15 Tips Tim Ferris Can Teach Us About Learning FAST

Written by Gilberto Rosas on March 17, 2016

8 min  read

He’s an entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker, author, and the human guinea pig.

Tim Ferris is an absolute inspiration. You might have heard of him from one of his books, like The 4 Hour Workweek. One thing is for sure, this guy is not afraid to go deep outside his comfort zone. It’s a big reason why I look up to him and why I think you would take interest in what he has to say. Recently, he came out with his new show called The Tim Ferris Experiment, where he attempts to learn a skill in less than a week. It’s honestly quite amazing to see him in action and try to acquire skills as fast as possible.

Whether you’re trying to learn a new language, play an instrument, master a martial art, or trying to acquire any new skill, I think these 15 insights will be of much value to helping you excel your learning curve and beat the competition!

1. Start with the end in mind
There’s an episode where Tim Ferris is learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and in that episode, he compared it very closely to chess in that it’s very tactical and he stressed that you must have a clear vision of the end result. Absolutely crucial. You have to know where you’re going and what it’s going to look like. Once doing so…

  • create a specific, measurable, and realistic goal in mind
  • reverse engineer how to get there
  • create a stepping stone path in your mind that allows you to, at any moment, know how far or how close you are to your goal. 

2. Don’t rush, be patient

To finish first, you first have to finish

— Tim Ferris

If you can’t maintain your cool, your technique goes out the window. There’s an episode where Tim steps up to take a shot at the golf ball in front of him. He has his club in his hand and he’s focused but also frustrated because he wants to hit a great shot. He takes his swing and does poorly.

How many times do we find ourselves getting riled up and messing up as a result?

Golf is a game of millimeters where a change in mental state can alter your shot by a lot. Stay level headed and don’t let your emotions of anger, frustration, disappointment, or doubt get in your way. Even if there is no obstacle in front of you, the biggest obstacle left is yourself. Get out of your own way by learning to control your emotional state. If something happens, don’t let it faze you. Remember that an event is just something that happened and you are the one that gives it meaning.

[Paradigm Shift]: View your next failure as a learning opportunity that you simply could not have gotten through winning. It only makes you better.

3. Practice in tandem

I noticed that in every episode, Tim Ferris sought out the best in each field. He knew that in order to learn fast, he has to go to the very top to get there. By learning from the best, you…

  • Get instant feedback
  • Are able to pick their brain for subtle nuances that will significantly improve your skill
  • Learn through implicit learning aka osmosis (by simply being around someone, you adopt their mannerisms and beliefs)
  • Learn what it truly takes to be the best by observing their habits and hustle
  • Cut the learning curve by possibly years simply because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel but rather ask for the right direction and follow it relentlessly

Realize that we live in such a connected world that the very best are only a Skype call away. Don’t hesitate to join mentorships and masterminds in your field. It will boost your results and will elevate you from your competition!

4. Test early, test often

Testing, testing, testing. It is absolutely one of the key insights that Tim Ferris shares about learning a new skill. You must test different ways of doing a desired action even if you think it might fail, do it. You never know what might happen and you might just be surprised what actually works and what doesn’t. But one of the most important reasons why it’s important to test everything is because you want to find out what works for you. Don’t be so quick to take everyone’s word on what is correct.  

What works for them might not work for you. Everyone is different and we all have different ways of doing things and different preferences. Know yourself better by finding out what works for you and by that effect, you will be that much more ahead of your competition.

5. Auxiliary activities
Sometimes the skills we are trying learn are really just a big subset of skills that can be trained through “auxiliary activities” or activities that are not necessarily related to the activity you’re trying to learn but require similar skills. For example, when Tim tried to improve his golf game, he hit the bowling alley. You might be wondering how on earth that would help him but in reality what he figure out is that by training his accuracy and really challenging his hand eye coordination, he would improve his precision and control over the movement of his body to create a desired effect. So by breaking down the skill you want to separate into a subset of skills and what you will find that some skills can be trained by other means.

6. Seek the uncomfortable
Change only happens outside our comfort zone. It forces us to expand. In this case, we are looking to expand our skill set. Some embark on a yearlong journeys and some take just a couple months and get really good while the one who took years may only be slightly above mediocre. How does this happen? The other person put himself in uncomfortable situations much more frequently and he reaped the rewards of growth. The more uncomfortable you are, the more you are learning!

7. Sequencing

Every skill level has a certain order. Put simply, you can’t sprint before learning how to walk. Tim Ferris knows this very well and he uses a progressive training approach. Here’s the simple 2 step approach…

  1. Learn moves that build on each other
  2. Take things step by step by step


8. Find failure points, and eliminate them

It would be of huge value to you to at least know what not to do. By knowing what the common mistakes are for novices, you’ll be aware once you make the mistake and readjust accordingly. Had you not known, you would have continued to do the wrong thing and wondered why you’re not getting results while simultaneously making the wrong action a habit and making it that much harder down the line.

9. Get mini-victories ASAP

Not only will you gain confidence but you’ll also get rid of fear and insecurities

Something I found very interesting is how he structured his learning so that he can get those small victories as fast as possible to get past that inertia of starting something new and using that as a catalyst for momentum. This approach is also called baby stepping and it proves to be very effective when trying to achieve big goals. Just start with the easiest most attainable task and work your way up!

10. Feel more, think less

You ever notice that whenever you really want to try to do something new, you begin to micro analyze every single step you take every second and by doing so, you inevitably mess up. When learning surfing, Tim realized that he needed to shut down his head and let his body do all the work. By doing this, you will avoid anticipating something that might not even happen. If you expect to mess up, you will. Don’t hold any expectations.  

Key: Don’t react to something that hasn’t happened yet because then all of a sudden youre reacting to your reaction and not the obstacle which sometimes may not even effect you

11. Learn the different components of the skills

What are the essentials? What is the foundation to the house you’re going to build? Every skill has foundations, find them! Once you know this, you have a great starting point. Get this wrong, and you’ll be setting yourself up for major problems down the line similar to building a skyscraper on a bad foundation, you can’t do it because the consequences will be cataclysmic. Even if you tried to learn something a little more advanced, you wouldn’t be able to because it requires that you at least know how to do the basics.


The person who’s the best is the one who’s having the most fun. You must be able to apply a playful approach to your learning or else every single step of the way is going to feel like torture. Learning should be fun, it should excite you and not make you feel dread or anguish. You can inject more fun into your learning by:

  • Adding your sense of humor into the activity (aka find a way to laugh)
  • Not taking everything so seriously
  • Letting loose and not being so dependent on what the result may look like 

13. Random access memory

When learning a skill, there’s certain things you have to store in your memory. But what Tim Ferris tells us is that it’s better not to regurgitate but rather randomize because if you’re just repeating then you’re not really understanding. Like a computer, you have to be able to access pieces of information efficiently. You should be able to know that I is after H without having to recite the alphabet. By doing this, you will be able to recall important information much more quickly in times when you might need it the most or when stakes are high.

14. Face what you most fear FIRST

The best way to get over your fear is to fully immerse yourself in it. A prime example of this is Tim’s surfing week where he visited Hawaii. He went head on with no board against the roaring waves coming at him full throttle. Not surprisingly, he saw that it wasn’t as bad as he imagined it in his mind. He put himself in what he thought to be the worst case scenario which was falling off his board and being swept away by the big unforgiving waves.

Ask yourself is this the chaos that I feared?

— Seneca

By immersing yourself in what you most fear, you will come out fearless to whatever may come next because you will have already dealt with the worst case successfully. Remember, when starting a new skill, go in the direction of what you fear most. Just get it out of the way!

15. Practice, Practice, Practice

When you think you have it, paddle again. Better to paddle when you’ve already gotten it

— Laird Hamilton

I know, I know…This is one of those tips that everybody knows BUT not many practice it. Most of the time when people give up on learning something, it’s because they didn’t practice it enough or as hard as they should have. It’s always hard at the beginning. One thing that is very noticeable about Tim Ferris is his incessant hours of practice. The guy would wake up early and stay up late to get it down, no matter WHAT!

Now that you have all this information for learning a new skill from the master optimizer himself, go out and apply it to your new skill that you’ve been holding off til’ later or for when you have time. There are so many fascinating things to learn and ways to learn them. Go out there, have fun, and learn as much as possible and as fast as possible so you can enjoy new experiences and maybe inspire some people to do the same!


2 thoughts on “15 Tips Tim Ferris Can Teach Us About Learning FAST

Let me know your thoughts.
Comment below!