#1544 Areté +1° #009: Learning 101

Interleaving & Spaced Repetition

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, a micro-chapter from my new book, Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential, any one of which I hope can significantly help you optimize your life and activate your Heroic potential.

We're still going through the first 11 micro-chapters in the first Objective.

Today we're going to talk about…


As a professional philosopher for the last fifteen years, I’ve distilled over five hundred of the absolute best books on ancient wisdom and modern science into what I call “Philosopher’s Notes.”

I’ve also created over fifty hour-long master classes in which I distill the best ideas from those great books to help you optimize every facet of your life.

In the Heroic app, we have classes on everything from Purpose 101, Productivity 101, and Confidence 101 to Nutrition 101, Sleep 101, and Love 101.

We also have a class on Learning 101 in which I share the best ideas from some of the best books on learning including Make It Stick, A Mind for Numbers, and How We Learn.

In that class, we talk about a concept scientists call “interleaving.” The basic idea is simple: If you want to learn something, you’re better off varying your practice rather than grooving one identical rep after another.

For example, they’ve done research on baseball players. If you throw someone fifteen curveballs in a row then fifteen fastballs, they’ll FEEL like they’re doing really well, but they won’t actually be improving the skills they need for an actual game when they won’t know what’s coming.

Scientists call that the “fluency illusion” and it’s actually one of the greatest threats to effective learning.

The interleaving approach?

A random assortment of fastballs and curveballs that keeps the batter constantly guessing and, thereby, developing the ACTUAL skills he or she will need come game-time.

Of course, that doesn’t always feel as good as the easier (more common) approach when you know what’s coming. But, alas, that’s where the learning occurs.

That’s one of the things I had in mind as I mapped out how to best deliver these 451 potentially life-changing ideas. As you’ll see, we’re going to deliberately interleave different themes within the chapters in our seven objectives.

We’re ALSO going to focus on another key aspect of Learning 101 called “spaced repetition.”

The basic idea with that is exactly what it sounds like—we want to create a little space between our deliberate repetition of the stuff we REALLY want to make stick.

Speaking of repetition, here’s how Dan Coyle puts it in The Little Book of Talent: “Repetition has a bad reputation. We tend to think of it as dull and uninspiring. But this perception is titanically wrong. Repetition is the single most powerful lever we have to improve skills, because it uses the built-in mechanism for making the wires of our brains faster and more accurate.”

Interleaving and spaced repetition. They do a Hero good.

P.S. You know what else helps us master a concept? Explaining it to someone else. If you feel so inspired, share what you’re learning as you go.

P.P.S. I created this book with two other books in mind: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

Pressfield is one of my all-time favorite writers. His incredibly inspiring and equally practical prose is an inspiration. It’s very much how I love to write.

You can read one of the potentially life-changing microchapters in his nonfiction books in a minute or three.

That’s exactly what I had in mind as I created this book.


In addition to creating a SUPER-readable, open-the-book-up-to-any-page-and-potentially-change-your-life-in-a-few-minutes kinda book, I ALSO wanted to make sure the book had a density and gravitas to it.

And, of course, I’m committed to doing everything I can to deliver on Phil’s promise from the foreword of the book in which he boldly says: “This book will change your life.”


We received thousands of notes from our Heroic community about why they were excited about this book—which were remarkably humbling and inspiring. I wanted to do my best to create a book worthy of comments like this…

“Brian is one of the great philosophers of our time. If this book is the distillation of his life’s work then it will be worth its weight in gold.”

“Humanity’s greatest wisdom for living a prosperous life condensed into ONE book—how could anyone not be excited to buy this?!”

“This book will be a classic handbook such as 7 Habits and How to Win Friends. Timeless principles.”

“This will be the best book in modern history for personal development. Period.”

(No pressure no diamonds, right? Hah.)

As I stepped back and felt into what the book needed to be to have a shot at delivering on those expectations, I realized that I wanted to create a book that is basically The War of Art + War and Peace.

Pithy microchapters + dense brick of a book.

You can start from the first page and systematically work your way through the seven objectives (with the interleaving and spaced repetition!).

Or you can open up to any page and, hopefully, get inspired by one of the 451° Ideas in a minute or three.

Choose your own adventure, Hero.


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