How to Learn Any Skill Quickly using DiSSS (Deconstruct, Sequence, Select, and Stake)

Published by Klint Ciriaco on

Learn Fast By Questioning The Way Things Are Done and Going Against the Status Quo.
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I couldn’t speak English when I came to the U.S. and I needed to learn quickly. I was in high school at that time and going through that phase without the being able to speak the language was rough.

For example, I almost got in a fight with a bully and risked getting expelled because I couldn’t verbally defend myself.

My English classes? They were confusing at best. So, I took matters into my own hands.

I developed a way of learning which worked wonders because my improvements came at a rapid pace. Not only was it more effective than the school’s format, it was 10x more fun. 

Years later, I came across Tim Ferriss talk about DiSSS (Deconstruct, Select, Sequence, Stake) which contained some of the elements I used in my training. I borrowed the rest to further develop my framework in learning English and other skills.

Let’s start with Deconstruct.


A skill is just a bunch of sub-skills packaged together. Let’s use speed reading as an example. It’s sub-skills are composed of the following:

  • The skill of widening your visual focus.
  • Suppressing inner voice.
  • Turning words into images.
  • Asking questions.

Figuring out the parts that make up a skill takes away its perceived complexity. One way is to interview people who already have the skill you want. Using Google or watching YouTube videos help as well. Easy peasy. 


Choose the sub-skill that will get you the majority of the result you’re after.

For example, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation were the sub-skills I discovered from deconstructing the English language. Since memorizing vocabulary was boring and learning grammar was confusing, I decided to work on pronunciation.

It happened to give me 80% of the result I needed.

I initially chose to focus on it because no one could understand my accent. To my surprise, I ended up learning vocabulary and grammar along the way.

I practiced by watching tv and by repeating the lines the characters said. I did this for hours in the course of several months. Getting immersed helped me notice some patterns in how sentences were structured; I informally learned basic grammar.


This is where the real “hack” happens. Let’s start with an example. 

Josh Waitzkin, a former world champion in chess, learned to play differently. Instead of first learning chess openings the way most people do, his foundation was built by first studying end-games. 

This approach gave him a strong understanding of chess which made him a force to be reckoned with at a very young age. 

Just because a skill has a logical sequence of sub-skills doesn’t mean you have to start learning them in order.

Now, this goes against the status quo so you need to have the courage to question normally held beliefs. Just because a skill’s been taught in a certain sequence for a long time doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way.


Stake induces stress. That’s a good thing, but the amount of stress should be just right. 

Too much of it will impair your performance. Too little on the other hand won’t give you enough motivation to learn. See graphic below. 

So, introduce the right amount of stress to your learning endeavor to maximum gains. You could sign up for an open mic night 5 months in advance if you’re learning a new instrument, invite your friends over for dinner if you’re learning how to cook, publish your writing on your Facebook page if you’re learning to write. The list goes on.

To Recap

Here are the steps to learn any skill quickly using DiSSS:

  1. Deconstruct the skill.
  2. Select the 20% that will yield 80% of the result
  3. Sequence and then focus on learning the most important sub-skill.
  4. Add Stake to maximize learning effect. 

May you learn lots of skills. Have fun. 

Klint out.

Become a Self-Directed Learner To Succeed in School