Tim Ferriss has gained worldwide renown as an expert on how to master a variety of skills very quickly, by finding shortcuts and avoiding what he calls ‘failure points’ that hamstring the average person. In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, he explained how to escape the 9-5 grind and enjoy more personal freedom by ‘hacking’ the world of work. His blog of the same name expanded from work to ‘Lifestyle Design.’ His followup book, The Four Hour Body was filled with what he called ‘body hacks’ – shortcuts to losing fat, gaining strength and a whole range of others. He included a chapter devoted to TI.
I ordered Tim’s most recent book The Four Hour Chef the day it was released five months ago. Partly because I’m an avid cook. Preparing and eating good food closely follows swimming among my enthusiasms.
And partly because my curiosity was piqued by the subtitle The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, LEARNING ANYTHING [both caps and much larger font size on the cover] and Living the Good Life. For over a dozen years, we’ve given equal emphasis to teaching the behaviors and mindsets of expertise and mastery as to teaching skillful swimming.
As soon as the book arrived, I leafed through it and, as I related in the blog META-Learning: Who Would You Rather Have As A Teacher–Phelps or Shinji? was surprised to find on p. 31 a familiar picture—a screen shot of TI Coach Shinji Takeuchi’s #1-ranked youtube video, above a screenshot of Michael Phelps’s #2 rated video.
How to Learn ANYTHING
The book’s first section is a guide to what Tim calls Meta-Learning – greatly accelerating the process for learning nearly anything by uncovering clever shortcuts and avoiding failure points that impede and dishearten most people. That Shinji who only took up swimming at 37, gained more followers on youtube than Michael Phelps, who began swimming at 7, makes him a great example of Meta-Learning.
Tim invited those who were eager to begin cooking to skip ahead to the next section where he begins to present cooking skills. I took him up on it after writing the blog about Shinji. Yesterday I returned to the Meta-Learning section to read it in full.
And again, to my great surprise, on p. 62 I found this series of five pictures of me, taken from screen shots in the TI DVD Self Coached Workshop: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in 10 Lessons.
Accompanying it was text, in which Tim extolled TI as an example of a Meta-Learning program – and this section explaining how learning to swim with the help of a TI DVD made him feel like Superman. Here’s the excerpt:
Despite having grown up five minutes from the beach, I could never swim more than two laps in a pool. This was a lifelong embarrassment until I turned 31, when two catalysts changed everything.
At the end of January 2008, a friend issued me a New Year’s resolution challenge: he would go the rest of 2008 without coffee or stimulants if I trained and finished an open-water 1-km swim during the year.
Months after this handshake agreement, after many failed swimming lessons and on the cusp of conceding defeat, a former non-swimmer Chris Sacca, introduced me to TI.
Total Immersion offered one thing no other swimming method had: a well-designed progression.
Each step built upon the previous and eliminated the usual failure points—like kickboards.
The first sessions including drills like pushing off in shallow water and gliding for 5 yards or so, at which point you simply stood up. Practicing breathing came much, much later. Learners of TI, by design, dodge that panic-inducing bullet when they most need to: in the beginning. The TI progression won’t allow you to fail in the early stages. There is no stress.
The skills are layered, one-by-one, until you can swim on autopilot. “
[Summarizing the next part: Tim cut drag by 50% in his first self-coached practice and had more than doubled the distance he traveled on each stroke by his fourth. Within 10 days he’d increased the distance he could swim nonstop from 40 yards to 400. Note: A 1000% increase! In 10 days!]
Several months later, at my childhood beach, I calmly walked into the ocean, well past my former fear-of-death distance and effortlessly swam over a mile—roughly 1.8 km—parallel to shore. I only stopped because I’d passed my distance landmark, a beachfront house. I felt no fatigue, panic, fear—nothing but the electricity of doing something I’d thought impossible.
I felt like Superman.
And here’s Tim telling the same story at a TED Conference
More posts about Tim Ferriss, TI and Meta-Learning