My readers had been asking me for a book on learning, accelerated learning, for five years. And the problem is that writing about learning in the abstract is really boring to write and it’s also really boring to read. So I needed a vehicle for teaching all these things that I’ve experimented with since college, whether that’s smart drugs or language learning or what have you.
And cooking, because I feared it for so long, ended up being the perfect starting point, because I could take people from ground zero being really insecure, really fearful to really feeling completely self-reliant in the kitchen and all of the bumps in the road, all the lessons learned throughout. And what I hope people take from it, at the end of the day, is believing wholeheartedly that they can become world class; i.e. top five percent in the world in one or two things per year, not one or two things per lifetime. Because I think that the 10,000-hour rule applies in certain places but not all places.
And what I’ve had a lot of fun doing is seeking out the anomalies. Not just where the groups condense but looking for the really unusual anomalies. Somebody who learns Icelandic in seven days well enough to go on TV and be interviewed. Someone who can memorize – has trained himself to memorize a deck of cards in 43 seconds no matter how you shuffle it. With no real natural gift. Someone who learns to become a world-class swimmer at age 38. These anomalies. And then looking for the recipe, right? The step-by-step process that produces results over and over and over again that those people use.
And I’ve just found that food is a great way to explore all of that because even if you never make a single recipe, if you learn to engage with food, your experience of every meal you have goes from black and white, good-bad, hot-cold, to HD in a million colors. And that is a really, really fun experience at the end.
But I want people to take all of those things they’ve put on the shelf like I can’t swim. I couldn’t swim until a few years ago. I can’t ever play basketball because I was personally humiliated by a junior high coach way back in the day said I dribbled like a caveman. So I’m like, “I’m bad at basketball. I could never do it.” Take those things off the shelf. Or playing the guitar, whatever it is – those skills you’ve retired – and to really tackle them and become extremely, extremely good at them.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.
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