Talking with friends and subscribers, I often find myself referencing books that I read and how that's influenced my thinking. In an attempt to consolidate and drive more value specifically for startup investors, I'll be test driving a new format called "Cheat Sheets" (working title.) This type of content is very popular, as you'll see at the bottom, and I will outsource much of my work to those sites. The specific value add here is to deliver a recommendation as well as specific takeaways for the startup investor. I will only write these posts for books I've actually read/listened to completion. As always, feedback welcome, feel free to comment on this post or write me at—thanks!



Scott Young is a remarkable auto-didact. He is famous for the MIT Challenge, where he self-studied the entirety of a four-year MIT computer science undergraduate degree in one year. An excellent book for investors, especially those who want to invest in industries and startups they may have relatively little professional experience in. I skimmed the book the first time, took notes, read it in its entirety on a long train ride, then listened to it again as an audiobook. I also used this as a companion guide to self-learning as I was banging my head deploying this new CMS system, Ghost.


  • If stuck on doing something, choose someone (blogger, software engineer, investor, etc.) whose 1-2 steps ahead and expert interview.
  • Only spend 10% of target learning time on preparation. Any more and is procrastinating, any less is like "buying everything you need on a trip" on the road.
  • Nine principles: MF DDR FRIE
  • Metalearning: draw a map, expert interview, concepts, facts, procedures (genesis of this post format)
  • Focus: identify if you have problems starting (procrastination,) problems maintaining (distraction,) or have a bad fit (workouts need pump up music, writing might need classical music)
  • Directness: when possible, try to do the thing in the context you need e.g. speak with natives if you want to improve speaking, if preparing for Jeopardy, practice on actual questions. The problem of transference: sadly, most things learned in one context seldom transfer to another. This is why academic language learning is bad. Even going from high school psychology to college shows next to no retention.
  • Drill: Flashcards, SRS (spaced repetition systems,) Anki.
  • Retrieval: Test yourself, free recall.
  • Feedback: Three types of feedback, outcome, informational, and corrective. Learn how to filter feedback from the noise.
  • Retention: Mnemonics, triggers, proceduralize.
  • Intuition: Teach. Feynman technique.
  • Experimentation: Work with constraints. What if you had to practice angel investing when you're not accredited? How would you evaluate a founder if you couldn't talk to them for 90 minutes in an office like a VC?


  • The Polgar family raised three healthy, happy, and exceptionally talented chess players. This was no accident.
  • Speed reading may just be skimming, less actual true increase. Here is Young's correction.


  • To improve diversity on real diversity, and not tokenism, write job descriptions and have people with different backgrounds evaluate your job descriptions.
  • Tell thorough rules but also vivid stories to demonstrate points
  • Oprah's rule for interviewing "What is your intention?" "I will help you, but you have to trust me."

Bonus Resources

Ultralearning | by Scott Young


Learning new skills and upgrading on-the-job have become more necessary than ever. Yet the cost of education continues to skyrocket. Ultralearning is an aggressive approach to self-directed learning that can be used to accelerate a career, transition into a new career, or seek out a hidden advantage in a profession. Ultralearners are not interested in making learning convenient or fun; rather, effectiveness is the ultimate goal. Insights from cognitive science drive this approach to self-regulated learning.

Key Ideas

  • 9 Principles of Ultralearning
    1. Metalearning: The process of creating a map or plan for reaching your learning goal. Identify facts, procedures, and concepts with an eye towards what will be the most difficult parts. Also identify learning resources and models/exemplars (people who have done what you want to do)
    2. Focus: Carve out time in your day, and hack back distractions. Interleave your practice by breaking practice sessions apart. Take advantage of diffuse and focused attention states – take a break after extended focus to make space for ideas to mingle and form into new discoveries. “In the realm of great intellectual accomplishments an ability to focus quickly and deeply is nearly ubiquitous.”
    3. Directness: Practice the thing you want to learn. Make sure learning is tied to the context it will be used in (e.g. speaking a language vs. memorizing vocabulary). Create an artificial practice environment and/or make your learning public in the domain (e.g. learning to make a podcast by making a podcast)
    4. Drill: Practice what you are trying to learn, then break down what you want to learn into component parts. Drill the weakest points. Go back and reintegrate what you have practiced to mastery. There are many ways to approach drilling:
      • Drill 1: Time Slicing: Isolate the most difficult parts and practice until easy
      • Drill 2: Cognitive Components: Opposite of practicing a slice, practice putting various skills together (e.g. putting together grammar, fluency, vocabulary in a conversation)
      • Drill 3: The Copycat: Replicate something you admire to practice specific skills
      • Drill 4: The Magnifying Glass Method: Over-emphasize your practice of a specific skill
      • Drill 5: Prerequisite Chaining: Practice the skill, then when confronted with an obstacle, go back to learn/practice the needed skill. Repeat.
    5. Retrieval: Testing not only assesses knowledge, it helps form it. Utilize desirable difficulties – “more difficult retrieval leads to better learning, provided the act of retrieval is itself successful.” Also take advantage of the forward-testing effect regular testing of previously-learned material helps one learn new information. Some tacticts:
      • Flash cards: note cards or spaced repetition apps
      • Free recall: brain dumps or smart notes
      • Question-book method: rephrase or take notes on what is learned as questions.
      • Close-book learning: pause and self-explain/summarize without consulting the resource
    6. Feedback: About 1/3 of the time, feedback can actually have a negative impact. Learners must be able to avoid overreacting to feedback that isn’t useful or actionable. “The best feedback is informative and usable by the student(s) who receive it.” It can be helpful to differentiate between signal and noise when receiving feedback. Signals are useful and should be noted, while noise is caused by random factors and should be ignored.
    7. Retention: Perhaps my favorite metaphor for human memory: “Our minds are a leaky bucket; however, most of the holes are near the top, so the water that remains at the bottom leaks out more slowly.” Understand the implications of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve and be proactive by incorporating 1) spacing 2) proceduralization – we remember series of procedures easier than declarative knowledge 3) overlearning and 4) mnemonics.
    8. Intuition: Simply spending a lot of time studying something isn’t enough to create deep intuition. When faced with a problem, experts pay greater attention to deeper structures and therefore pick a more effective strategy. Avoid the illusion of explanatory depth by regularly testing your knowledge, and beware of the Dunning-Kruger effect which is when someone with inadequate understanding of a subject believes they possesses more knowledge about the subject than the people who actually do.
    9. Experimentation: Get outside your comfort zone by cultivating an experimental mindset – a set of active strategies for expanding learning and creativity. Here are five strategies:
      1. Copy, Then Create: Use an exemplar for inspiration and deconstruct it to see how it works.
      2. Compare Methods Side-by-Side: Ask “Why do I like this?…Why don’t I like that?…What goal do I want to reach?…How might I get there?”
      3. Introduce New Constraints. Creativity grows in constraints.
      4. Find Your Superpower in the Hybrid of Unrelated Skills: Combine two skills that don’t typically overlap and exploit that advantage.
      5. Explore the Extremes: Do something more than you normally would, knowing you can pull back at any point. “This allows you to search the space of possibilities more effectively, while also giving you a broader range of experience.”

Power Quotes

  • “Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things; they come from realizing your potential and overcoming your own limiting beliefs about yourself.”
  • “For those who know how to use technology wisely, it is the easiest time in history to teach yourself something new.”
  • “Learning, at its core, is a broadening of horizons, of seeing things that were previously invisible and of recognizing capabilities within yourself that you didn’t know existed.”
  • “Which aspect of the skill, if you improved it, would cause the greatest improvement to your abilities overall for the least amount of effort?”
  • “Far from being meaningless drudgery, carefully designed drills elicit creativity and imagination as you strive to solve a more complex learning challenge by breaking it into specific parts.”
  • “Over the last twenty years, the amount of knowledge easily accessible from a quick online search has exploded…Yet despite this incredible advance, it is not as if the average person is thousands as times as smart as people were was a generation ago. Being able to look things up is certainly an advantage, but without a certain amount of knowledge inside your head, it doesn’t help you solve hard problems.”
  • “Only by developing enough experience with problem solving can you build up a deep mental model of how other problems work. Intuition sounds magical, but the reality may be more banal—the product of a large volume of organized experience dealing with the problem.”
  • “Knowledge expands, but so does ignorance, as with a greater understanding of a subject also comes a greater appreciation for all the questions that remain unanswered.”
  • “The more one learns, the greater the craving to learn more. The better one gets, the more one recognizes how much better one could become.”

See all book notes>>

Ugly format but good content.


  • Flash cards: note cards or spaced repetition apps
  • Free recall: brain dumps or smart notes
  • Question-book method: rephrase or take notes on what is learned as questions.
  • Close-book learning: pause and self-explain/summarize without consulting the resource

Retention: 1) spacing 2) proceduralization – we remember series of procedures easier than declarative knowledge 3) overlearning and 4) mnemonics.

Book Summary: Ultralearning by Scott Young | Bonus Infographic
A short summary of Ultralearning by Scott Young. Learn quickly how to apply the 9 Principles of Ultralearning. You will be able to learn anything fast applying these principles and tactics.

Tactics to learn directly:

  • Tactic 1: Project-Based Learning
  • Tactic 2: Immersive Learning
  • Tactic 3: The Flight Simulator Method
  • Tactic 4: The Overkill Approach

PRINCIPLE 8 Intuition Dig Deep Before Building Up

4 rules to follow:

  • Rule 1: Don’t Give Up on Hard Problems Easily
  • Rule 2: Prove Things to Understand Them
  • Rule 3: Always Start with a Concrete Example
  • Rule 4: Don’t Fool Yourself


Questions to guide Ultralearning

Actionable Book Summary: Ultralearning by Scott H. Young |
I Help Busy People Read Big Books Faster
Good related books to read.

Ultralearning by Scott Young book summary review and key ideas.
Essentially summed up the entire book.
Book notes as a slide show. And it embedded, woohoo!