Learning at the Foot of the Master: Tim Ferriss

It’s hard to believe it was already one month ago that my colleagues from SHP Leading Design and I attended SXSWedu, a four-day extravaganza of thought leadership, best practices, new trends, top tools and insightful discussion on the state of education in America today. I am still excited by the wonderful conversations I had… not to mention the adrenaline rush of launching the 9 Billion Schools movement on the SXSWedu Show & Tell stage!

One session from SXSWedu really grabbed me, the Wednesday morning keynote by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss is the author of three New York Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers – so it’s easy to see why he presented to a packed house. I know I’m not the only one who came away inspired by his discussion.

Ferriss’s keynote was broad-ranging: intuition as a proxy for interest, technology in the classroom, single-tasking vs. multi-tasking, meta-learning, stoicism, adept and benevolent learning. But he impressed me not because of how much he knows, but how much he learns. Whether he’s taking swimming lessons, upping his chess strategy or mastering a new language, he goes out of his way to learn something new every day.

“I think of myself as a teacher, first and foremost. I’m trying to create a benevolent army of learners who have a toolkit they can impart to others. Enabled super-learners who have a great toolkit. I want my headstone to read, ‘A teacher who wanted his students to always be better than he was.’”
— Tim Ferriss

He calls himself a teacher, first and foremost. But with all due respect, I beg to differ. I believe Ferriss, like all of us, is first and foremost a lifelong learner. How or why else could one empower and activate thousands of other learners, students of life, in such a powerful and visible way?

As I was listening to him (and furiously attempting to take notes!), it struck me that Ferriss is the embodiment of the 9 Billion Schools movement, of being a school unto himself, a place of constant life-long, life-wide and life-deep learning. Which got me thinking: who else is living the 9 Billion Schools movement day in and day out? Who else inspires those around them – students, coworkers, colleagues, peers – to take control of their education in a way that is personalized and unique to them?  

I am featuring those people in a series of profiles on the 9 Billion Schools blog. The guest essayists featured in our book is a good place to start. So are the personalities Tim Ferriss features in his podcast. But I want to connect with other learners from all walks of life.

Do you know someone who fits the bill? Let me know so I can connect with them for a profile: lauren@9BillionSchools.org.

In the meantime, stay tuned for my next blog post recapping more of Ferriss’ keynote, including the framework he follows when learning new material and mastering new skills. Perhaps it will inspire you, too!