experience where they’re like, the more I learned, the more overwhelmed them because I’ve set this unrealistic goal. So the first thing is always to just work out if you love something, and just get some data and experience on it. So if I had a new piece of software, I would just jump into the new piece of software. And just just explore it right be like is do I even do I like the way this looks? Do I like the way it feels to act? Does it make me feel great when I use it, like just this journal, you know, if you have one, and when I open it, I like the way it smells like all those things. And then the second thing so I used to teach the Excel modeling classes to the new analysts at McKinsey. The second thing is always have a real and interesting problem to solve. So people who just sit down at home and go I’m going to learn Mandarin, almost never learn math. In, right, but people who have to learn Mandarin because they’re planning to travel to China in six months time, or because then they’re working in an environment with Chinese speakers, those guys have picked it up in seconds, we have one friend who does shark conservation out here. And she’s picked up Indonesian in less time than I could ever imagine, because she has to learn Indonesian to speak to the local fishermen, right? And so having a project like a real product you actually care about is a huge part of being able to take that theory and see how it fits into practice.
Sean Tierney 15:28
Got it so yoking, the Learn the active learning, if it’s in pursuit of some bigger mission or something that’s important to you, then that’s going to just strengthen the for sure something
Arthur Worsley 15:37
you want to achieve. People are like, I want to learn how to code. You know, my brother wanted to learn how to code just and he wasn’t sure why he was just like, I just want to know, this guy’s like, he just picked a problem that you have, that you think could be solved better with learning to code. He’s a helicopter pilot. So he was like, Hey, I’m gonna design an app for helicopter pilots that helps them do some of the things that I’m frustrated with. He learned to code so much faster because he actually was doing and creating something meaningful. To him, then if he just tried to learn so meta learning what I’m trying to get at is meta learning is interesting, but not in and of itself. It’s only interesting if you have a problem that you care about solving fast. Right, right.
Sean Tierney 16:11
Totally. And like I learned to play guitar at a pretty young age, but the way that I learned is also very consistent with this was that like, I just had certain songs that I really wanted to be on the play. You know, if I had sat down and just tried to play scales and learn the theory, it wouldn’t have stuck. But when it was in pursuit of playing that Motley Crue song or whatever, then Okay, now I have a goal and I can pick it up.
Arthur Worsley 16:33
I tell you, I had it. I had a similar experience with piano, where I used to play a lot of musical instruments. I was younger, but I wanted to take up piano because I heard Chopin’s fantasy, impromptu, and C minor, which is a beautiful canopies. And I took it to my piano teacher and I was like, This is the piece I want to learn to play. And she just laughed at me. She was like, there’s no way you’re going to learn that like let’s start with like, you know, the easy stuff. And I was like, No, I’m gonna learn this and I just went away and I improved for exactly the same reason you improve that guitar because there was something I wanted to learn that there was something I was passionate about, you know, learning in and of itself at the Chinese say that wisdom without industry leads to futility, right? You know, there’s no point learning if you’re not actually going to apply, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to be practical to make money or do something like that. But there has to be an inner joy, some kind of internal motivator that makes you want to do it.
Sean Tierney 17:16
Right. Okay, so that sounds like the steps are kind of like a feasibility assessment, like a pre assessment where you go scope out the size, and
Arthur Worsley 17:24
I say, like a first date, right? You know, you don’t like you don’t like before you rock up on your first date, go do I think I’m gonna marry this person, you know? Like, you’re like, I’m gonna go on a date or two and see how I feel about this. And then you then you start thinking later on about like, the next step, you know, but if you go straight in with like, the creepy like, Hey, I’m gonna go you know, you have your first question when you meet up for the data stage. So are you interested in marriage? They’re gonna be like, four. Yeah, so I think people put too much pressure on themselves too early. And the second thing is to actually have something that you really care about. And then there are a whole load of steps in between, like breaking the problem down setting good goals, all that kind of stuff. But those are kind of like meta meta points. And I think, later on, it’s also like there’s a whole load of, we could get into this a whole load of points around, you know, expecting, like, understanding how we learn and how quick and how slow it is understanding that you’re always going to have plateaus and that you’re always going to have setbacks because there’s that, you know, there’s reorganization in your brain is like the concept to break out of the initial models that they have, like learning all of these things. And being prepared for them makes you a much better learner, because then when you have a regression, you don’t panic. You’re like, Oh, this is part of the process.
Sean Tierney 18:30
Yeah. Well, that was something I took from maths episode with you when you talked about the permission to do understanding that, that you’ll have these breakthroughs and fallbacks and that the permission to know when Okay, this is like a learning collapse.
Arthur Worsley 18:42
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s actually and it’s not a learning collapse. It’s an important imagine, it’s like a crab leaving its shell, right. So imagine you have a hermit crab, and it has a shell. That’s what your brain has this concept of how big the problem is. And then you stuffed it with all of this information and suddenly it’s a are this overall model that I had done before. fit anymore because I have these data points which are point near poking out of the shell in weird places. So you have to kind of crawl out of the shell and be vulnerable for a little while. And then your brain reforms a slightly bigger shell, and then you crawl into your head, I kind of all makes sense, you know, in this context, and then the same thing will happen. So you’re always going to have regressions, where you know, you’ll you’ll be learning a language and then suddenly, for like, three weeks, you’ll forget all of the vocab, or you’ll forget all of the genders of the nouns that you’ve learned, because the way that you were remembering before doesn’t make sense in the context of all the new words that you’ve learned, right? And knowing that’s going to happen to you and expecting it is then not going to put you off when you’re you know, tackling a difficult problem. When you go out and have a bad day of skiing. Well, you have a crappy run or whatever it is.
Sean Tierney 19:39
Yeah, it’s just it’s funny, like so I have my degrees in psychology and these little snippets of things like john Piaget is assimilation and accommodation, you know, that idea of you’re kind of constantly ratcheting up your worldview, and assimilating new information into what your current schema is of the world while then but you’re then also accommodating, so you’re kind of adjusting the schema to match. It’s like this constant ratcheting up for sure.
Arthur Worsley 20:02
Yeah. So yeah, yeah, it’s like the hermit crab, as long as you’re growing. Like, it’s gonna be an uncomfortable truth that as long as you grow, your old hermit crab shells will look kind of awkward and weird. And you’ll have to find new ones. You know, I think I learned photography at one point for a few years when I was traveling and some beautiful areas and, and I remember looking back at my photos that I’d been forcing people to look at six months before and being mortified by how awful they were. And that is part of learning as well. Like, you should always be slightly embarrassed by the person you were a year ago or you’re kind of not growing.
Sean Tierney 20:32
Yeah. Like is Reid Hoffman that LinkedIn guy says like, if you’re not completely embarrassed by v1 of your product, you’ve waited too long. too long. Yeah. Yeah, cool. Well, so people that like, do you you have the blog, and I know you’ve done a lot of like in depth book reviews on your site, you have like an A, we’ll link to all this in the show notes. Where do you send people like what is the linear path to starting to learn this stuff like What is the place to start in acquiring metal learning skills is with the problem in front of you is the place to start like, honestly,
Arthur Worsley 21:09
you know, if you have a if, let’s say, let’s say you need to learn a programming language, but actually what you want to become as a programmer, and therefore you need to learn multiple languages later on, I would start with reading a book, like make it you could take any skill and create a little micro version of F what I do with F to M for that skill, right? So I would make a list of all of the best books on learning how to program and I would read the top one or two, or learn the language that I want, then I would read make a list of all the best books on programming, learning how to program and I would read that one and then I would make a list of all the best books on learning, there’s actually one on F two M already and on memory. And I would read a few of those books. And but I would start programming while you’re doing all this and you’ll find that you just cut like huge chunks, your odds of success will just go up just by by solving the problem that’s in front of you and just abstracting away from it.
Sean Tierney 21:56
And so if you’re interested in acquiring the skill of meta learning itself, you’re saying that the best way to do that is to actually pick a problem domain and start with that. Yeah. But then simultaneously you read about the art of learning and then apply it in that scenario learning 100%
Arthur Worsley 22:12
Yeah, if you sit down and go, I just want to get really good at learning, you’ll get like three books and and you’ll be bored to death, right? But if you go like so. So the best way to get really good at learning is to learn many things, you know, learn languages, learn some skills, like go play some sports, or tackle some like interesting philosophical problems, if those are the things you know, think about. And then as you’re doing that, start reading books. So you’ll get a lot. There’s this thing called domain specificity, right? When you want to break out of that as much as possible, which is where you learn lessons in one area and then fail to apply them to others. But you could read a great book on learning guitar, and then read a wonderful book on learning how to paint and I bet you you would learn things about learning guitar from the book on learning how to paint right. So so so like, do many things and you and you start to pick up the general patterns of what’s you know, what is it that makes a good learning experience and you’ll be then able to generalize that to new things that you pick up later on.
Sean Tierney 23:03
Can you talk about like so at that dinner party the other night, we were talking about the idea of the pegboard and throwing bang and Velcro and like just explain what that’s all about. Because there’s a fascinating like, I’ve always, not placed a heavy emphasis on, like rote memorization, because I feel like we live in an age where we can just open up Google and like, I’m far more interested in having an index to things not necessarily like the things themselves stored in memory. But you kind of brought me around to seeing like, oh, there’s actually some value in like, doing spaced repetition and it’s just like filling your brain and like memorizing stuff.
Arthur Worsley 23:35
Yeah, hundred percent, I think. So I think that what you’ve described is very common people go I’ve got Wikipedia now I’ve got Google Translate. I’ve got all these things, you know, I can easily I don’t need to memorize anything anymore. Why learn anything when it’s just at my fingertips? The problem is, is that looking stuff up, you’re only able to feed your like linear conscious mind. You know, it’s kind of like imagine having a conversation with someone where you had to type everything. In this is a language learning example, you had to take everything that you ever wanted to say into Google Translate, right? It would be incredibly frustrating. And the ability to hold complex ideas in that language in your head would be totally impossible, you would not be able to do anything beyond basic logistics, right? But once you learn the language, once it’s in your memory, then you can have creative thoughts using those words, you can even abstract the rules out to new words that you’re learning or understand things that you wouldn’t necessarily understand as by breaking. So so the same is is true with and I kind of learned this with language learning but the same is true of anything so I love learning art history, because I love studying history again, you know, kind of tip is if you love history, studying data is all well and good but what we really relate to objects and people, you know, the things around us that we can touch and handle right so I love learning the history of things, and I love learning the history of people. So if you’re learning art history, you’re getting this microcosm this like glimpse at everything going on. Now I could just learn, you know, by rote like what’s the story around how You know, in the 19th century progressed through like French Impressionism into you know, folk ism and expressionism and post Impressionism. But then all I’m able to do is internalized like a, a single linear argument. And then I can trot that out, you meet people like this all the time, they read one article on something or one book, and then they just repeat that argument, as if that’s like the be all and end all. But if you learn all of the pieces of art, which is something that I’m doing, like if you have, you know, 500 pieces of art in your head, from all across the world across different times, you know, different styles, different artists, and suddenly, instead of having to rely on someone else, you know, making sense of, of all of the data, you can have creative thoughts about the whole thing yourself. And the second thing we talked about, so with the pegboard is like, I kind of see like every little data point that I learned, so if you and I went to an art gallery, and we were having a tour around the art gallery, there are two things would happen. One, I would experience so much more meaning. I actually don’t know if you’ve studied up or not, but
Sean Tierney 25:55
Arthur Worsley 25:56
yeah, if you went let’s say two people, one person who hasn’t studied anything One person who studied a lot of art history, right? The person who studied a lot of art history is going to have a totally different experience than the person who studied no art history at all. The person who studied art history is going to experience on a very shallow level, the person who’s experienced art history is going to see all the influences how it all links together what was going on in different parts of the world at the same time. So one, you’re going to experience this like, enormous wealth of meaning. The second thing is that let’s say you have a guide who’s explaining a whole load of stuff to you, the person with with no learning whatsoever is kind of we talked about this pegboard analogy or Velcro, right? The person with nothing on it, it’s kind of like throwing stuff at the pegboard. And it’s really slippery, like everything’s just gonna fall off and imagine like that, that guide is, you know, weaving a rope of narrative, and they throw it at the board because there’s nothing for that rope to hook on. It’s just gonna fall off. The person who’s under suit who has learned a whole load of stuff is memorize all this stuff is it’s almost like they got pegs nailed into the board. They might be disconnected, but they’re going to be able because they can associate the new information with something they already know. They’re going to retain that information so much faster. So the more You learn the easier it in fact becomes to learn because you have so much more stuff you can relate it to right? You can suddenly, like, create narratives in your own head about how things fit together and you’re gonna remember all of that stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Sean Tierney 27:12
Yeah. So this is also where it seems like most of the greatest leaps in terms of people synthesizing ideas that never belong together, but they suddenly have like this massive like, I don’t know, maybe the biomimicry comes to mind this idea of like studying something science and then like studying biology and seeing how a snail solves a calcification problem, and suddenly being like, oh, Eureka, like, that’s what I learned and like, you know, so, so these disparate, you’re saying, like learning things of decidedly disparate fields, helps you put more pegs on the board. And let’s start to
Arthur Worsley 27:49
Yeah, I think I think there’s actually I think that’s to say there’s two things I mean, everything is an abstraction, right. So if you zoom right in just learning within a topic area, the more you learn in a topic area, the more you’re going to be able to learn about that topic area because you can have more you know, when someone you’re going to acquire stuff faster, because you can just associate it with more things you already know. So so. So memorization is kind of like a snowball, the more it rolls, the more you’re able to pick up as you roll, you build this ability to just pick stuff up really fast. Then there’s the there’s a second point, which is around like, the more that you learn in different areas, the more you’re able to abstract and look at general rules. So imagine, like you’d only ever seen one table in your life and it was red, and it had three legs, right? And I was like, this is a table for the rest of your life. You’re going to associate tables with things that are red and have three legs. But the more tables you see, suddenly you start to go, Oh, actually, that one’s black, and it has five legs. And suddenly what happens is you start to see what like, what is it that that table is and what is it that it isn’t and you started create that general idea around, you know what tables aren’t. So there’s a very prosaic example, but it’s one of the reasons that I love traveling because the more countries you go to, the more you’re like, wow, I thought this was a human truth. And it turns out, it’s just a couple norm in a small part of the world, right? And suddenly it not only tells you what is general, but also what isn’t general. And, and the same is true then for then applying those lessons and thinking creatively across different fields because you start to be able to go, Oh, actually, maybe I can apply some of these general lessons that I’ve learned in, you know, in biophysics to this problem that I’m doing in you know, optimization of logistics transport, and that’s what we do a lot of that at McKinsey, you know, like we take how do we take operations lessons from optimizing a factory and apply it to optimizing a hospital and you cut waiting times to nothing? Right, you know, it’s this ability to learn lessons and then take them across different borders.
Sean Tierney 29:37
Yeah, I’ve called it parallax in the past like to me that one of the benefits of travel is by moving around and getting exposed to different cultures and things that are just you never even thought they were different. Like they just assumed that that’s how it was done. And you see like a weird they do it a completely different way to show it’s, it’s taking the fixed stars of the background and then moving slightly and realizing that some of those are closer than others. Yeah, some of them are moving Against the backdrop.
Arthur Worsley 30:00
That’s a really nice way of looking at it, I think. Yeah.
Sean Tierney 30:03
Cool. All right. Well, there’s three. Actually, I do want to talk about Spaced Repetition for a second because I know that you do some form of that. How do you do and maybe just define what space repetition is for people that are unfamiliar with that term.
Arthur Worsley 30:54
This is space space. Rapid repetition is just if I imagine you have a flashcard and has a piece of information, a question on one side and an answer on the other. It comes from this idea that basically if you, if you show yourself if you test yourself on the flashcard, just at the time when you’re about to forget it, then it’s more likely to stick in your memory. Like at its simplest, it’s just like rote repetition. But actually, if you if you look at it, if you time it, so it gets increasingly long, then you get a bigger and bigger memorization benefit because you create surprise, and it sort of really triggers the brains go, Oh, this is something I need to remember. So spaced repetition, you do that with one, you know, one flashcard or you Spaced Repetition systems enable you to do that with lots and lots of information. So they would schedule instead of having you know, let’s say it’s a vocab word instead of having one vocab word and and you would see it okay, if I get it right, I see it tomorrow. And if I get that right, I see it in three days. And if I get that right, I see it in 10 days, and if I get it wrong, I see it you know, it repeats the process but changes the the latency of the reviews. It enables you to do it with thousands of flashcards, so I think I have like 60 or 70,000 flashcards in my system now across a whole load of different topics and it tests me on them at random and I learn new ones. All the time and
Sean Tierney 32:00
how much time are you allocating to that practice? Like daily? Are we talking like in your morning routine? or What is this? What are we talking? It’s really
Arthur Worsley 32:07
up to like it. So my right now Personally, I spent an hour every single morning reviewing and learning new flashcards because it’s it covers a whole lot of areas I mentioned. So I’m studying Indonesian using it, but I’m also learning Mandarin and German and studying art history and politics and world history and quantum physics and like all these random things that I’m interested, just I’m learning geology at the moment, I’m learning about igneous intrusive, an extra piece of rocks, right? Like, it’s like, it’s weird stuff, but it’s what I find it fascinating. But you can do it in 10 minutes a day, or you can spend at one point I was spending three hours a day on it, right? So you just have to make sure that, you know, it’s it creates a workload and you have to make sure that you’re prepared to work that load of reviews down.
Sean Tierney 32:47
And what is the tool that you’re using to do that?
Arthur Worsley 32:49
I use Anki because it’s free, and it’s incredibly powerful. It has a whole load of add ons. I’m pretty sure it’s open source. And if you’re going to download it in the app store, you have to be careful. There’s a couple of different variants You want the blue one, the Anki SRS so that you have to pay for the app because that funds the development of the app, but the stuff on the desktop is totally free. And it’s just a wonderful tool. Cool.
Sean Tierney 33:10
Yeah, I have it on my phone, but it’s an orange one. So I think maybe I got the wrong.
Arthur Worsley 33:14
No, it’s not the right. The orange one is also good, but it’s not as powerful. So that so for example, the thing that I love about the Anki SRS, the blue one, and we can link to it in the in the show notes, is I’ve also installed an add on for something called incremental reading, which is something we talked a little bit about last time, so that I can actually read documents that say, I want to study a topic like philosophy, Greek philosophy, right? So what I would do is I would take the Wikipedia article for Greek philosophy and I would also take skepticism, epicureanism, epicureanism, stoicism, you know, cynicism, and instead of reading the whole Greek philosophy article, I would read the first one or two paragraphs, then I would switch to the first one or two paragraphs of cynicism and epicureanism. And so what I would do is it’d be like peeling an onion, like I peel all of the articles of narrative. Time. And what you’re doing is because most articles move from very simple to very complex, what you can do is read a whole load of articles simultaneously, but get a broader understanding of the topic and progressing complexity throughout the articles as you go. So that’s the kind of thing you can do with the Anki SRS, you can you can kind of upgrade it to, you know, however you want to use it.
Sean Tierney 34:17
Yeah, that’s fascinating. And we will link to everything we’re mentioning. It’ll be in the show notes if you guys want to download that. So yeah, so the the role of memorization I think, like I think in terms of a computer, I know we were talking about this analogy the other night, like I have tried to emphasize like CPU and extensibility of like things that I can add on and like tuning applications like that’s the level I think about but you are bringing me around to see the value of just like pure memorization in terms of being the fodder for like this pegboard.
Arthur Worsley 34:49
I think you have to I think there’s there’s also like a balanced medium. I don’t think there are some people who think you should memorize everything, but I don’t go that far. Like I don’t memorize all the phone numbers in my contacts because I know Never gonna have to think creatively about my contacts, phone numbers, you know, so there’s stuff that I do like to keep it just in a filing system because they’re things that I’m going to process linearly. And so it makes sense. But anything that I want to think creatively about anything that I want to understand, rather than simply know, those are the things that I want to learn and memorize, like a language, right? Like, you know, you could know what words mean. But if you want to understand how the language works, and create an app, then you need to memorize the vocab.
Sean Tierney 35:26
How what defines to you good instruction, like because what if the people who preceded you, you go you try to find like the top three books on a subject, and those people just happen to have all kind of got hive mind or whatever, you know, like they got the echo chamber and they all kind of wrote the same thing, doesn’t it kind of, depending on others interpretations of a subject, it’s not reasoning from first principles and like actually getting down to it like a true understanding of it. Like, how
Arthur Worsley 35:54
do you deal with that for sure, I mean, I think again, it all it all comes down to like abstraction depending on the level at which you’re trying to solve a problem, right? I need to ride my motorbike every day to get from A to B, I do not need to become an engineer that learns how motorbikes work. And I also don’t need to know how to machine fabricate the parts that the engineers use to make the motorbike that I then ride, right? So I think you have to, you have to understand at what level you want to interact with a problem like, do I want to be able to speak a language conversation with a guy on the street? Or do I want to be able to write an analytical paper on the like the the origin of this language and its influences on other languages around the world. And then you know, the deeper you want to get them the more back towards first principles you have to go. But most problems if you want to use them practically you don’t have to go quite as deep as that.
Sean Tierney 36:42
How are you deciding what you learn next? Do you have goals that dictate that or what’s your your method for that decision making?
Arthur Worsley 36:49
So I used to have and I kind of still do have a system of you know, what is it that I mentioned? So I have broken down you know, for example, that there are different their skills and knowledge right? So when I If I was working out, okay, I want to have a general level or arts and liberal arts education, I actually want to have like a general education on every major academic discipline, I want to understand the top layer of it. You know, I love that in school that we all learn, like biology that we’ll never use again. But actually, it’s fascinating when you walk around, and you kind of understand how flowers work and insects and but you know, so So I took the, the index out of Wikipedia, and I also took the Dewey Decimal System, which is the system that libraries used to index books. And I went through that and I created again, I broke the problem down into like, here are the like, 30 or 40 topics that I’d like to learn about. So step one was gather the data and break the problem down. And then I kind of just, you know, you either have a problem that’s really pressing that you want to solve, or you just go for what excites you and interests you, you know, there’s that, you know, that great quote, you know, live like, you’ll die tomorrow and learn like you’ll live forever, right? So if you’re going to live forever, you’d probably start with either the things that are going to make your world better, all the things that you just friggin love, you know, and those are the two main criteria that I Picking up on
Sean Tierney 38:00
what was if you’re able to talk about it, what was the most interesting problem that you tackled at McKinsey when you’re there? I don’t
Arthur Worsley 38:08
know what I can and can’t. But I think the so I love, I love date, I can talk about the kind of problems. So I’m a huge data monkey, not in a, like, I don’t have a dashboard, where I record, I do record, you know, at least five metrics at every point. It’s part of the attraction planner, which is one of the productivity planner, which I give to my clients and I use every single day, you know, there’s space there to record five metrics. But I think that there’s a huge universe, we’re moving on to AI and all these things in a business saying, there’s so much I’m using, in my experience, there’s a huge amount of opportunity, just teaching 99% of people how to use Excel, like how to analyze data, how to like learn lessons from it, and what I loved where the problems were, I would work with a senior client team, these guys who was you know, they know their business and they’re incredibly good at their business. They, they’ve obviously done incredibly well, and you would show them this cut of data that told them something about their world that they never knew. And they were their eyes would get all big and they’d be like, Oh my god, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. And what you were enabling was them to make incredibly powerful decisions by giving them the data they need. And that kind of translates to what I do with. So the reason that traction, which is the productivity system that I teach, the reason I called it traction is because people are really, really smart. But what people are often missing is a the ability to break down a problem all the time, not even the ability, people just don’t have time to think about this, right? That’s why you hire someone else to do, but it’s also the data to make good decisions off, right? If you said one of my favorite productivity tips, if there’s only one thing that anyone ever does, it’s track your time over the day, not with an app where you track every single second you know, just get a piece of paper write the hours from like, whenever you wake up to whenever you go to sleep and in half hour increments or like 15 whenever you finish a task, write it down, because suddenly you’re gonna see I spent 35 minutes a day on the toilet watching YouTube. Like that wasn’t productive or actually, you know, when I when I first met Aaron She thought she was pretty productive. She started tracking her time she was she was only spending an hour a day on the things that actually move the needle. You know. And suddenly, by seeing that data, she instantly made changes in her life to totally transform the way that she thinks and the way that she works and what she works on. So anything at McKinsey that involved sharing data in a way that inspired people and gave people the ability to make better decisions was always a really powerful experience.
Sean Tierney 40:25
Awesome. There’s a it makes me think of a book that I just recently read over the holidays. The one thing which I noticed was in your slides, but Gary Keller guy who did Keller Williams, to me of the books I think I’ve read in the last year that’s up there with in terms of being just super simple, yet profound, is this notion of almost like fractal at 20 of continuously deconstructing things and then asking that question, what is the one thing I can do next, that will make all these other challenges either easier or irrelevant? and continuously asking that question?
Arthur Worsley 40:58
I do. I do love I do. Idea is essential and super, super important. But I think one of the things that I miss is this idea, this essential component of exploration and play, right? When you’re starting entrepreneur, you have to try a whole, like, if I’m like, hey, you’ve just started your business, what’s the one most important thing you should be working on people? Like, I literally have no idea, hey, how can I pick my one thing, and to specialize too early is actually a bad thing. Because you’re going to pick the wrong one thing, right? So step one, this is why like, when I tell people go, don’t stress about stuff, go out and just try it. Like if you’re an entrepreneur, just, you know, take two years to try learning a whole load of different stuff, because that’s the only way like, only by gathering the data, you then going to be able to be like, Oh, I know, this is my one thing and make a good decision of it.
Sean Tierney 41:40
Right? It’s like, I don’t know if it’s the right term, but like divergent and convergent, you’re almost like it like expand out, blow it out and then converge like otherwise you end up with that local maxima, like you end up on the small hill instead of the big mountain. 100%. Yeah. Cool. So there was three things you mentioned before the interview, read more books. Learn how to extract faster and get, like more productivity out of it. Can you just like kind of briefly touch on each of those and like what those components are?
Arthur Worsley 42:08
Yeah, sure. So I’ll just super recap cuz I think we talked a little bit about it before, but the the like so the three things that I love doing are reading books, learning new stuff, and putting that stuff to use in a way that that helps me be a better person for the people around me and also solve the problems which I care about and which I find meaningful. So the first one was around reading more, I was like, Okay, well, you know, if I only have time to read 1000 books in life, I want to read the thousand best books. So how do I find the best books? And how do I make sure you know, on the different topics that I’m interested in? And then I was like, okay, I’ve found at the start of my journey, there is reading a whole load of books, but maybe retaining one important point from each book, you know, or two important points. I felt like a lot of it was slipping through. So I was like, how can I? How can I retain this stuff? And that’s why I started writing books on reason. I think Book Summaries are a great thing to read. If you’re deciding what you Want to read. So to get an overview of a book, and a great way to recap some of the lessons that you’ve already got from a book, anyone who thinks that reading Book Summaries is an alternative to reading a book is greatly mistaken. blankest is not an alternative to reading books. But it is a great way to do one of those two other things. If you want to get really good at books, read the book and write a summary. And even better teach that summary in a way that you know, someone else is going to learn from it. So every book summary I write, I kind of picture my sister, I’m like, how would I teach these ideas in a way that she would understand or find interesting, and that helps me teaching those ideas helps me to internalize them much, much faster than if I just read those books. You know, if I read four times as many books, I wouldn’t learn as much as I do from reading one writing one summary, right? And then there was the learning faster section which kind of comes out of that it’s linked to it, but it’s also broader. So it’s all of the other random skills and things that I’m interested in that I’ve learned. And then it’s the idea of, okay, you know, you’ve you’ve read a whole load of books. You’ve learned a whole load of stuff like how do you actually put that to work in a way that’s meaningful and productive. So within productive I think of it. In three horizons, there’s competence, which is what most people think of is productivity, which is task and time management, like how do I get stuff done, right? The next thing that happens is people get very, they often they get good at tasks and time management, they’re running a good business, you know, they, I have clients who, who are, you know, running, you know, businesses turning over 100 million dollars a year, but they’re frustrated because they can’t manage their own lives, you know, they’re like, I don’t have time to be home with my kids, or spend time with my wife or go to the gym or read books. So that’s the next the second horizon after competence is balanced. It’s like how do I take what I’ve learned, usually and nailed in business and career and how I apply that across all of my life so that I actually feel great about everything that’s going on in my life. And then what happens is most people reach this like eight out of 10 across the different areas, and they’re like, okay, I kind of nailed all of the basic problems, like why am I here? Like, what am I here to do? And what am I going on? To do so those are the, the three areas of the productive side says competence, balance and meaning and I help people through those things. So the site normally helps people to To find great books to learn from the Book Summaries to learn about meta learning and learning in general, in any you know, I’ve got a language learning guide up there. From the three years I spent learning languages. And then the most of my effort right now is going on the productivity thing, because I think that’s where I can help people the most.
Sean Tierney 45:14
Cool, cool, cool, cool. Yeah. And you’ve got some great just downloadable, free content, like I started going through your stuff and you sent, you know, some 25 thing right off the bat. Yeah, super valuable.
Arthur Worsley 45:26
I’m much better at breaking down problems than I am selling solutions. So I’m working. I’m working like I that’s the problem that I’m not the problem. That’s the thing I’m working on right now is like, how do I, because selling isn’t just about making enough money to pay my team. It’s about how do you get people to commit to taking the next step? And putting lots of interesting information out there. I was finding a lot of people reading it, but not enough people taking action. So that’s the thing I’m really passionate about is how can I get people to really subscribe to actually like, take action on this stuff that they’re learning and make it make a difference? Yeah, there’s a lot of free stuff out there. I enjoy
Sean Tierney 46:01
it. Okay, so here’s a question on the topic of education. If you are in a position like we’re in Indonesia right now, if you were the Minister of Education for Indonesia, what could you do that would put Indonesian youth, you know, way ahead of everyone else? Like what what changes structurally would you make to the system?
Arthur Worsley 46:20
I’m not I’m not I’m an expert on learning, but I’m not an expert on teaching, and therefore I would be horribly unqualified to weigh in with my my amateur opinion on the topic. I do think that my experiences at school the subjects which I loved and I enjoyed, and I’m still pursuing To this day, were the ones where I had fun and my teachers made them exciting and interesting to me. How do you how do you I that’s an easy thing to say we should make all subjects exciting and interesting. When you’re actually trying to do that with you know, millions of teachers and manage everything. It’s a it’s everything, I think. I think the internet is a wonderful, a wonderful thing. I wish there was a way To encourage people to spend more time enjoying all of the free content there is online, you can learn anything online these days and less time on Netflix and you know, and playing computer games and things like that. But
Sean Tierney 47:12
for sure, I will say I got sucked down the rabbit hole with the Khan Academy. So Khan is the guy who like just famous hedge fund guy just started recording videos, and I guess Bill Gates and Melinda Gates Foundation, they, they saw what he was doing and like just made it a whole thing. But like, this guy’s literally just trying to teach every single subject and make all of the greatest teachings free, and does an amazing job. Like he’s wonderful. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Easy to go down that rabbit hole.
Arthur Worsley 47:37
Yeah, so I mean, that’s the thing we talked about earlier, though, where, you know, I think another thing we can all do is tie those problems back to real world problems. I think when we’re at school, so much of what we learn can feel, you know, abstract, you know, we learn a language but not because we ever have any interest in going to that country or we learn math, but never in a way that actually is interesting or relevant. When you get older you suddenly realize everything’s connected. You know, like math is important to biology. And whatever you’re interested in, you can find a way to tie every other subject that ever existed back to what you’re interested in. And doing more of that like working out what it is that a child loves, and then explaining the subject to them in a way that appeals to the home. Maybe it’s tennis, like if that if that kid loves tennis, tightened Thai history, biology, physics can tie everything back to tennis, right, and that kid will love every second of it, and change it. I think there are some schools that are trying to do more of that. But yeah, having a practical problem is again, it comes down to that’s a really strong motivator.
Sean Tierney 48:35
Nice, random aside. The other day in the sauna here there’s a mo spa, and we ended up sitting next to this movie star I have to look up what his name because I don’t remember it but his link to his IMDb and he’s talking about like the Green School in Bali and like this whole other method of education that they have here. It’s not the Waldorf system, but it’s something kind of similar to it, which is very just, you know,
Arthur Worsley 48:56
there’s a Montessori school here, which may be the one he was talking about. And there’s also they’ll go Cisco does things in a different way as well.
Sean Tierney 49:01
Yeah, yeah. But I mean, it just seems like these alternate, like the system we have now is producing like, they were it was a legacy system. It was designed to produce factory workers. And at this point, it’s like, we’re going to be faced with some pretty epic problems in our lifetimes. And we’re going to need people who are like, just creative and like, find the genius of these children and nurture that and like, have weird, like, not even what we would consider normal subjects. But you know what I mean, like develop that child who happens to be fascinated with tennis, and if that’s his thing, or her thing, then go in there and like, build that person up because it’s only through developing them almost like they’re an athlete in their their interest that we’re going to have the next Einsteins necessary to solve these societal everything that kid
Arthur Worsley 49:49
learns about tennis, if they take they maybe they get to, like 30 and they’re like, Oh, I don’t like tennis anymore. I’m actually interested in cars, but all of that physics and mechanics are gonna have learned it’s applicable. You know, I think it’s, it’s You know, we live in a world where you can cost it’s all about framing, right? Like how do you frame what people are learning, so that it’s useful to a problem they’re trying to solve Aaron Aaron’s my my girlfriend, she’s an amazing entrepreneur, she also did a podcast with Matt. And it’s, it’s a, she’s done incredible things. But she was struggling with this idea of hiring a general manager, which is something she’s really wanted to do for a long time. And she thought the whole thing was like a chore. And what Aaron really believes in is empowering female entrepreneurs to live a life where they can have financial freedom and also not feel like they have to give up their family and that they can, you know, actually still be women at the same time as being great at business. And I was like, hey, well, what if you just look at that problem, instead of seeing that as a, like a problem that you need to solve? Why not see it as like, this is an important thing that I need to learn so that I can help other women who are going to be in my position data in order to do it. And so she was like, wow, that like it’s just a total. It’s a total reframe, Islander, another great one, just for you. I’m summarizing atomic habits at the moment, and just Look, flicking through the index. This is one of my things I do to read books faster. And there’s this idea of like reframing everything from an I have to to an I get to, you know, I don’t have to hire a general manager, you know, that’s a negative way, I get to hire a general manager so that I can help other people with this problem and so that I can enjoy my life. And the moment you reframe anything, whether it’s a learning problem or a productivity problem in that way, that solves a problem that you care about, suddenly, it feels like a totally different kettle of fish.
Sean Tierney 51:28
That’s awesome. Cool. Well, I think this is probably actually want to talk about the traction planner, before we wrap up, can you what is the structure of that? How does it work? Why does it work? Like what is the action plan?
Arthur Worsley 51:38
So the action plan is just it’s a productivity planner, habit tracker, it’s really a daily planner, habit tracker, and it has daily reflection pages in it. I use it every day. It lets me plan my day. It lets me track my time. It lets me set my important things. I guess it’s the pointy end of a bigger stick. It is usable on its own. So the whole thing starts with a winner. With the eight areas from traction, and what it does is it forces you, you rate your satisfaction each of those areas, and whichever one scores the lowest, you not only have to make that your so you can track you track habits, character traits and metrics. So a habit is a yes or no thing a character trait is some kind of trait that you want to develop. A metric is anything you can measure or count, right. And the first habit trait or metric that you track has to link to the lowest scoring area on your wheel of life. And then on your you set weekly goals, realistic weekly goals in each area of life. But your daily goal, the number one thing that you do every day has to relate to that lowest area. And what that does is the number one daily priority helps over 30 because you focus on one area for 28 days that boost that up and have focus so because you know you’re taking affirmative action every single day to improve that one area of life. And then building the habit tracking the habits. The character traits in the metrics helps systematize ritualized behaviors that are then going to help to sustain that movement from like a four out of 10 you know, maybe gets to a six or a seven out of 10. And then the new habit is going to help sustain that when you switch to the other area of life. So maybe you switch from health and vitality, you’re like, Hey, I actually I did something everyday towards it, I feel great about it. And I built a running habit. So I feel good that it’s gonna stay at a seven out of 10 for a while, then you switch to maybe growth and learning it might be Hey, like, I’m gonna read up, you know, 10 pages of a book every day, whatever it is. So that’s the it’s not only the pointy end in terms of like, how do I get stuff done every day, but it leads into this question of both balance and also doing the right thing.
Sean Tierney 53:28
So I’ve heard just, I guess, a devil’s advocate position, I’ve heard this idea that you shouldn’t focus so much on your weaknesses that you should focus on develop, like, rather than compensating for where you’re knowingly weak, you should instead focus on your strong suit and boosting that more, but it sounds like you’re smoothing over the gap.
Arthur Worsley 53:46
So I think this is a great a great example of like, not good domain specificity or domain generalization like that is 100% true for your career or you know, in within a The domain, right? If you are excellent analytics, but you’re horrible people present Yes, you can try and improve that. But actually, you should just probably focus on the opportunities and strengths, that being a wonderful analytical person brings you and use that as your spike to then frame everything else that you’re doing. Instead of seeing then, like, becoming very charismatic, and something you must do you can see it as like, how can I become more charismatic so that I can focus even more on being more analytical? Like how can I get rid of the things that are holding me back so that I can work on this spike? in life? That doesn’t work? Right. You can’t just be like, I’m going to be really good at health and vitality for the rest of my life. And who cares about friends and love and partnership and all of those other things? Like we as human beings need all of those things. You can’t just be like, I’m going to be really good at meditating and terrible at making money because it will be like you just can’t have a holistic, well balanced life like that. So, so yes, doubling down on strengths is a really good thing to do and using, not seeing weaknesses as weaknesses but as things that you can work on that are holding back your Strength is a really powerful thing to do within an area. But when you’re looking at life in general, there are no you can’t just focus on one area and just focus on strength, you have to work on everything because whatever your weakest areas will hold everything else back and will basically be like blowing up in the background and effectively dragging you down. So
Sean Tierney 55:17
cool. Awesome. Well, I think this is probably a good time to break into the last part of the interview. So this is rapid fire tactical thing we do. It’s called the breakdown. Are you ready for the breakdown?
Arthur Worsley 55:27
I’m ready, let’s break down the write down,
Sean Tierney 55:28
break down, baby. All right. What is one book that has profoundly affected you? Of all the books you’ve read it and you know, you’ve read a lot.
Arthur Worsley 55:39
I going super matter. I could pick I think I could pick hundreds of books. But the one which I always wish that I’d been given earlier was how to read a book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren like that says matter as you get on reading, you know, I can’t believe that so many of us go through life thinking that we can read books, actually, there’s like to read a book effectively and read it. And this isn’t about increasing, you know, decreasing decades and increasing, you know, increasing words per minute. This is like how do you internalize and get on the same level as an author? How do you have a conversation with an author so that you can almost like absorb their mind through the book and do that in a way that’s also not going to mean you study the same but for, you know, 30 weeks so, so how to read a book is a wonderful book, if you love reading, and even if you don’t, it’ll change your life.
Sean Tierney 56:22
Cool. corollary question to this speed reading your thoughts on speed reading?
Arthur Worsley 56:26
I think, I think
I think I think effective reading it is possible to read faster than most people read, but the answer is not just to see how high you can get your words per minute. That’s like, I mean, I have some some analogies, which I probably can’t bring out here. But like, you know, that’s like saying that, you know, eating a meal, like the efficiency of eating a meal or cooking a meal is like how many mouthfuls you can get in your mouth at a quick period of time. It doesn’t actually it’s not, it’s not a right way to think about it. What you can do is you can break reading down so you can just read smarter. So you can make you know, you build this by reviewing the whole book in advance. And by working out what question is trying to answer and what questions you have and, and how the overall framework works and what the overall conclusions are, what you can do is then read through the book very fast, because you’re putting flesh on the bones rather than trying to discover everything as you go. It’s kind of like an a book, an internal book version of incremental reading, where instead of trying to get through the whole onion in one go, you peel it off layer by layer. And that means you can actually get to extract the most important parts of the book in a very, very short period of time. And so from a words per minute point of view, I would never read a nonfiction book from page one to the end of the book. But if you worked out how long it took me to extract the most important lesson from a white fiction, but my word per minute would be very, very high. So it’s one of those things where people want the effect and so they’ve gone Okay, so I need to read books fast. So what I’m going to do is just read read words quickly. That’s a horrible way to read books. But there are ways to read faster. I just the idea of speed reading is kind of like it’s kind of Data idea, I don’t really like it.
Sean Tierney 58:02
I thought there was an idea from a guy navall Robin Khan that I follow. I really like him. He gave permission to just stop reading, like you’re reading a book and you’re not getting anything out of it. For some reason, I think through schooling or whatever, we’ve all developed this like obligation, like, we have to finish a book that we started. And he’s saying no license to just give up on and go read something better. 100%. So
Arthur Worsley 58:23
that’s like, that’s stepping back even one further. So speed reading, if you if you’re like, how can I read more, so I have a post on how to read more as like 27 steps that you know, attack all the different things that often hold people back. But like, Aaron, and I always have three or four books on the go. I always have like, at least two fiction books going at least two nonfiction books going because two things and I’m very happy to put books down and replace them with a new one. The most important thing is to be reading all the time. Right? And so if you’re not excited by the book that you’re reading, as long as it’s not you’re giving up because, you know, because it’s too hard, you know, or you know, something like But as long as you’re excited, and you’re reading all the time, and as long as you as long as you keep replacing the books that you give up with good books, you’re going to get to a huge amount of incredibly powerful information. So having multiple books on the Go at once, which is something we’re not taught to do, and also being prepared to walk away from them. Those are both incredibly powerful ways to read more. Awesome.
Sean Tierney 59:17
All right, what about what is one person you would love to have dinner with?
Arthur Worsley 59:21
Ah, and then I’d mass interview I said, it was my, my dad. You know, I think the older you get, the more you realize that you’re the You are the sum of all of the incredible people who sacrifice their lives to make you who you are all the amazing teachers who changed the way that I saw the world or the friends who who are part of my journey and allow me to be part of that journey. And I think no one is born true of that than our parents and I never really had the chance to get to know my dad, I would love to sit down with him or my granddad or my great granddad and really just understand, like, you know, where was it that I came from and why I think the way I do and and how I am everything else You know, people go, I wish I could have dinner with, you know, the Dalai Lama or Elon Musk, or we talked about this just before the podcast. If you wanted to get the most out of an hour spent with that person, don’t have dinner with them, read the book, read the book. They spent six months to a year, distilling the most important lessons they could possibly teach you into a book, right and writing it and editing it and cutting it down and getting rid of all of the like arms and ahhs and you know, getting to know you, you know, if you want to get to know Stephen Covey read his book, if you want to get to know David Allen, read his book, read someone’s book, even if they’re a fiction writer, if you if you want to work with it, read their literature, right? That’s going to tell you who that person is, you know, they poured their souls into those books. That’s the best way to spend an hour with them, you know,
Sean Tierney 1:00:47
read the book, then have dinner with a really interesting dinner. Cool, what is one tool or hack that you use to save time, money or headaches? Uh, wow.
Arthur Worsley 1:01:01
That is a tough one. Because that was not because there’s just so many, right? I’m just trying to think of like, what’s the one that I would recommend? I mean, books are like a small investment upfront, but a big payoff. I think my traction planner, I, it’s been a total game changer for me. So again, like I created it, as part of my process and my journey for learning how to how to optimize my time and my learning and, and anyone listening to this, who thinks productivity is about just doing more and more, that’s not true. One of the things I love about productivity is that it gives you permission to just totally down tools and be like, hey, this evening, I am actually going to go and have dinner with this wonderful person I just met because I’m making a choice. I know what I’ve got on my plate, and I can walk away from it instead of just like worrying or through dinner. And so that’s why I think a productivity tool is is so valuable. The tool that gets you gives you clarity and makes you feel peaceful about everything that you’re working on and what you’re going to work on tomorrow and how you’re doing and the different and that you’re working on what’s important, because then you can actually When I’m sitting down for dinner with my friends with Aaron, I can be fully present rather than worrying about that stuff.
Sean Tierney 1:02:05
Yeah. Now, I took that from David Allen’s book, getting things done about the trusted system. And if it is truly trusted, then once you’ve done the brain dump and you’ve gotten everything into it, it’s like you can sleep easy. There are no more open loops running at that point, because you know, that it’s all captured.
Arthur Worsley 1:02:19
Yeah, I think so I think where I GTD was, as one of my top picks on productivity of all time, along with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. But But I think where he misses that is that it’s not just about brain dumping and feeling comfortable. You also have to feel comfortable that you’re working on the right stuff, right. And that’s where GTD kinda he talks a little bit about it at the end, where he talks about the different horizons, but that’s where I think that’s what I missed from it. And that’s why I created traction was not just the idea that Okay, I’ve got everything that I must, could or should do in a system that I trust, but also that those are the right things that I’m working on stuff that’s important,
Sean Tierney 1:02:54
right. So, to me, that’s kind of what the Gary Keller book provided that GTT was missing. So it’s almost like ggd is about doing things right and Gary Keller one thing is about doing the right things
Arthur Worsley 1:03:05
true everywhere. So So what Gary Keller is great on the one thing he’s great on what? Right? Yeah. So he’s great on how you need to pick the one thing, but what he doesn’t do is he doesn’t provide a system a framework for what, like, how do you actually like break down? Okay, well, you know, these are the again like, these are the eight areas of life that I think like what’s the one area of life I need to work on? And within that area, what’s the within there? Like, what are the eight things that I need to work on within that area? Like what’s the one most important one there? So again, Gary Keller, like the idea of simplifying down to one thing is super powerful, but you still also need the framework for like, what am I simplifying from like, what I’m picking the one thing from what
Sean Tierney 1:03:43
does your does faster to master help you figure that out? Or that so
Arthur Worsley 1:03:47
again, that’s that’s exactly the problem that I try to solve for myself. And it’s like, there’s no, no one could ever claim that one system is perfect, but I’ve been using it for years and it it fills me with an incredible sense of peace and clarity. Admission emotive. That’s very there’s a difference between being people always go are you you know, you live abroad you do all these things you must be happy all the time this I’m sure everyone who’s listening to this is familiar with that. And you’re like, you know, your Sunday’s you woke up and you’re sad, right? You know, but I think what’s changed is that I There’s not a day that I don’t wake up and I don’t feel fulfilled. I’m like, Yes, it’s gonna be a tough day. Yes, I slept badly last night. No, I probably shouldn’t have had that fifth beer. But I’m, like, really excited by what I’m working on. And there’s nothing that I’m doing today. That isn’t something that I would choose to be doing if I had that choice, right. So So being able to find that is something that’s very powerful.
Sean Tierney 1:04:34
Very cool on the topic of sleep. I’m glad you actually just brought that up. So I struggle with sleep. I literally like I don’t know if you have this, but I have just like a hyperactive mind where it doesn’t end up shutting off at the end of the day. I don’t know if you have any tricks to wind it down, or I did.
Arthur Worsley 1:04:50
I have two tricks. So the first guy David Allen doesn’t recommend doing this. But I always recommend one of my core processes I recommend to clients is doing an end of workshop down which is like A mini review where you get everything out of your head where you kind of review it, you know, you put it all down on paper, you update your plans, and it gives you permission to just switch off at the end of the day, you’re like, I’m done, everything that I was working on, I’ve got like a next action for it, I feel good about it. And when you do that, you’ll instantly be able to step back and relax a little bit. The second thing is just not to work too late. Like we’re always so we’re always in ideally in bed an hour before we go to sleep. And we I read nonfiction. Sorry, I read fiction, I definitely don’t read nonfiction. You know, or we’re chilling out or whatever it is. But, you know, setting sleep up for success is so, so important. So making sure that you’re not on your foot, you know, it’s so easy to you know, jump on YouTube or just browse a new site, you know, what’s the latest on Corona virus, blah, blah, blah. And then before you know it, you’ve been on your phone for 15 minutes before sleeping and your brain is like going going going right? So
Sean Tierney 1:05:51
yeah, for sure. I read a book recently called why we sleep Walker and what an eye opener like just, it made me realize just how incredibly important It is and how incredibly deficient I am in it. And also using the aura ring. So I’ve been tracking my sleep and listen, I don’t even want to I don’t want to tell you what it looks like. Cool, but what is moving on what is one piece of music that speaks to you lately, or a musical artist?
Arthur Worsley 1:06:18
So I’m, I don’t listen to music ever. And it’s a really weird it’s a really weird thing not because I don’t love music, I love music, but it’s just not a part of my day. And so if I occasionally I get emails from people, especially so there’s the outer journey of productivity, which is how do I get more stuff done? How do I get more balanced? How do I find more meaning? And then there’s the inner journey, right? Which is like how do I realize that no matter how much I get done, and how much balance and meaning I have, that where I am, Wherever I am, that’s where I am right and that I can perfect just as I am now, and I get a lot of people who email me on that and I always send them to Baz lemons. sunscreen song, I don’t know if you know, it’s like yeah, I did it. For me, like whenever I’m feeling like internally, it just gives me perspective. It’s like, you know, maybe you’re married, maybe you won’t maybe you’ll, you know, Die Young, maybe you won’t maybe. And he’s just so full of great advice that just puts everything in perspective. He’s like, enjoy your body while you’re Yeah. And it’s just put to this really great beat and it’s the kind of you can listen to it. It just always resets me and makes me happy and smile. So that’s a good one.
Sean Tierney 1:07:19
I will link to that. I do love that someone showed me that and there was another one like it. I’ll find them I’ll dig them up. But that’s a wonderful piece of me. That’s awesome. Oh, it was a Steve Jobs one. Oh, yeah, it was the Steve Jobs speech set to this music and it just perfectly melded. Really cool. Awesome. All right. What about what is what what important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Arthur Worsley 1:07:43
So as you You gave me time to prep on this.
Sean Tierney 1:07:45
You’re the first guest I’ve never told anybody.
Arthur Worsley 1:07:51
I didn’t really do any prep, but I just I was kind of like mulling over in my head. I think I wrote I wrote
an email out to my main This couple of months ago which really one I got the most responses to out of any email and it was this idea that whatever problem you’re facing right now, the real problem you’re facing is a productivity problem right the people People often go I you know, I can’t get my business working right I can’t like I can’t get it it’s it’s comes down to the one thing you’re just not focusing on the right thing you’re not focused on the one thing and maybe it’s that you don’t have a system like maybe the whole business itself is the wrong thing. So trying to focus on the one thing in the wrong thing is the wrong thing to focus on. Right? So whether it’s like your so a lot of people are struggling with the how they just can’t sit down and be disciplined, they can’t you know, all it takes to be successful is to sit down every single day and put in the work right if you show up every day if you start you know wherever you are with whatever you have, you know and you’ll find better tools as you go along right but that’s the how component like how do you get stuff done? And then there’s the the wat which is like what’s the right thing to do? You know, am I even I’m even climbing the right ladder my working on the right problem, am I solving an obstacle that doesn’t need to be solved, right, you know, so that’s the what? And then there’s the why, like, why are you even doing all of this stuff in the first place? What is it that motivates and excites you? We talked about the importance of excitement in learning and, and productivity. And so most people, they’ll go on, Oh, you don’t understand I don’t have a productivity problem. I have this problem. I’m like, how many hours a week you’re actually working on that problem? And they’re like, ah, like, 30 minutes a week. I’m like, well, there’s your problem, right? It The problem is not the problem. The problem is the way that you’re approaching the problem. So it’s, again, it’s stepping back on that meta thing. And at the center of everything life is all about, not about not about how can you be as productive as possible, but it’s like how can you go through life in a way that helps you be a great person, help the people around you and be constructive to society, solve your problems, solve other people’s problems, you know, and and discover your independence and move through the interdependence. And those are all productivity problems, right? in a in a broader sense of the meaning than the typical task and time management. It’s all like, like, how do you live a good life? Right? That’s the question that all philosophers have been trying to work on. So helping People understand that suddenly they’re like, wow, if I step back and solve this meta problem, then maybe I don’t even have to solve that problem that I was struggling with, you know, maybe I can solve it a different way. Maybe Actually, it’s that I, I know that it is the right problem, but I’m just not solving it properly, or I’m not sitting down and tackling it. So that’s the one truth, I think, is that productivity is kind of at the center of everything and productivity in the way that I define it. Not in a, you know, tasking Time management is the most rudimentary at an office.
Sean Tierney 1:10:27
Yeah, well, I think what’s interesting is your definition incorporates that notion of are we working on the right problem to start with? Because whereas I think, usually productivity, I’m saying, Well, no, it’s it’s, it’s actually not a productivity issue. It’s a matter of like, are you even doing the right thing? Yeah. But your definition of it encompasses that.
Arthur Worsley 1:10:44
Yeah. And are you doing it for the right reason? Yeah. Right. And and that leads into the inner journey. So a lot of people are solving problems, because they don’t like themselves, right, because they don’t feel happy with who they are. A lot of people. I’m sure a lot of people in here are into self improvement. I was 100 Present like this, like we try and improve because we’re like, I need to be better. You know, and that’s all in the language I need to be better. Right? You know, and that comes from like that what you’re trying to do craving? Yes. And it’s an internal, it’s an internal thing that you’re never going to satisfy. And also, it’s like, you know, it’s like when you walk into the sweet aisle or into a supermarket, when you’re really hungry, you always fill your cart with crappy stuff, right? Because you have this craving and you make bad decisions when you have a craving, when you learn to love yourself, when you learn the why the real Why is to help other people. And that comes from a place of, of abundance within yourself of being like, Hey, you know what, even if I never improved ever again, that would be okay, I am great. I’m good enough for me. I’m good enough. Like there are people who love me, I’m a good person, productive, like all of this entropy and chance and odds and, and that’s awesome. It doesn’t mean you can’t then self improve, but the reason you self improve will be for a totally different reason. Instead of being like I need to improve because I’m not good enough. It’d be like, hey, there’s this problem that I’m actually quite interested in solving, but I’m missing these things. Which I need these skills or this knowledge so that I can help it so that I can help other people and you’ll still self improve it, it’ll come from a place of outwardness rather than a place of humaneness So, so that every all of that income is encompassed within productivity. For me that idea of doing doing things right doing the right thing and doing them for the right reasons. And you know, all of that coming from an internal place of love and abundance.
Sean Tierney 1:12:21
That’s awesome. There’s a guest I think four or five on my show was Matt Dunsmore this guy from start with y which is Simon cynics program. And he talks about just this idea of like in service to others and like when you frame everything, and you get really concrete on your why, but you also then rooted in some notion of service to others that that just like, once you can do that it magnifies your potential, but you have to be slightly careful.
Arthur Worsley 1:12:45
So yes, on the outside, that’s one 100%. Right. But a lot of people then go to they try and make it an outer journey thing. They’re like, Oh, if I just changed my mission statement or my vision, so it’s about other people, then that’s all I need to do. That’s not true. That’s gold plating attached. Right, you still are doing it because you’re trying to help other people so that you can feel better about yourself. That inner journey is like it. Yes, that knowledge is important. But that’s actually it’s kind of like meditation, right? You know, there’s a difference between between knowing and knowing, you know, and that’s a journey we all go on. And it’s a hard one to go on. Like, yes, you need that top level theoretical component on the outer journey. But you also just have to go through this process of being like, I’m okay. I’m cool. You know, that’s I’m great. Even if I’m, even if I got worse than I am right now. Like, I’m perfect, just as I am.
Sean Tierney 1:13:34
Awesome. All right. Last question here. If you could go back into time machine to your 20 year old self. And give yourself one bit of advice. What would you say?
Arthur Worsley 1:13:44
I think I love that we’re sitting here in Bali right now. And we you know, we’ve got a view over the rice paddies out of our window in the villa and I have a wonderful girlfriend and amazing friends and I work with people who I love and care about and I wouldn’t. I would be worried about saying anything. Yes, I changed the
Sean Tierney 1:14:01
outcome. That’s a perfect response. Just be like, you’re good dude.
Arthur Worsley 1:14:06
Yeah, you know you may be you may be fucking it up, you may be upsetting a lot of people you may be like a horribly conceited 20 year old boy, by the way, we all like that, blah, blah, blah. But you know, it’s all gonna be okay, you’re all going to end up in the right place and, and even if it doesn’t, maybe it all goes to shit in in two or three weeks, you know, as long as I I’m okay with that. You know? That’s okay.
Sean Tierney 1:14:28
Cool, man. Well, this has been an epic conversation. Arthur, where can people go? Which I signed them? Where can they learn more about what you’re doing? Get involved in the course take the traction planner, what?
Arthur Worsley 1:14:38
Yeah, I just had to faster to master.com you’ll find the all the different sections of the site. If you sign up to the mailing list, and I run through a lot of what we’ve talked about today. So I give people a guide through the read more, learn faster, wake up productive like that. You get a five day sequence which will take you to all the best articles and tips and things like that. But even if you just go to the blog, and hit The articles button at the top of the page, you’ll see all the reading there. So the Book Summaries or the article is a couple of interviews I’ve done like things like that. So that’s the best place to start
Sean Tierney 1:15:08
is the traction planner. I know you have the physical bound version of that, is there a digital version available or there is so if you
Arthur Worsley 1:15:15
buy the physical version, you get a free PDF that comes with it. So that’s the way to get hold of it.
Sean Tierney 1:15:21
Cool. All right, my man, epic conversation. Good luck with the tennis and everything else. You’re learning and Keyshia. We’ll see you soon.
Arthur Worsley 1:15:27
Thanks. Take care guys. Bye
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