You can learn what you want — faster, more easily and fearlessly

I recently came across a TED talk given by Tim Ferriss called “Smash Fear, Learn Anything.”  Ferriss — known widely for his productivity secrets in “The 4-Hour Workweek” — speaks about working with smarter techniques to learn skills faster and more easily.  And doing so even in the face of anxiety and low-confidence — or fear and phobia.

His talk does double duty. He shows the importance of facing the hard stuff in life head-on, resolving your anxieties and working your way through to solutions. In addition, he actually teaches some effective techniques in learning to be a good swimmer, speak a new language and dance the Tango (or any other kind of dance.)

While I applaud a great deal of what Ferriss writes in his books, I also take issue with an equal amount of his ideas.  This 16-minute talk, however, is full of insights and tips that fall on the applause side.

(Besides, even when Ferriss writes stuff I disagree with or find ultimately inappropriate, I still find him interesting.)

So, here’s the video:

One of the best ways to develop local customers or clients

“4 Ways to Build Your Ezine List Without Spending a Dime,” by guest author Sandra Martini, was yesterday’s article on The four methods she outlines are well-established, effective ways. If you’re not using at least three of them, you are really missing out.

Unless you are a nationwide (or international) seminar giver, however, method #1, public speaking, is mostly useful for getting local subscribers. So, it’s best for those of you with local businesses. And for local businesses, it is outstanding.

The problem with public speaking as a method of developing clients or subscribers is that few people want to do it. After all, in study after study, people rank speaking to an audience as their top fear. People are more afraid of public speaking than of dying.

If you do have a local business rather than a web-based one, you would benefit tremendously from public speaking. It would be worthwhile to learn to overcome your fear and learn how to be a good speaker.

Also, you don’t need to limit your speaking to making free talks at local service clubs, the “Y,” and Chamber of Commerce meetings. That will certainly help get you known in the community. But, you can also make a great local name for yourself, get new clients and customers, and make a little money by giving half-day classes through the local community college’s continuing education program. This worked well before the Internet and works well now. Once you get comfortable speaking for audiences, this ever-effective way of showing off your expertise becomes exciting and enjoyable.

Although I’ve said it often before in my articles and blogs, the best way to get over the fear of public speaking is to learn to be a speaker in a less public environment with a lot of support from others. The organization that provides the environment and support is Toastmasters International. A great number of fine speakers started as Toastmasters. (I’ve often wished that school teachers and college professors were legally required to go through the program!)

Toastmasters has a great variety of clubs in almost every community in the U.S. They have meetings available in mornings, before usual work times, at lunch times, and in the evenings. You are bound to find a group with the kind of people you want to learn with, at a time you can get there. You could even start a club of your own and get exactly the right people in it.

If you have a local business and need to develop clients or customers from your community, give speaking — and Toastmasters — a try. Go to

Tricks of the Trade: Two Essential Tips for Speed Reading

Have you read my old article “Double Your Reading Speed Now?” If not, you might want to try it out for tips on faster reading techniques. The suggestions below are ways to enhance your practice of speed reading techniques you already know.

However, I want to point out that these tips will work without the use of any special speed reading techniques. In fact, the two tips below are a natural way of increasing reading speed. No expensive coursework required.

1. Practice your reading techniques on simple material and gradually increase the complexity.

It’s difficult enough to learn techniques of hand pacing and word grouping and other systems for building reading speed. If you’re going build new skills, at least do it on easy material.

And, when I say easy or simple material, I mean stuff like children’s literature. You could even start with Little Golden Books. Really. I had a friend who took a speed reading course from one of the best-known providers (many years ago), and at that time, this is exactly what they recommended. I tried it with quite a number of students when I was teaching Psychology of Learning, and it worked quite well.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to use very simple stuff for very long. You should increase the reading difficulty level at least every week or so until you find the best level for you. When your ability to use the techniques is well-established, you can start applying them to more and more complex material.

2. Read a lot. The more you read, the faster you get.

You need to actually like to read to get faster. So read fiction, especially in your favorite genre. Unlike non-fiction, most moder fictions is designed to be read quickly. Popular authors know that one of the things that makes them popular is they have a nice, easy flow.

Lots of folks get public domain downloads of books from the internet and print them to read. After all, why spend extra money on books for practice? But, many classics are harder because they were written in a time when few people could or did read. Most readers were well-educated intellectuals. So, if you’re going to use public domain classics while building your reading speed, read something like Sherlock Holmes stories. They were written to be popular.

People who read fast naturally have built their skills exactly by following the two methods I’ve suggested here. They started with a love of reading, usually at a young age. They read as much of their favorite reading matter as time would allow, gradually increasing the range and complexity of what they read. Eventually they could read anything — as long as they had the basis for understanding the material — at a speed well above average.

The good news is that you don’t have to start at an early age to become a natural speed reader. You can simply start with the same materials you would have used at an earlier age and build quickly to matter that is more appropriate to your age and education. As you may imagine, you won’t have to put in the years that people who got it “organically” did. Just a matter of weeks.

In the long run, though, you’ll still have to do a great deal of reading to keep up the speed and continue to build it. Use it or lose it.