SEBASTIAN MARSHALL Strategy Philosophy Self-Discipline Science Victory en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 11:13:37 +0000 Sett RSS Generator Tim Ferriss’ Meta-Learning Methods – Compressed into 1 page What follows is the one pager 0f the Meta-Learning chapter of Tim Ferriss Four Hour Chef (the first part of CaFE is one-paging whatever you’re learning).

It’s forming the foundation of my Mindset & Skill Acquisition Method, and I’ll be putting it to the test in the next few months with an experiment to learn surfing (which I'll be updating about on

You can get the full chapter and method notes here.


“It is possible to become worldclass in just about anything in six months or less. Armed with the right framework, you can seemingly perform miracles” – Tim Ferriss

The Two Guiding Principles

  1. Failure Points. Avoid things likely to trip you up.
  2. The Margin Of Safety. Pick a plan that ensures great results

DiSSS – Planning Your Attack

Deconstruction – The Minimum Learnable Units

“Students are subordinate to materials…Material beats method.” – Tim Ferriss

“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” – Alice Waters, founder of Chef Panissee

Break the skill down into bite-sized pieces & identify all failure points and all fundamental principles.

Find and interview the pros (especially the unconventional pros) in the field, and find out what they do in common, what trips beginners up, how they would teach you, their fav learning resources, other unconventional pros, etc.

Selection – Choose The Best 20% To Focus On

“Do as little as possible, not as much as possible” – Henk Kraaijenhof

“Simple works. Complex fails.” – Tim Ferriss

Find the MED (Minimum Effective Dose) you need to learn this skill. What teaches overall principles well? What micro-skills are used throughout the skill?

MED = “The lowest volume, the lowest frequency, the fewest changes that get us to our desired result is what I label the minimal effective dose (MED)”

Sequencing – The Order In Which You’ll Learn

“How do you cut time without cutting corners?” – Tim Ferriss

What is the best order in which to learn? How can you avoid all the tripping points and learn all the fundamental principles and micro-skills? How can you make sure you’ll stick with it?

Stakes – Real Life Consequences

What rewards or punishments can you put in place that will ensure you will follow through? People counting on you? Money on the line?

CaFE – Making Things Easier

Compression – One Page It

“The word decision, closely related to incision, derives from the meaning ‘a cutting off’. Making effective decisions – and learning effectively – requires massive elimination and the removal of options.” – Tim Ferriss

Fit the entire skill on one page.

Frequency – When & How Often?

When & how often should you practice? What is the ideal schedule that you’ll stick to?

Encoding – Easy Memorization

Use Mnemonics and memory techniques to remember things.


You can get all 5 pages of my notes on this chapter, and on DiSSS and CaFE, here. (’tis free)

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Sat, 08 Feb 2014 08:13:42 +0000
Stop Guessing the Future, Go With What Works Now The other day I was talking to my boss. I was asking him what parts of my work I should put more focus on – what type of work will generate revenue. He said I needed to help him push out more content. Content marketing seems to be the main focus of most online marketing nowadays. Almost everyone is giving away advice and tips.

So I asked him that, I said “You sure about content marketing? Everyone is doing content marketing these days”.

He replied “That’s why we have to create better content”.

Naturally, I replied to that with “Don’t you think the bar is being raised too high? If everyone is giving way free content, then pretty soon paid content will be free content. Don’t you think that because content marketing is so saturated that one day it will stop working?”

“Yes. One day, content marketing will stop working" He said, "But right now, it works. So we gotta go with what works. When I was young, I was caught up in the future, and I ended up wasting a lot of time chasing things that never happened, and getting nothing done.”

He’s right. I mean we should think about and plan for the future, but not if that hinders us from taking action on quick wins right now.

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Fri, 07 Feb 2014 09:12:30 +0000
Your all time favourite audiobooks Hey I know that Sebastian is highly recommending to listen to audio books. I prefer to listen to non-fiction books. Unfortunately its quite difficult to find good recommendations for them on the internet. So if you like to listen to audio books: What are your all time favourites? Cheers!

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 05:29:48 +0000
How do I respond in a sales call when prospect has no budget? During a sales call, after I ask the prospect general questions and when I move on to qualifying the prospect, how do I respond when they don't qualify.

The main qualification is if they have a budget for my services. How do I respond if they tell me they have no budget or if they say a number that's too small?

I don't want to be rude to them especially if its me that contacted them.

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Tue, 21 Jan 2014 23:36:46 +0000
20+ Ways to Increase "Mental Energy" It would be pretty awesome if we all had plenty of mental energy to stay motivated and disciplined all day long, to be highly productive and highly creative whenever we needed, and to always feel vibrant and optimistic about the future.

However, the more you try to control elements of your life – whether it is to improve your health, wealth, social life or whatever – the more apparent it is how finite and scarce this “mental energy” can be.

In particular, it seems that whenever we use willpower – in any form and for any reason – we are using up resources from this pool of mental energy, much faster than the pool is replenished.

Psychologists have carried out plenty of experiments that strongly appear to confirm this model of willpower – Jason Shen and Sebastian recently put together a great post about it here: which is very much worth reading if you haven't already!

Psychologists have also shown[1] that decisions on matters that affect us can deplete the same mental resource as willpower. In some sense, these decisions and willpower are the same:

  • it requires willpower to consciously focus our attention on different complex options and their shortcomings in order to make a decision.
  • when we use willpower, we are making a decision whether to override whatever action we
    would otherwise have taken.

Below are some of my concrete suggestions for keeping one’s mental energy high, and I’m interested to hear more ideas from other readers – so please tell us: what tricks do you know for maximising your mental energy?

  1. Build habits and routines: this reduces the number of superfluous decisions that you need to make on a daily basis, especially involving recurring temptations.
  2. Avoid temptation in the first place: for example, when I buy food, I intentionally buy only healthy items. Then later at home, I never have to use any willpower to convince myself not to eat unhealthy food, as all the choices are healthy.
  3. Make unimportant decisions quickly: a decision that is thought about for a long time is likely to be slightly more accurate than the same decision made quickly, although vastly more expensive for the mind. So trivial decisions, such as which colour shirt to wear [like Obama: 2], or which dish to order from a menu, are best made quickly even if this risks overlooking a slightly better alternative.
  4. Get out of bed soon after waking up: this helps  for two reasons. Firstly, it teaches your body to transition properly from “asleep” to “awake”, and I’ve found this gives you better quality of sleep and better wakefulness during the day. Secondly, if you have a tendency to laze around for a long time after waking up, then every morning you’re losing the fight against the temptation to stay in bed several times before getting up, throwing mental energy down the drain before your feet have even touched the floor!
  5. Focus on one complicated task at a time: I used to improvise on the piano during breaks from work, until eventually, I realised how expensive it was to switch back to “proper” work afterwards! Every time I switched from playing the piano to whatever work I was supposed to be doing, my mind would still be naturally trying to think about piano, and so it required mental effort to refocus on the new task.
  6. Keep your blood sugar moderately high: Psychologists have done many experiments on the effect of sugar on willpower depletion, and the results are conclusive: people have more willpower when they have been given sugar. The reasoning is simple: the only fuel that the brain can use is glucose, so if your blood sugar is low, then your mind can’t do its job properly. When I feel my mental energy waning, I often take a glucose tablet to revert my blood sugar to “enough” (followed by a drink of water to avoid tooth decay!)
  7. Avoid sugar crashes: conversely, if your blood sugar is too high, then it will soon be enthusiastically removed to be stored for times of famine, leaving your mind with too little again.
  8. Avoid food that’s difficult to digest: after eating heavy, carbohydrate-rich foods, your body makes its digestive system a priority, so the brain doesn’t get as much glucose as it deserves.
  9. Keep active as you work: even light physical activity such as walking around will keep your blood flowing well, supplying your mind with a steady stream of fuel.
  10. Spend time only on activities that deserve your mental energy
  11. Sleep at the same time every night: The best way to replenish mental energy reserves is by sleeping well, and sleeping at the same time is an effective way to sleep better.
  12. Work with the right amount of background noise/music: For some activities, I prefer to work in silence. For example if I’m doing a maths exam paper, any music and any sounds distract me and I would have to expend effort focusing away from them. Other times, if the work is less demanding then my mind will wander, and I have to expend effort focusing back to the work. Then, music or background noise can be useful as it’s the first thing my mind will wander to, so it won’t wander far! For me, metal and foreign pop music are the easiest genres to work along to, but Classical distracts me too much so I avoid it. For you, it may work completely differently, so it’s worth experimenting with.
  13. Write down information to free your short-term memory: This is just one reason why to-do lists are so powerful – they save our minds from spending their energy on making sure we remember to do everything.
  14. Take “real” breaks: especially those which require no conscious decisions – long showers and team sports work well for me.
  15. For difficult decisions, write down a short list of options and work from that: this allows the mind to focus quickly on choosing the best option rather than holding various options its memory.
  16. Make travelling less effortful: I used to wonder why travelling would make me so tired – after all, most of the time is spent just sitting around on a train or at an airport! However, the whole time our minds are on alert, checking whether we have all our belongings, whether we’re on the correct platform, whether we’re running late etc. A little planning well before the journey can help here.
  17. Be a little more extroverted: one difference between extroverts and introverts is that introverts typically monitor details of their social interaction much more than extroverts do[3]. As a result, extroverts can survive and enjoy social activity for much longer before their mental energy starts running dry. Mentally switching off some of the superfluous self-monitoring saves you energy for later.
  18. Be less perfectionist: similarly, perfectionists can encounter decision fatigue from aggressive monitoring of
    their work. (Of course, there are both benefits and drawbacks to being perfectionist!)
  19. Work and live in a comfortable environment: otherwise you’ll often have to distract yourself from these discomforts to concentrate on anything else.
  20. Choose to spend more time on activities that absorb your attention: in other words, seek flow[4] activities.

So how about you? Suggestions about meditation or sport or travelling would be particularly useful, as I haven’t covered them much here!





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Thu, 14 Mar 2013 00:37:29 +0000
This man changed my life In August 2013 I read Ikigai and highlighted this:

How can I stimulate great thinkers who have minor blocks to write more, to build more, to produce more? If I could inspire 1 out of 100 people I meet to produce at higher levels, then there will be a cascading effect through all of humanity. Everyone will be pulled up.

I wrote a note that said, "That would be me."

That was easily the best thing I did all year.

I could do a better job writing a more proper post. But I just felt a compelling need to post something. Express my gratitude for this man. Right now.

That's one thing Sebastian helps me remember: Many times, imperfect action is better than not doing anything.

So what if it's badly written? If it nudges just one person towards reading the book then my five minutes typing here would've been time well spent. And if you ignore it... So what?

I took action on my compelling need.

If you do that enough times, you'll eventually win.

So yeah, stop screwing around and go get your copy of Ikigai today.

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Wed, 08 Jan 2014 14:15:23 +0000
The Limiting Mindset Most Smart People Have Most things in life that matter: SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY.

Meaning: You don’t need to be smart. You just need the ability to get over yourself and do the hard work.

“She’s not really smart. She just works hard. I can also do that if I try.”

That above is the most AMATEUR, PATHETIC, and LIMITING mindset I (and most smart people) have.

It doesn’t matter if you can figure out stuff most people don’t understand. Doesn’t matter if you can come up with witty lines every once in a while. Doesn’t even matter if you can come up with brilliant ideas that can change the world.

Because guess what?

Somebody already invented the wheel.

Your ability to reinvent it doesn’t matter. Whereas the person who reads a book on it, applies the lessons in today’s context, and ACTS ON IT to create value today? That person will go places.

Let’s see what intelligence and cleverness with no industry have gotten me:

  • Look smart and impress people with my smart-assness
  • Get into the best universities with no reviewing whatsoever
  • Get a “high”-paying job with almost no effort

Intelligence and cleverness give you a ticket to arrogance. That you can achieve mediocre stuff with no effort. Nothing more.

Definitely not a purposeful, substantive, and yes – rich – life.

I am convinced that intelligence and cleverness have almost NO value on their own.

They are only valuable when you combine them with four vastly more important traits

  1. Courage to act and pursue endeavors beyond what's "normal" and hence, what you are comfortable with,
  2. Willingness and ability to work hard,
  3. Persistence, especially at the beginning cause it’s almost always gonna suck at first; and
  4. Open-mindedness and understanding that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

The fourth is key because smart people think we can - and even need to - “figure it out”

WTF does that even mean?

Basically, the problem is most smart people think they can get away with laziness merely because they are smart.

How this applies to you:

  • Realize that just because you’re smart doesn’t make you entitled to anything
  • Get over your fascination with “intelligence” and bias against hard workers

This is a rant simmering inside me while reading Ikigai. Life-changing stuff.

P.S. We should start an official "Sebastian Marshall School of Thought"

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Mon, 02 Sep 2013 07:39:44 +0000
A lesson in negotiation This is an excerpt from my May 2013 Monthly Financial Review. I thought it was worth reposting here.

A lesson in negotiation

I've been reading a lot lately, mostly business and personal development books. Here's a quote from Sebastian Marshall's Ikigai:

A lot of people don't understand good negotiating. They think it's about getting the best price—no, no, no. Good negotiation is about figuring out what you can offer that's worth more to the other person than you, and what they can offer that's worth more to you than them.

A few months ago, when the children's camp I worked with last summer invited me to come back this year, I wrote my first salary negotiation letter. I thought it was pretty darn good. I explained that I wanted twice as much as last year and why I was worth that much to their company. I love working at camp, but right now my main priority is paying off my debt. It just didn't make sense for me to live in the Russian countryside all summer long to only work 3 hours a day teaching English. I could have worked the same number of hours in Moscow city, made more money and had the rest of the time to do whatever I wanted (most likely work more) instead of being trapped in the middle of nowhere.

Well, the company wasn't willing to pay me that much. Honestly, I would've settled for a 50% raise, but even that was too much for them. Fortunately, someone high up in the company understood good negotiation much better than I did. They knew that more money from the company wasn't my primary desire, but what I really wanted was more opportunities to make more money for myself. They also recognized that the company has resources to help me do that which are worth more to me than they are to them.

So we settled on a small raise. Plus, I have a classroom in the center of Moscow that I can use to host my own group classes for an incredibly small fee, they advertise my private lessons on their company website and at camp I have my own quiet office with internet where I can teach lessons on Skype. Furthermore, we started an Extra English program where kids at camp can take additional small group classes during free time. This summer, I'll be making 50-100% more than what I originally asked for, but my money isn't coming out of the camp's pocket. Now that's smart negotiating. I can't take any credit for it, but what a valuable business lesson.

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Wed, 05 Jun 2013 17:44:40 +0000
Two techniques for increasing memory and focus. My review of Piracetam and others. Since studying the brain extensively during my neuroscience degree, I’ve had a particular curiosity about the extent of which it is possible to improve cognition. But now as an over-worked medical student getting closer and closer to finals, I’ve taken a more practical interest in this topic rather than purely curiosity! As such, I thought I’d share a few of my personal techniques to get the most from your cognitive abilities!

Here, I explain my preferred nootropics and review piracetam and the uses of combining l-theanine and caffeine.

I hope it's of use to some of you!

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Sun, 10 Nov 2013 21:51:45 +0000
What binds the bloggers -- and readers -- of SETT Welcome, Sebastian, to SETT, and hats off and kudos to Tynan, the creator of SETT, for creating a new blogging platform that will allow the communities of our three great blogs to explore and learn about each other.

Ever since Tynan first told me about SETT, I've been a fan.  I always wanted my blog,, to be about more than just me sharing my thoughts with my readers.  I wanted it to be a conversation we could all have together, so we could all learn from each other.

Now that Sebastian's blog is joining SETT, readers will have easy ways to pique their curiosities around the things we all write about and share thoughts and expertise with each other.  And that's amazing.

Tynan's blog is about world travel, good habits, freedom and minimalism.  I'd also add that it's about self optimization, and being proud of who you are, and what you accomplish -- and doing it in really fun ways.

My blog is a sanctuary for entrepreneurs to learn from each other.  A place to learn about angel fundraising, about how to build yourself as a brand, how to get massive amounts of press for your startup, about why you should productize your expertise , a place to learn from startup mistakes and how to be uber efficient with a computer and much more.

Now with Sebastian's blog on SETT, Tynan and I can add Sebastian's thoughts on strategy, philosophy, self discipline, science and victory to the mix.  SETT is turning into a great community of blogs that support each other to give readers an incredible, expansive experience.

For those of you who have ever dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur, or who have already taken the plunge and are in the throes of it, I encourage you to ask me questions or share thoughts about your experiences -- especially life lessons in entrepreneurism that took you sweat and tears to learn -- at

Great work, Tynan.  I can't wait to see how SETT evolves.  

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Sun, 23 Sep 2012 14:31:58 +0000