Who are Master Learners? (Learning Playbook) — Part 2

My goal of becoming a master learner (the micro skill of learning) isn’t about being a know it all. As much as I would love to dominate the next time I play trivia night at a local bar, that’s not the end goal for me. I want to become effective at learning so that I can use those principles and tools to teach myself other things I care about (such as music, writing, and design). Learning is a fundamental skill that can improve every aspect of our lives. What do you do when as soon as you graduate college everything you learned is outdated? What do you do when you want to build a product but don’t know how to even start? What do you do when you’re industry changes on a dime and you have to either learn the new ways or fizzle out? Becoming a master learner means you can *learn anything.*

By knowing the principles of learning, we’re building a playbook or foundation of always stay current in our careers and the areas we care about. (More creativity and abundance, less friction, and anxiety)

So the question is who are masters of learning that we can learn from? Who makes learning look easy?

What resources do they recommend?
What questions do they ask?
What habits do they have?
Who do they learn from?

The first three that come to mind in today’s age are Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss and James Altucher.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla, X.com (PayPal) and a plethora of other innovative (rock ’n roll) companies leading the charge to change the world, had this to say about learning on a Reddit AMA a couple years ago had this to say:

“I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying,” he insists. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

In other words, Elon has mastered the art of learning.

Tim Ferriss writes (The Four Hour Workweek, Body, Chef, Tools of Titans and his most recent Tribe of Mentors) and podcasts about deconstructing “world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc).” On his podcast, he pinpoints the habits, tools and tricks of experts and experiments by applying what they know to his own life. What’s interesting about what Tim does is he doesn’t look for just the talented, he looks for world-class performs who on the surface shouldn’t be good at what they do.


James Altucher, writer of Choose Yourself, Reinvent Yourself (and million other great books) and podcaster (The James Altucher Show) is another avid learner who is a huge fan of uncovering the micro-skills of a skill. What are the 50 to 100 micro-skills that make up a skill? James also does something I’m a huge proponent of, which is stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what scares you.

The question is are there any patterns in the way they learn?

I can see 5 actions they all do:

  1. They study and apply the art of learning.
  2. They are avid readers.
  3. They absorb knowledge faster by connecting and befriending world-class experts.
  4. They learn from top-level performers in various fields and from historical titans.
  5. They make bold moves — they challenge themselves, take calculated risks, and do what others don’t.

I’m positive there are a ton other people who are great examples of master learners (and I’ll kick myself for not thinking about them later)

Other Master Learners from History:

Leonardo Da Vinci
George Bernard Shaw
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Benjamin Franklin
Bruce Lee
The Wright Brothers
Nicola Tesla
Malcolm X

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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