How to Learn Anything Faster - Standup Edition

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of the author Tim Ferriss. Check out his stuff here. His podcast-interviews have helped me with a whole range of stuff, both creative and non-creative.

One of his most interesting topics is the idea of accelerated learning. It is a fascinating topic which I won't get into here, but one of his key principles can be broken down with the acronym D.S.S.S.


In brief (and I recommend this podcast from his website to hear him talk about it), these are steps you can take to learn something rapidly and thoroughly. With any given topic, skill, or craft:

1) First you Deconstruct it into the smallest possible components, the smallest possible building blocks of the thing.

2) Then, you Select the building blocks which are most critical to learn, using the guiding question, "which of these skills/ideas, if mastered, make the other ones minimal or irrelevant?" Another way to think about it is "which 20% of skills give 80% of my results?"

3) Then, you Sequence those chosen building blocks into the most useful order. Or sometimes in reverse useful order. Or in an order that is challenging, or easiest. But a specific order of events.

4) Lastly, you give yourself some Stakes: a specific, time-sensitive deadline for achievement which is tied to an incentive which is powerful to you. One example from the podcast is: if you don't lose x-amount of pounds by x-date, you have to give $100 dollars (or an amount that's just a little uncomfortable for you) to a charity that you hate, ie. Neo-Nazis of America, etc. Give yourself a very present and time-sensitive incentive to achieve the thing.

So in the context of standup, here's my rough brainstorming on the above four steps:

1) A completely partial list of the building blocks of standup: connection with an audience, comfort on stage, microphone technique, "setup-punchline" jokes, act-outs, opinion as thesis, story, persona, awareness of how you come off to an audience, point of view, relevance of content, crowd-work, the ability to read a room's emotional state or "group-mind" quickly and accurately, purity and completeness of thought,

2) Which ones are most important? Geeze. Those are all pretty freakin' important. Let's assume I have to pick three of those to focus on. They would be: act-outs, opinion as thesis, and the ability to read a room's emotional state or "group-mind."

3) What order would I put those in to succeed? Probably room-reading, opinion as thesis, act-outs.

4) A good example of stakes? Have 5-10 minutes (depending on experience) polished and ready in 1-3 months (depending on experience) to perform at a living room show in front of friends and anybody who will come.

That is just a very very rough runthrough of the concept applied to standup. This  shit is pre-coffee, people. Be amazed.

See you tomorrow!



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