Nick Velasquez is the author of the new book Learn, Improve, Master: How to Develop Any Skill and Excel at It. In the interview, we discuss the core principles, strategies, and tools you can use to master any anything, may it be reaching conversational fluency in Japanese or remembering more of what you read.

Topics Discussed

  • How Nick and I read books and take notes.
  • The critical difference between “reading” and “studying.”
  • The benefit of rereading books and why total number of books is simply a “vanity metric.”
  • Why “intake” matters more than mere “input.”
  • The history of reading and how the focus has shifted from depth to breadth as books became cheap.
  • Passive input vs. active output
  • Nick’s language learning journey
  • The importance of having a strong, internal WHY for learning a language.
  • Why you should replace “easy” with “ineffective” in marketing materials.
  • Why you shouldn’t call Japanese “difficult.”
  • Why we “get used to” a language instead of “learn” a language.
  • Why foreign words are simply “synonyms” for words and concepts you already know.
  • The “last in, first out” effect of learning languages consecutively.
  • Nick’s Japanese language goals and daily language learning routine.
  • Why you need to balance preparation and practice and the value of linguistic “training wheels.”
  • How to stay motivated through tracking progress.
  • The paradox of learning: you can’t get good without practice, and you can’t wait until you are already good to start practicing.
  • Why embracing mistakes is about advocating courage, not failure.
  • The importance of setting realistic expectations.
  • How to create low-stakes and zero-stakes speaking practice.
  • The role of “desirable difficulty” in learning.
  • How to create effective flashcards with personal, emotional connections to your life and experience.
  • The problem of “transfer” from context-dependent learning.
  • Why “enthusiasm” is a better goal than “fun” in language learning.
  • Why you need to remember the end goal in languages and not get lost in the details.
  • The law of diminishing returns in language learning.
  • The unfortunate assumptions some people make based on accent and language ability.
  • How to develop the master metaskill of “learning how to learn.”

Concepts, People & Resources Mentioned

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