Ultralearning by Scott H. Young [Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career by Scott H. Young. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.


Think that writing a best-seller or learning a new language is a monstrous task requiring months, even years to accomplish? Not if you have a playbook. The framework in this book will show you how to become a learning champion. Ultralearning by Scott H. Young will set you up on a path of self-actualization and mastery. The book offers a practical system that will show you how to master gigantic tasks in a short period of time.

The Core Idea:

Instead of spending weeks soaking up facts that will get you nowhere, Scott Young focuses on execution. He claims that everything can be learned in a shorter time frame than you think. Ultralearning is the manuscript that will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars on tuition fees, and not only. The book explains how you can use technology to master hard skills in a fraction of the time mentioned by bureaucratic institutions.


  • Don’t rely on institutions to learn new things. The current world allows us to create our own curriculum. Helping us master new things faster and cheaper.
  • Learn by doing. Immediately after you understand something new, apply it to a project, or create a situation where the new thing can be practiced.
  • It’s about continuously expanding your knowledge and inspiring the people around you to do the same.

5 Key Lessons from Ultralearning:

Lesson #1: We Falsely Think That Learning Things Should Happen Only in Schools

Instead of enrolling in college for four years and asking the bank to pay for the tuition, the author chose to do something else. He decided to accelerate the time needed to get an MIT degree by learning the material all by himself.

The result?

A degree, crowds cheering on Reddit, and people around the world offering jobs.

This is how the ultralearning journey began for the author. And it all started with the realization that you don’t necessarily have to enroll in college to learn something new. You can create your own learning schedule to master a particular topic.

Based on the stories in the book, it will not only take you less time but it will also cost you a fraction of what you’d otherwise have to pay if you enroll in college.

Sadly, this is not how we’re taught.

The general population is certain that you can’t understand anything, at least not proficient enough, if you don’t enroll in expensive colleges and listen to lectures for hours.

That’s not what the author thinks, though. According to him, everything can be learned, fast, if you’re willing to create your own learning schedule.

This is what he wrote after successfully completing his now-famous MIT Challenge: “For years, I had thought the only way to learn things deeply was to push through school. Finishing this project taught me not only that this assumption was false but that this alternate path could be more fun and exciting.”

Instead of collecting loans and spending half a decade in the classroom, in the book, Scott Young is suggesting to create your own schedule.

The world is changing and the institutions we previously used to master skills are becoming redundant. Nowadays, to stay competitive in the ever-changing world you need to realize these 3 things:

  1. Our understanding of learning is flawed.
  2. We should create our own learning schedule for the things we want to master.
  3. Learning anything we want it’s a lot more fun when we focus on 2.

Technology has made learning easier than ever, yet tuition costs are exploding. A four-year degree used to be an assurance of a decent job. Now it is barely a foot in the door. The best careers demand sophisticated skills that you’re unlikely to stumble upon by chance.” Scott H. Young

Lesson #2: In Our Fast-Paced World, Ultralearning is Becoming a Vital Skill

In our ever-changing world, the ability to adopt new skills, fast, is paramount for your success.

Graduating from college might serve you for a couple of years but with this rate of innovation, your fancy diploma won’t be enough in the years to come.

That’s where ultralearning comes into the scene. This bizarre method is not just about learning, it’s about staying relevant.

But what is ultralearning?

Scott Young describes ultralearning as, “A strategy for acquiring skills and knowledge that is both self-directed and intense.”

The word intense here is key. Ultralearning focuses on adopting new techniques, languages, skills in months, not in years. It might seem impossible. But the stories mentioned in the book prove otherwise.

The framework presented in the book will give you guidance if you decide to “teach yourself” something new that can potentially transform your life.

Here’s the short version of the key principles of becoming an ultralearner mentioned in the book:

Key Principles of Becoming an Ultralearner:

  1. Metalearning: First draw a map: The first step is rather untraditional. Before starting to learn, you’ll have to spend some time, as described by the author, “learning how to learn the subject.” This means researching the topic and creating your own curriculum that will assist you along your journey.
  2. Focus: Sharpen your knife: Concentration. That’s the secret ingredient to master skills in months, even in days, rather than in years. Your ability to focus on a single task will greatly increase your progress.
  3. Directness: Go straight ahead: This step is about doing what you want to learn even before you understand the fundamentals. Or as illustrated by the author, “The easiest way to learn directly is to simply spend a lot of time doing the thing you want to become good at.”
  4. Drill: Attack your weakest point: To become world-class, you need to fortify the weak links on your bag of tricks. Break down the hard, complex tasks you currently suck at. Then, practice till you’re better.
  5. Retrieval: Test to learn: Studies performed by psychologists prove that trying to recall information without looking at the text is the best way to retain information for a long period of time. Even if you’re not ready, test your skill without looking at your notes.
  6. Feedback: Don’t dodge the punches: Look forward to negative feedback. Expect it. Ask for it. Don’t cling on the nice words said by your parents. Seek criticism from outside people who don’t know you. Paying attention to comments that are unfavorable will uncover the path forward you were unable to see for yourself.
  7. Retention: Don’t fill a leaky bucket: It sounds bizarre, but learning is the easy part. Remembering what you’ve learned is where things get a little tricky. Repeating the fundamentals after some time should be included in your curriculum.
  8. Intuition: Dig deep before building up: Understand how things work, deeply. There is a difference between knowing the name of something and actually knowing something. Ask questions and imagine situations in your mind that fit your own understanding when others explain complex problems.
  9. Experimentation: Explore outside your comfort zone: Self-educating yourself in one field won’t be enough to become widely popular in a specific area. You need to try many techniques. To experiment with materials and methods. By doing so, you’ll start to see solutions where others see only problems.

Beyond principles and tactics is a broader ultralearning ethos. It’s one of taking responsibility for your own learning: deciding what you want to learn, how you want to learn it, and crafting your own plan to learn what you need to. You’re the one in charge, and you’re the one who’s ultimately responsible for the results you generate.” Scott H. Young

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

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