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  #1  
Old 12-04-2012
terry terry is offline
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Default META-Learning: Shinji Takeuchi in . . . 4 Hour Chef?

I just opened my new copy of Tim Ferriss's latest book 4 Hour Chef. The first chapter is about META-Learning -- how to become world class in a chosen discipline and learn anything faster. Flipping pages I was surprised to come across a familiar image -- a screen shot of Shinji's #1 Youtube video, with a screen shot of Michael Phelps's #2 video just above it. The heading of this section is
BEING the Best Vs. BECOMING the Best.
Ferriss writes
"As I write this the two most-viewed swimming videos in the world are of:
1. Shinji Takeuchi
2. Michael Phelps.
Phelps makes sense but . . . who the hell is Shinji Takeuchi?
Phelps learned to swim at the tender age of seven. Shinji learned to swim well at the well-ripened age of 37. More interesting to me. Shinji learned by doing practically the opposite of Phelps.
Phelps looks like he's attached to an outboard motor. It's a heroic output of horsepower. Shinji has been watched millions of times because he offers the flipside--effortless propulsion.
So who would you rather have as a teacher: Phelps or Shinji?"

Tim devoted an entire chapter in his last book, 4 Hour Body. In interview after its publication, he was asked what was the most satisfying thing he learned in pursuing about a 100 different avenues of self-improvement. He said that learning TI was the best part of his research.

Tim appreciates that we share an interest with him in META-Learning. He tells the reader that learning to cook like a pro will be a great addition to a good life. But learning to become a World Class Learner is invaluable.

We feel the same about swimming. An unparalleled vehicle for becoming a Master of META-Learning.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #2  
Old 12-05-2012
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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Default META examining

This is an interesting subject.

Nevertheless - in all these discussions about learning better, becoming better, I am missing a very crucial point, or even the crucial point: why? What is the motivation? What are we striving for? What is our goal - in the long run, at the very end, ultimately - where are we going to?

We are used to the idea that you have to learn, that learning is good - but why? We sometimes use knowledge as a weapon, for rivalry, to be successful, to be better than others. But like in TI, where one major factor is to scrutinize the obvious - the mainstream - and find out whether it does what it is supposed to do, we could do the same in more general terms. What is our goal?

Generally in many areas I am missing exactly this - stopping what we are doing, and looking at it from a distance, and asking: what is the goal? Is it worth it? Often we will find that behind our motivation is a vague and unspecified hope that that what we are doing or trying to do will give us happiness. But is it really the case? Will it, can it work out? Is it worth the sweat?

My first spiritual teacher back in the old days in India used to say: Nothing fails like success. I find this an extremely insightful and wise statement. Success gives you a superficial feeling of happiness, of contentment, but it somehow and in a more subtle and not obvious way leaves you empty-handed - the higher and more the success, the more. You have to somewhat mentally recall what you achieved to reestablish a bit of that good feeling, because it seems it lacks an inherent and lasting contentment. It might sound strange, but somehow not becoming the best, not being all that successful serves better to maintain your integrity and your dignity. Being able to live well with the non-success, with the failure is in my eyes the only way of being able to deal with success. Only when success doesn't matter you can experience it without harm.

One of the best example for this in my eyes is Steve Jobs. Seen generally as having been extremely successful, I see him as extremely unsuccessful, someone who proves what I am saying above, as a kind of a tragic figure almost. He seemed to maintain a persuit of being successful which never got satisfied, even after achieving all that could possibly be achieved he didn't show any sign of satisfaction, but was going on and on and on and on - for what? It seems he was driven by a simply unsatisfiable ambition, and the biggest failure was not to examine this, not to see that that very success proved not to hold what it promised, and not to examine what is behind this ambition, what this ambition really is. Assuming that he was the main factor behind Apple and the companies business structure, that particular business behavior of Apple shows that of a fearful, paranoid and almost claustrophobic mind, being anxiously driven by the fear to fail, trying to hook people and then squeeze everything out them, like a salesman in the old days who walks from door to door talking people ingeniously into buying expensive encyclopedias which they never wanted to have in the first place, and never needed also. Not leaving any space, any choice, and no sign of relaxedly trusting that it all can only work out because there are good products behind it - and they are good - why not relax in it? No sign of serenity - isn't that a contradiction?
The same paranoid 'business behavior' could be seen with Microsoft in her best days. Which seem to be over now.
It always amazed me, and it still amazes me how unquestioned the striving for money, success and fame is seen as a positive quality.

It all comes back to that what we see as the most positive characteristic for a TI swimmer: always examining, especially the obvious.

Hang on in there, and don't worry if you think this is just weird, it is just the unqualified thoughts of an unsuccessful swimmer... no world record yet :-((
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2012
CoachMatHudson CoachMatHudson is offline
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Hello haschu33,

Great way to turn the value of meta-cognition back on itself!

What is the point? That is exactly the question. Who do you and I do this (or any thing) ???

In the case of the example you brought up, is success viewed as a destination, or a path?

Is what we do aimed at bringing us to a place where challenges end, or a path where mastery of one leads to the next?

The process of encountering a problem, accepting it, then working on solving it (from math equations to the world's crises) stimulates life-enhancing mechanisms inside the human brain and body. It's as if we were designed (or evolved, if you prefer) as super-problem-solving organisms- or rather, we are really good at adapting, if we choose to.

In the case of swimming, we are provided with a seemingly infinite realm of exploration and improvement opportunities (if we can measure things in more dimensions that just ultimate speed). It offers us a (injury-free, health-sustaining, brain-cell-generating) path of endless opportunities for stimulating learning and its fruit, happiness. Swimming is definitely not the purpose of life, but it has become our favorite laboratory for working out the attitude and skills that can be applied to so many other areas of our lives.

If I understand correctly how Terry describes this we would say that the pursuit of learning is inherently pleasing in itself, and that is its justification. Learning (and the attitude of being a learner) simply makes life more enjoyable, more satisfying. We learn in order to be happy, in other words (though I prefer other words than 'happy' bc they add more depth to the concept).

That can leave things sounding rather self-centered by itself. I might add that a person with joy tends to be more energetic and giving toward others. And I would say this has been my personal experience. No matter how devoted I might have felt towards some spiritual directives to give or help others, it is only from my joy that I can give anything that people seem to appreciate.

To cite my spiritual guru, Jesus said that we should love others as we love ourselves. We've got to know love/joy/peace in ourselves in order to give it to and promote it in others. I feel that my pursuit of learning has brought greater joy, and from this greater energy, and more humble excitement to help others (hence, becoming a TI coach). My own personal improvement, or better, the satisfaction that comes from it inspires and empowers me to turn and help others more eagerly, more effectively.

So, whether I stop at the consideration of how it brings benefit to myself, or continue on to justify it by how it supports me in helping others, learning is a great thing to engage in.
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Head Coach
Mediterra International Swimming
mediterraswim.com

My blog with over 400 posts on TI technique and mindful training: Smooth Strokes Blog

Email: mat@mediterraswim.com

Last edited by CoachMatHudson : 12-05-2012 at 09:44 AM.
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  #4  
Old 12-05-2012
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haschu33 View Post
Learning is good - but why? . . .

My first spiritual teacher back in the old days in India used to say: Nothing fails like success. I find this an extremely insightful and wise statement. Success gives you a superficial feeling of happiness, of contentment, but it somehow and in a more subtle and not obvious way leaves you empty-handed
Haschu
You pose useful and penetrating questions. I believe TI philosophy is explicitly aligned with the points you raise. As Mat said, we advocate Kaizen swimming because it's injury-free, health-sustaining, and brain-cell-generating. To which countless people on this forum might add happiness-producing.

Meta Learning - which we have usually called Mastery -- is, in our view, a practice. In their beautiful book, The Life We Are Given (read a review here), George Leonard and Michael Murphy define a Practice as a set of activities done thoughtfully and consistently to create enduring and holistic improvement in body, mind and spirit.

I wholeheartedly believe this is so, and think I've experienced it in my own life. I feel happier and more optimistic than I ever have, and sense those qualities improving continuously.

As to the definition of 'success' I think it is really in knowing that - like Mastery - it's a goal, not a destination. This in no way implies that you always feel dissatisfied in a bad way. Rather that you are most fulfilled by the constant quest for learning and improvement.

After writing my blog META-Learning: Who Would You Rather Have As A Teacher–Phelps or Shinji? last night I awoke this morning realizing that TI should more explicitly and prominently emphasize that we offer what is--at its essence--a program that teaches what Meta-Learning.

He was smart enough to recognize that the main selling point for his new book is to position it as really being about Meta Learning. The book's subtitle says "the simple path to cooking like a pro (14pt type) LEARNING ANYTHING (36 pt type) and living the good life."

And the first example he gives in the book is Shinji passing Phelps in youtube views despite starting 'swim training' 30 yrs later in life.

We've called it Mastery. I've written countless blogs about it. But it took Tim Ferriss to make me recognize that Meta Learning should be a meta theme for most things we do.

You can learn to be masteful at anything.
And you can do it at any age.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #5  
Old 12-05-2012
GAIN GAIN is offline
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Default just an observation

Every time I see that book, I think where did I go wrong. Someone can learn TI in 4 hours. I am approaching 3 years and although I went from 40 strokes to 19 strokes I feel I learn more now than in the first 2 years. I've spent more time doing arm swings before I sleep. But maybe I missed the point. LOL
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Old 12-05-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
Tim appreciates that we share an interest with him in META-Learning. He tells the reader that learning to cook like a pro will be a great addition to a good life. But learning to become a World Class Learner is invaluable.

We feel the same about swimming. An unparalleled vehicle for becoming a Master of META-Learning.
Its so relevant that you should post this today as this the first week I have succeeded in being a 'chef' rather than a cook.

I have been working on 'mastering' a nutritionally rich fruit cake with low wheat content that I can take on my bike rides during tri training.

After effort 4, I am not only happy with the result but also please that each one has got better than the previous, with effort 1 being an adaptation of a rather hard to eat Paleo recipe for apple muffins.

It was only yesterday I realised that it is the kaizen approach to improvement that separates a chef from a cook and here you are quoting a book about it. I will be looking for this in kindle form tomorrow.

Thanks for sharing.

(High protein, low sugar, very tasty fruit cake recipe available to anyone interested).
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2012
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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It seems I manage to not always following the TI mainstream.


Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
Haschu
You pose useful and penetrating questions. ...
I hope not too penetrating ;-)

Anyway, I have no objections whatsoever, I like what Mat wrote, particularly the logic with that 'loving yourself', that is IMHO a key point.
I think that what makes the TI way a very useful one is that you are encouraged to be focused and mindful, and - although the benefit of training your brain cells etc is not the main point in my eyes - that all what you do in such a mindset means we learn something about ourselves, and that is where the real benefit is.


A rather stupid question:

Why is it called 'META' learning, or in other words, what is 'META' about this way of learning? I understand META as being on a different, a higher level (of abstraction, if you want) so what is the difference here between effective-, fast-, super-, master-learning and META-learning?

I have to admit that I fail to find the higher abstraction level in this (I don't mean that I don't think it is not there, I simply mean that I don't understand it.)
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Old 12-05-2012
terry terry is offline
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Originally Posted by haschu33 View Post
Why is it called 'META' learning?
Meta, from Greek, means 'about itself.'
So Meta-Consciousness (one of my favorite terms) means thinking about how you think, or to examine the process by which you reason, reach conclusions or make decisions. This is particularly apropos for TI Swimming because nearly all of our students have come from a place where their basis for thinking about swimming, deciding what to do in the pool, interpreting what happens in the pool, evaluating advice they get from other swimmers, or coaches or articles, is based on a weak or misguided mental model. Other common thinking errors are cognitive bias and mental shortcuts, or autopilot thinking.
So one of the most critical things we do is get people to look critically at the mental model guiding them.

Meta-Learning would mean learning about how to learn -- and thereby get better at learning.

On the surface, Tim's book is about how to cook better. But in his mind its greater significance is that the processes it teaches you about cooking can help you learn anything better.

On the surface, TI is a swimming-improvement program. But I made a conscious (meta) decision in the late 90s to present it so our students could apply the improvement process we teach to anything.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2012
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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okay, so we meet here in the sense of the Meta-level being the one that talks about the rules and characteristics from outside of a system or level where we otherwise would most probably get stuck in.

Talking about Meta-levels. So there is a level beyond swimming and thinking about it, whether this is good or bad news - who knows.
Do you view the world from outside a swimmers point of view - at times? Meta-swimming? To view that mechanism that gets you hooked on swimming?
Watching a Cheetah and just seeing - beauty? With no afterthoughts? Bad questions I know - but as I already told you earlier - you are asking for it.

There is a turning point. You can either stick to stroke and patterns, let thinking aside - not the worst choice. Or you get into it. Then there is no limit. Here is a part of the description of the Middle Way, the philosophical school of Madhyamika, Tibetan Buddhism, the description is from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
... Buddhism in general assumed that the world is a cosmic flux of momentary interconnected events (dharmas), however the reality of these events might be viewed. Nāgārjuna sought to demonstrate that the flux itself could not be held to be real, nor could the consciousness perceiving it, as it itself is part of this flux. If this world of constant change is not real, neither can the serial transmigration be real, nor its opposite, nirvana. Transmigration and nirvana being equally unreal, they are one and the same. In the final analysis, reality can only be attributed to something entirely different from all that is known, which must therefore have no identifiable predicates and can only be styled the void (sunyata).

Mādhyamika thinkers thus strongly emphasize the mutations of human consciousness to grasp the reality of that which is ultimately real beyond any duality. The world of duality could be assigned a practical reality of vyavahāra (“discourse and process”), but, once the ultimate meaning (paramārtha) of the void is grasped, this reality falls away. ...


Anyway, broadening your view gives you more opportunity for a good laughter and swimming is also a relief. So much haptic input - great.

So, thanks for the explanation, makes perfectly sense.

I have slight doubts that this kind of discussion could take place on a SS forum.
Of course one could argue that this is utterly useless, and I wouldn't even argue against it. But there is nothing other that really has a point, that also is true.

Live is difficult, isn't it :-))


Did you know that Jedi-knights are acknowledged as a religion in the UK ?
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  #10  
Old 12-06-2012
Grant Grant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haschu33 View Post
Transmigration and nirvana being equally unreal, they are one and the same. In the final analysis, reality can only be attributed to something entirely different from all that is known, which must therefore have no identifiable predicates and can only be styled the void (sunyata).
Haschu
Good description of the Buddhist model. I have isolated this part of your post so that I could get your comments on the following.
What I have found meaningful is the model if you will or the description of reality that states - reality includes both the known and unknown. The concept of inclusion allows what one professes and denies, which I find very liberating.
Recently the threads have been really meaningful. Which you have contributed to in spades.
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