Get Better at Anything

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My new Book, Get Better at Anything is now available

Life depends on learning. We spend decades in school, acquiring an education. We want to be good at our jobs, not just for the perks that come from being one of the best, but for the pride of mastering a craft. Even the things we do for fun, we enjoy to a large extent because we feel capable of getting better at them.

Yet learning is often mysterious.

Sometimes we improve effortlessly—in other cases it’s a slog. We can spend decades driving a car, swinging a tennis racket or working at our jobs without getting better at any of them.

In my new book, I explore the science of skill acquisition, illustrating the core principles that can help you get better at the things that matter most to you.

Get Better at Anything Book Cover

The Joy (and Frustration) of Trying to Get Better

Few experiences can top the joy of finally getting the hang of a new skill. The first time you have a successful conversation in a new language, solve a tricky programming problem or ski down a hill without falling is thrilling.

But, just as often, learning is frustrating.

We can spend hours in the library and not understand a subject any better than when we began. We can feel stuck in our jobs and careers, unable to make the jump to something better. Sometimes, we even convince ourselves that entire fields are off-limits—that we’re just not capable of getting better.

Frustrations can come at the beginning—when we have to learn something new and don’t know where to start. It can be daunting to embark on a new profession, pick up a new hobby or take on projects with new responsibilities.

For other skills, the frustrations can occur later—when we have already spent hundreds of hours striving to improve and feel stalled or stuck. It can be discouraging to feel trapped in a career that’s hit a dead-end, or to have a golf handicap that isn’t getting any better no matter what you try.

The key to transforming frustration to enthusiasm, from feeing stuck to making progress, is developing a deep understanding of how learning works.

Get Better at Anything breaks down the process of learning into three crucial ingredients, with twelve memorable maxims encapsulating the key concepts you need to make progress.

The Three Ingredients for Getting Better at Anything

Three factors underpin our ability to learn:


Most of what we know comes from other people. The ease (or difficulty) of learning from others explains much of our ability to improve ourselves.


Practice is essential to progress, but not all efforts are equal. The brain is a fantastic effort-saving machine, which is both a blessing and a curse. Knowing what kinds of actions lead to progress (and which don’t) can save years of wasted efforts.


Improvement is not a straight line; it requires adjustment. Sometimes, feedback looks like the red stroke of a teacher’s pen, but more often, it comes from direct contact with the reality we’re engaged with.

Engaging in practice loops, where we see examples, practice for ourselves and get high-quality feedback is a proven method that has been used to accelerate progress in skills from novel writing to pilot training.

Details matter, of course. Which is why, in the book, I divide the three factors into distinct chapters, each introducing a central concept drawn from the research, backed with clear examples and practical applications for getting those details right. The twelve maxims for mastery are:

1. Problem Solving is Search.

I’ll share how a new understanding of how people solve problems sheds light on the process of acquiring complex skills.

2. Creativity Begins with Copying.

Imitation isn’t the enemy of originality, but an important precursor to it. I’ll cover research showing why we can sometimes solve problems without learning how we solve them, as well as practical implications of one of the most celebrated findings in psychology.

3. Success is the Best Teacher.

Motivation starts from having the proper foundation. The concept of self-efficacy, pioneered by psychologist Albert Bandura, can explain why we sometimes feel driven to learn and other times shrink from new challenges.

4. Knowledge Becomes Invisible with Experience.

Tacit knowledge, or the things we know without being able to say what they are, plays a central role in mastery. But that same receding of conscious awareness can make it tricky to learn from experts who forget what it’s like to be a beginner.

5. Difficulty Has a Sweet Spot.

Fine-tuning the difficulty is central to making progress. Too hard and we fail to grasp the skill. Too easy and we may not internalize the lessons. I’ll show how you can tweak the difficulty to maximize growth.

6. The Mind is Not a Muscle.

Understanding proceeds from having the right metaphor. Unfortunately, for many of us, we have the wrong metaphor for the mind and the wrong idea about what improves through practice.

7. Variability Over Repetition.

Following the training of jazz musicians, I’ll show the surprising research on variable practice, an underused strategy for making your practice more efficient.

8. Quality Comes from Quantity.

Creative success is, to a surprising degree, the direct outcome of productivity. I’ll explain the difference between routine and creative expertise, and how you can have more creative hits in your career.

9. Experience Doesn’t Reliably Ensure Expertise.

Decades of experience doesn’t lead to great predictive abilities in many professions. I’ll share when you should trust your gut and stick to the numbers, as well as how you can adopt strategies used by professional poker players to enhance your feedback.

10. Improvement is Not a Straight Line.

Progress is not a steady ascent—there are dips and detours along the way. I’ll talk about how you can continue to reach new heights, without getting stuck in the valleys below.

11. Practice Must Meet Reality.

There’s a lot about life we can’t learn in a classroom. But learning in the field has its own dangers that must be avoided. Following the worst aviation accident in history, I’ll share the history of pilot training—and the implications for mastering your profession in the real world.

12. Fears Fade with Exposure.

Despite substantial empirical evidence in its favor, exposure remains an underused strategy for dealing with fears and anxieties. I’ll show how one of the biggest failed predictions in psychology’s history can teach us lessons about dealing with the more mundane trepidations we face in our own quest to improve.

Along the way, the book delves into the fascinating and diverse science of learning, including fascinating case studies such as:

  • Why it took two decades for Tetris players to begin to master the seemingly simple game.
  • Why professional poker players make better predictions than psychiatrists.
  • The secret to the artistic training of Renaissance master painters.
  • How jazz musicians learn to improvise.
  • A mathematical problem that took three centuries to solve—and the psychological theory that explains its resolution.
  • What the London Blitz teach us about the neuroscience of anxiety.

Whether you’re unsure of where to begin, feel stuck after years of effort, or simply want a deeper understanding of how learning works, Get Better at Anything, will guide you through your learning journey.

What They’re Saying About
Get Better at Anything

“Scott H. Young knocks it out of the park with Get Better at Anything. This concise guide will help, no matter what you are learning—or teaching!”
Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers and instructor of Learning How to Learn, one of the world’s most popular online courses
“The ability to efficiently learn hard things is like a superpower. In this phenomenally wise book, Scott H. Young reveals exactly how to obtain it!”
Cal Newport, New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work
"Get Better at Anything is a master class in accelerated, effective learning. Learning grounded in seeing how others are succeeding; experimenting with and testing new ideas in the real world; and, most important, being open and receptive to the feedback that inevitably comes back. Almost everything we do depends on learning new skills, new attitudes, and new behaviors—this book is an indispensable guide to mastering that skill for a twenty-first century rocked by change and uncertainty."
Tiago Forte, author of Building a Second Brain
“Full of fascinating insights and practical tips. Scott H. Young has written an excellent guide to getting better at getting better.”
Brad Stulberg, author of Master of Change and The Practice of Groundedness
“By far the best book on learning available today. The best method by the leading expert. Actionable, intriguing, inspiring. Read it now before learning more, to be supereffective.”
Derek Sivers, author of How to Live and Anything You Want
“Young breaks down the science of learning into actionable advice. A must-read for anyone who wants to master their craft.”
Nir Eyal, bestselling author of Indistractable

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should get this book?

I wrote this book for people like me: If you care about getting better, but aren’t always sure the best way to go about it, this book is written for you.

Get Better at Anything is for students, who want advice on mastering their studies. It’s for employees and entrepreneurs looking to get a handle on an ever-exploding list of required proficiencies. It’s for seasoned professionals eager to hone their craft and create their legacy.

Even if all you want to improve is a hobby, sport or passion project you do for fun—the understanding Get Better at Anything imparts will help you do it better.

How is it different from Ultralearning?

I wrote Get Better at Anything because after spending nearly five years delving deeper into the research and stories of learning, I felt there was more to say about the art of learning than I was able to express in Ultralearning.

Get Better at Anything is a great sequel to Ultralearning, but it also stands alone. Reading Ultralearning isn’t a requirement (but it’s a good book too!)

The main differences between the two books are:

  1. Ultralearning focuses on a particularly narrow slice of the world of learning—the strange subculture of obsessive autodidacts. For Get Better at Anything, I wanted to step back and take a broader look look at many different systems and cultures of learning—and figure out the common elements needed for success.
  2. Ultralearning is grounded in my personal experiences and projects. Get Better at Anything is a research-driven book, focused on extracting broader patterns and covering established research. I read hundreds of academic books and peer-reviewed papers and tried to summarize and synthesize the most important concepts and practical takeaways.
Does this method work for everyone? Do you need particular skills or talents?

My goal with Get Better at Anything wasn’t to provide a method, but to show how learning works. There are plenty of methods applying the advice inside the book, but my real motivation was to shine a light on some of the most fundamental aspects of learning that are present whenever learning works.

While the ultimate heights you reach with any skill depend on a complex mixture of strategy, talent, grit, motivation and luck, each of us is capable of getting better—if we know how.