What is Avid Weekly Ideas?
Each week I publish an idea or two either from a book I am currently reading or from my backlog of book notes. 📚
Of course, this isn’t intended to replace book notes or reading the book itself. Instead the aim is to extract a key idea or two from a book that struck me as insightful and share-worthy. Then I package it into a bite-sized digestible chunk. I hope these little nuggets of insight will spark some inspiration or ideas in your own mind. 💡
Minimum Effective Dose, DiSSS and CaFE
I know what you’re thinking, DiSSS and CaFE? That sounds ridiculous! 😋
But hang in there for a moment and hopefully you will see it is not all that ridiculous by the end!
I have been re-reading The 4-Hour Chef lately and boy are there many golden nuggets of wisdom in there! 😇
For those who haven’t read it yet, don’t let the title fool you. It’s not just about learning how to cook.
In Ferriss’ own words:
The 4-Hour Chef (4HC) isn’t a cookbook, per se, though it might look like one. Just as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance isn’t about changing oil, this book isn’t quite what it appears.
Instead Ferriss describes it as a framework for rapid learning that you can apply to learning just about anything.
In this entry of Avid Weekly I will focus mainly on a few key principles from the book, namely the Minimum Effective Dose (MED), DiSSS and CaFE.
But first here is an overview of Ferriss’ learning framework.
Meta-learning – How to learn to learn?
Just like Tony Robbins always says, if you want to be the best at something, you find someone who is the best in their field, and model after what they do.
Interestingly, Ferriss applies this very principle to the skill of learning itself. Get it? He attempts to answer the question, “how to learn to learn?” In doing so he encourages readers to learn to mimic the world’s fastest learners.
If that sounds a bit meta (self-referential) to you, that’s the reason why he called this part of the book, meta-learning! 😊
It is possible to become world-class in just about anything in six months or less. Armed with the right framework, you can seemingly perform miracles, whether with Spanish, swimming, or anything in between.
A framework for learning – DiSSS
The recipe for learning any skill is encapsulated in this acronym.
- D (Deconstruction) – what are the minimal learnable units, the Lego blocks, I should be starting with? Deconstruction is about exploring the unknown.
- S (Selection) – Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcomes I want?
- S (Sequencing) – In what order should I learn the blocks? Sequencing is about coming up with a logical sequence of clear progression.
- S (Stakes) – How do I set up stakes, create real consequences, and guarantee I follow the program?
Additionally there are several secondary principles that are also very helpful, but not required.
Here, CaFE is the acronym (readers of The 4-Hour Work Week can probably tell Ferriss loves his acronyms 😉). Here is what it stands for.
- C (Compression) – Can I encapsulate the most important 20% into an easily graspable one-pager?
- F (Frequency) – How frequently should I practice? Can I cram, and what should my schedule look like? What growing pains can I predict? What is the minimum effective dose (MED) for volume?
- E (Encoding) – How do I anchor the new material to what I already know for rapid recall? Acronyms like DiSSS and CaFE are examples of encoding.
Minimum Effective Dose (MED)
Do as little as needed, not as much as possible.
This concept comes under the heading of Selection – which 20% of the blocks should you focus on for 80% of the results you seek?
Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is Ferriss’ guide to answering that question.
By the way, as an aside, the reason why I am highlighting this point from the book, is that I found it to be another very good example of the 80-20 rule, and related to a recent post that discussed the idea of Extreme Pareto.
Here’s how Ferriss explains it.
I’d seen the pattern in the data across hundreds of people: simple works, complex fails. The lowest volume, the lowest frequency, the fewest changes that get us our desired result is what I label the minimal effective dose (MED). It’s a broad concept that applies to almost any field.
He gives 5 examples.
- Fat loss MED = consume 30 g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Dozens of readers have lost 100+ lbs each; thousands more have lost 10–100 lbs.
- To overcome female weight-loss plateaus, MED = five minutes of kettlebell swings, three times per week. Tracy Reifkind, for example, lost 120+ lbs as a 40-something mother of two.
- To gain 10–30 lbs of lean tissue in one month, MED = 90–120 seconds of tension for most muscles. Slow-cadence lifting (five seconds up, five seconds down) with these parameters helped me add 34 lbs of lean mass in 28 days.
- Master conversational fluency in any language, MED = learn 1,200 words, focusing on highest frequency.
- The marketing MED = Read Kevin Kelly’s article “1,000 True Fans.”
Here’s another powerful example.
To reiterate what we’ve already covered: material beats method.
The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use. If we include colloquial and derivative terms, the word count easily tops 250,000. Crikey. At the end of this chapter, I’ve listed the 100 most common words in written English. It’s a drop in the bucket, a mere .06%, or 6/100ths of 1%, of the 171,476 total.
Yet the first 25 words on my list make up roughly 33% of all printed material in English. The first 100 comprise 50% of all written material. If we were to expand the list to the top 300, they would make up about 65% of all written material in English.
What you need to remember: 100 well-selected words give you 50% of the practical use of 171,476 words.
So, do you work from A to Z through 250,000 words over 25+ years, or do you master this high-frequency 100-word list in less than a week, then decide on next steps? Clearly, you do the second.
To conclude, here’s a powerful corollary to proper selection.
Choose the highest-yield material and you can be an idiot and [still] enjoy stunning success.
This is the power of understanding the difference between being efficient (doing things right) and being effective (doing the right things in the first place).
TL;DR of key ideas
- If you want to be the best at something, you find someone who is the best in their field, and model after what they do. Of course this can also apply to the skill of learning. So it follows that to learn how to learn, mimic the fastest learners!
- A useful framework for learning any skill is DiSSS which stands for Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing and Stakes. Useful supporting principles are encapsulated in the acronym CaFE, which stands for Compression, Frequency and Encoding.
- The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is a concept that helps you select the 20% of the blocks (which you deconstructed in the first step of DiSSS) you should focus on for 80% of the results you seek. The key idea is to do as little as needed, not as much as possible.
- If you select the highest yielding material you can be an idiot and yet enjoy stunning success.
If you liked this week’s ideas, please consider reading the entire book to get the full context, meaning and nuance. As always, happy reading! 📚
Thanks for reading. If you enjoy these weekly bite-sized chunks of ideas from books and would like to support them, there are a couple of ways you could do that.
- The easiest way is to share these posts with anyone whom you think would find them useful towards developing a reading habit. So feel free to pass these on to your friends of family. ✉
- If you have the means you could subscribe to my paid Substack publication. It would go a long way towards helping me devote more time towards my pursuit of lifelong learning and enable me to create more content. 📚
Either way, I really appreciate the time you spent reading this article. 🙏
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