90: Hunter Maats & Katie O’Brien: Achieve Anything by Learning to Learn

Hunter Maats, Katie O’Brien and two other Harvard classmates teamed up to form an Overqualified Tutoring, a NYC- and LA-based educational services company. Hunter and Katie are the authors of The Straight-A Conspiracy: Your Secret Guide to Ending Stress and Totally Ruling the World.

Favorite Success Quote

“It’s not that I’m so smart it’s that I stick with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein

Key Points

1. Mastery Requires a Strategic Approach

You often hear of the 10,000-hour rule that states “True mastery takes 10,000 hours of practice.”

And to a certain extent, this rule is true.

But you must realize that real mastery doesn’t just take 10,000 hours of practice, it takes 10,000 hours of intentional practice.

If you want to get better at the guitar, you cannot practice the same song for 10,000 hours.

You must intentionally and strategically approach your craft, progressively overloading your skills and abilities until you become world-class.

It’s just like going to the gym.

Imagine that you went to the gym for 10 straight years, 5 days a week, 1 hour a day.

But you lifted the exact same amount of weight every single time for those 10 years.

You never tried to go heavier, you never pushed your body to grow and adapt, and you never improved your skills.

Your results would be lackluster at best.

Mastery is an admirable goal.

But on your road to mastery, you must remember that you need a clear strategy and a series of increasingly difficult benchmarks if you truly want to achieve your goal.

2. Understand How Emotions Affect Learning

The mind doesn’t like feeling inadequate.

And as such, any time we find something a little bit too difficult or a little more challenging (especially when that skill seems to come naturally to our peers) we immediately blame our genetics or come up with some other excuse about why it wasn’t meant to be.

If we are bad at math, we claim that our brains simply aren’t wired for math instead of dissecting the issue and figuring out how we could change our learning approach to better understand the subject.

If we don’t gain muscle as fast as someone else, we claim that we are a “Hardgainer” instead of analyzing our diet and workout regimen to ensure that we are following the smartest path to our goals.

You need to realize that your brain is working to keep you comfortable, not happy and successful.

Ignore the voices inside of your head that is telling you that you aren’t good enough to do something, or that you don’t have the “gene”, talent, or ability.

Realize that your mind is simply trying to protect your ego while keeping you from reaching your true potential.

3. Learn from Your Mistakes 

As simple as it sounds, most people do not take the time to sit back, pause, and reflect on mistakes that they have made.

If you want to achieve greatness on any level over the course of your life, you are going to fail, you are going to make mistakes, and you are going to screw up.

It’s not a question of “if” but “when”.

And when these inevitable mishaps and mistakes occur, it is imperative that you take the time to learn from them.

What went wrong? How could you have done things differently? What changes can you make right now to ensure that you don’t repeat this mistake in the future?

Mistakes are one of life’s greatest teachers.

So make sure that you sit up straight and listen whenever class is in session.

4. “Hard” Work is Relative 

Often times you will find people who complain and whine about the hard work that it will take to do something.

In these instances, it is never the effort that they will have to put into something that is daunting, but rather the incongruence of their passions and the task at hand.

Think about it.

How many times have you played a video game and thought to yourself “Oh crap, I just don’t want to put in all the work it’s going to take to beat this darn game!”

If you are anything like the rest of us, the answer is probably a resounding never.

When you find something that you enjoy, and that is congruent with your beliefs and passions, the effort becomes easy, and you don’t see the “Hard work” as something to be avoided.

As the old cliche goes, “If you do what you love you will never work a day in your life.”

5. When You Are Driven By Fear Your Performance Wanes

People can only be motivated by fear for so long before they begin to burn out and experience a drop in their mental and physical bandwidth.

You must find something deeper that motivates you and pushes you to succeed.

You will not be able to create sustained success whenever your only motivation is finding a way to pay for your next meal.

Without bigger goals and a compelling vision, you will burn out and your work will wither away and die.

So forget fear and find something greater to motivate you to excellence.

Influential Books

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Collective Works of Shakespeare


Connect with Hunter Maats & Katie O’Brien


Get the book: The Straight A Conspiracy

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