June 6, 2017, by Lauren Della Bella

DSSS: A Framework for Successful, Lifelong Learning

It’s no secret I left SXSWedu inspired and energized by the conversations I had, people I met and best practices I learned. One of the sessions I most enjoyed was the Day 3 keynote address with entrepreneur, best-selling author and lifelong learner, Tim Ferriss.

I was intrigued by the framework he suggested for successful, lifelong learning: DSSS, which stands for deconstruction, selection, sequencing and stakes. Ferriss calls it the meta-skill of meta-learning, or learning how to learn.

Selection: What 20 percent of the deconstructed skills will deliver 80 percent (or more) of the outcomes you want? It’s called the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto principle. When learning a new skill, a new language, a new anything, Ferriss suggests that what you study is more important than how – how much, how often, how well – you study. He suggests narrowing down material to the characteristics that will produce the greatest results, then practicing only those skills until you build knowledge over time.

Sequencing: Sequencing is where you put selection to practice. It answers the question, “What is the logical progression I must follow to achieve fluency?” Ferriss performs his own little pilot programs,
if you will, to measure progress and quickly build knowledge – generally, two weeks at a time – changing the order of the steps in each two-week block. Over time, he’s able to compare his learning results in each pilot phase, until eventually, he’s keyed in on the sequence that is most effective.

Stakes: Stakes are simply consequences, incentives or motivations for success. Ferriss essentially suggests placing a wager on success, then using that bet – whether it’s for or against himself – to hold himself accountable.

I find this framework intriguing on multiple levels, not the least of which is the fact that it can be applied to learning nearly anything. I also like it because it allows us to explore interests and leisure activities at a deeper level. As I’ve said before, learning never stops; from the moment we’re born until the moment we die, we’re constantly learning.

I plan to use this framework to learn something new this year. What about you; what tips, tricks and tools do you use to broaden or deepen your interests and knowledge?