Meta Learning

It is possible to become world-class in just about anything in six months or less. Armed with the right framework, you can seemingly perform miracles, whether with Spanish, swimming, or anything in between.

– Tim Ferriss

Last year I wrote about a learning framework I discovered in David Brooks’ A Social Animal. I think it allows you to get the most out of a book or multiple books on a single topic and it’s why I take the time to put my book notes on this site.

I think that framework falls short when learning new skills, which leaves me curious about other methods for learning and has led me to Tim Ferriss’ method of Meta Learning. Tim’s Framework is called the DiSSS method and I’ve summarized each component of the acronym below. But first, it starts with two guiding principles: Failure Points and Margin of Safety.

Failure Points

What are the primary, but often ignored, tripping points that cause people to stop or give up?

Margin of Safety

How badly can you mangle this and still get something great out of it?

DiSSS Method


What are the minimal learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?

Break the skill down into bite-sized pieces & identify all failure points and all fundamental principles. Find and interview the pros (especially the unconventional pros) in the field, and find out what they do in common, what trips beginners up, how they would teach you, their favorite learning resources, other unconventional pros, etc.


Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

Find the MED (Minimum Effective Dose) you need to learn this skill. What teaches overall principles well? What micro-skills are used throughout the skill?


In what order should I learn the blocks?

What is the best order in which to learn? How can you avoid all the tripping points and learn all the fundamental principles and micro-skills? How can you make sure you’ll stick with it?


How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?

What rewards or punishments can you put in place that will ensure you will follow through? People counting on you? Money on the line?