The MuchSmarter Blog

How to Learn Anything You Want (No, Seriously!)

Tom Schecter
July 18, 2014
What are you having trouble with right now? And how badly do you want to learn to do it better?

Anything you could possibly want to learn, whether it’s a school subject, a sport, an art form or musical instrument, or even a video game, shares a common set of “big picture” steps you can take to get as good as you want.

Everything I just mentioned in that list is a game of skill. And there’s a simple step-by-step process for what Steve and I like to call building your learning muscle—the steps you need to take in order to master any new game of skill:

Ready? Here we go…

  1. Get the whole story up front. What’s the “object” of the game you’re playing? What are the rules? How do you win?
  2. Don’t be afraid to play badly at first. This is a big one. You’re probably used to being awesome at everything you do, without effort, so being bad at any game will be a new, uncomfortable feeling. Accept your early flaws, remember that you can learn anything you want, and don’t give up—in fact, when you have your No-Limits mindset, you can replace “don’t give up” with “get determined to improve.”
  3. Have someone show you the moves. Think about it this way: if your game is tennis, the moves are forehand, backhand, serve, volley, and net play. If your game is guitar, the moves are the chords and the scales. If your game is algebra, the moves are the PEMDAS operations, distribution, factoring, etc.
  4. Practice the moves until they become muscle memory. Practice doing everything correctly, as much as you need to. Nobody can tell you how long this will take, but you’ll know when you get there.
  5. Refine the moves. Think about how you can do the basic moves more efficiently. Can you place the tennis ball exactly where you want every time? Position your hand more efficiently to move from chord to chord? Save time by combining two steps when you balance an equation?
  6. Practice your refinements until they become muscle memory. …What, are you really surprised? Making a breakthrough takes work!
  7. Learn more advanced moves. When you get to the “next level,” if you have the basics down already, the “advanced” moves won’t feel much more difficult. Then practice the advanced moves until they become muscle memory.

After that, just keep repeating Step 7 forever, learning more and more difficult moves each time. Remember, there is no ceiling. You never “arrive.” Keep working, and you’ll keep getting better.

Until next time…


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