How to Improve Your Business With Meta Learning

Most people know who Timothy Ferriss is because of his books like The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body, The Four Hour Chef, and Tools of Titans.

However, besides being a famous author and podcaster, he:

  • Speaks over 4 languages
  • Has won the Chinese kickboxing championship
  • Started an online nutritional supplement store
  • Is a high tech “angel” investor
  • Is a health nut
  • Travels extensively
  • Routinely experiments on himself with foods, exercise, supplements, diets, culture, etc.

Everyone assumes that he is some sort of crazy savant that has leveraged his strengths to the nth degree and become a kazillionaire doing it. And, there is probably some truth to the “crazy” description but one of the big reasons he is able to do what he does successfully is because of the accelerated learning process that he has perfected.

Ferriss calls this learning system DSSS.

What is the DSSS Learning System and How to Use it

Ferriss created an accelerated learning system that he calls DSSS. DSSS stands for Deconstruction – Selection – Sequencing – Stakes. These components are described in detail below.

D = Deconstruction 

The first step in learning any topic is to deconstruct whatever you are trying to learn into easy to understand components. Think of this like Lego blocks. What Lego blocks make up the foundational elements of the subject being examined?

One of the most efficient methods of determining these Lego blocks is to interview experts on the subject.

  1. Create a list of experts to interview.
  2. Contact the expert and provide context and ask to interview them.
  3. Prepare your questions in advance. Ask questions like:
    • If you were going to train a novice for 4 weeks to be an expert, what would the training look like and why?
    • What are the biggest mistakes novices make?
    • Can you identify the novices biggest misuses of time?
    • What are the biggest mistakes experts make?
    • How would you define the key principles for success in this area?
    • What does the progression of training look like?

S = Selection

What 20% of the Lego blocks should you focus on that will provide 80% of the outcome you want? For example, if you are learning Spanish, find the top 20% of the most commonly used Spanish words and focus on these.

This step is foundational to Ferriss’ mantra of “What you study is more important than how you study.” If you can determine the most important aspects of what to study you can learn any topic in minimal time.

S = Sequencing

Determine the order of learning the 20% you have selected above. Using Spanish as the example again, determine what the most efficient learning order would be. Should you study word meanings first or grammar syntax?

S = Stakes

Create SMART goals and an accountability structure to ensure that you stick with your learning program and schedule. Your accountability structure could be as simple as a dinner out when you have mastered a learning milestone. Or, you could make a bet with someone that you will do something that you absolutely detest if you don’t achieve your learning milestone in time. This provides accountability and motivation!

CaFE – The Complement to DSSS

Ferriss complements his DSSS compressed learning system with another system he calls CaFE.

C = Compression

Encapsulate the 20% into an easy to understand one page “cheat sheet” for quick and easy reference.

F = Frequency

Determine how frequent you can or should practice your new skills.

  • Determine what can be crammed and what needs some deeper study.
  • Build a study schedule.
  • Also, determine the MED -Minimum Effective Dose. In other words, what is the minimum amount of time required to learn this new skill or subject.

E = Encoding

Determine how to anchor the new material in your mind with what you already know. This will help immensely for rapid recall.

Take Action

So, what do these learning systems have to do with you and your business?

It’s simple! To stay relevant in today’s marketplace you need to continually learn and apply new insights to your life and your business. This process will help you to continually differentiate yourself from competitors and establish a long lasting business dynasty.

You can kick this up to a whole new level if you create this learning culture inside your business. Having all your employees on an accelerated learning curve will take your business to new levels of success!

Finally, take a look at these posts for further learning ideas:


Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Thomas H. Huxley


What learning systems do you use that may provide value to other readers? Leave your comments below!


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2 thoughts on “How to Improve Your Business With Meta Learning

  1. Very helpful! Having been in full-scale learning mode for the last six months, I am fascinated to see where my own, more haphazard approach has overlapped in some areas with this system … and reflecting ruefully on how I might have approached things more methodically by following a system like this. I really like the idea of arranging interviews with subject matter experts.

    • Good to hear that this was helpful Geraint! Perhaps you can use this technique when teaching others new material?