Max Deutsch is a technologist, blogger, coach and extreme learner based in San Francisco, California.
Max is one of these people with exceptional qualities and abilities. His thirst for knowledge and experiences will keep you wondering what you’re doing with your life. Read on to find out how to become extreme learner yourself.
Starting in November 2016, as part of his Month to Master project, Max has mastered one expert-level skill every month, blogging daily about the process.
So far, Max has become a grandmaster of memory, learned to draw realistic portraits, solved a Rubik’s Cube in 17 seconds, landed a standing backflip, played a five-minute improvisational blues guitar solo, held a 30-minute conversation in a foreign language, built a self-driving car, and developed perfect pitch.
Max is also the creator of the Month to Master app, which features an artificially intelligent coach who guides users through their own monthly learning pursuits, helping anyone learn anything in 30 days.
What Are the Most Influential Habits in Your Life?
Sleeping and meditating are my most important habits. If I’m low on energy, whether it’s from a bad night sleep or a restless mind, it’s much harder to do or enjoy anything meaningful throughout the rest of the day.
So, I sleep for 8–9 hours per night, with little exception, and meditate for 20 minutes every morning.
I have other habits like daily blogging, exercising, walking, writing music, etc., but these only matter if I’m healthy and energized.
How Do You Set Goals and Manage Time?
In general, I just try to complete the one most important thing every day, and leave the rest of the day to figuring out what tomorrow’s most important thing will be.
With this approach, since I usually have an excess of time, I don’t need to worry too much about carefully managing my schedule. And additionally, because I give myself so much time to reflect, I’m more capable of discerning what’s truly impactful and what’s not.
In this way, I’m able to build a lot of momentum in my life and work, but still have plenty of time to relax, play, and enjoy.
How Are You Modeling Your Life?
I think that the best model to live by is the most authentic model. So, ultimately, there isn’t a fully-prepared model that I can adopt. Instead, I’m focused on determining the things in my life that energize me the most (right now, that’s writing, learning, and coaching), and trying to build a life that emphasizes these things.
This is not to say that I’m closed off to others’ models. In fact, I try to read and learn from others as much as possible. But this is just in pursuit of two things: 1. To expand my knowledge of the “available options” in life and 2. To broaden/challenge my perspective on life and the world.
It’s important that I treat this “external information” as exactly that — just information. I still must come to my own conclusions and determine what I want to personally do with this information.
Can You Describe Your Work Process and Thinking Behind It?
As I mentioned, when I work, I simply focus on one thing at a time and forget about everything else. This allows my brain to devote 100% of it’s energy to the current task, rather than worrying about tasks to come, allowing me to be more immersed and present.
Other than that, I try to optimize for small daily doses of consistent progress. Once I get going, I’ll often times work for much longer, but the expectation is only a small, but impactful amount of work each day.
This isn’t about doing less. It’s about doing more by being more deliberate upfront and consistent on a daily basis. Consistent work, even if it’s small, compounds and builds momentum quickly.
What Do You Eat for Breakfast?
I eat some combination of eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, and a protein bar. I’m looking for something that’s quick and high in protein.
How Do You Train Your Body and Mind?
I also try to go on a 90-minute walk around San Francisco every day (or almost every day), and use this time to think, reflect, and daydream.
As for my body, I usually do 4–5 days of weight training per week. One day per week, I work with a trainer. When I have less time, or am traveling, I try to do at least 10-minutes of body-weight training (I’d recommend the 7 Minute Workout app for these kinds of situations).
I’m currently focusing on improving my diet: From a nutrition standpoint, my diet is already fairly healthy (I don’t consume sweets, alcohol, coffee, soda, or packaged foods), but I often don’t consume enough calories, especially for the amount I’m working out. I’ve never had a big appetite, so it’s something I need to be deliberate about. I’ve been tracking my calories for the past few months, which has been helpful.
How Do You Meet and Connect with People?
I connect with most people online, via Medium, Twitter, or email.
Also, about twice per month, I invite friends over for a few hours to discuss life, our ideas, or some controversial topic. I encourage friends to bring friends, so, over time, I’ve found this to be a consistent way to meet new people and build deeper relationships more quickly (since the topics of conversation typically require more immediate intimacy).
What Are Your Sleeping Rituals?
I usually go to bed around 10:15 pm and wake up around 6:30 am.
What Are Your Investing Habits?
Right now, my most important investment is in my personal human capital: About 90% of my discretionary spending is on books, courses, classes, tutors, coaches, etc. (Just like money, learning and skills compound over time, so this is always a worthy and high-return investment).
My savings are mostly invested in a fairly aggressive Vanguard index fund. With virtually no fees and no cognitive overhead, there isn’t a much better monetary investment than this.
What Books, People, Experiences Shaped Your Thinking?
I’m not sure there is one standout person or book. Instead, my thinking has been shaped by a collection of experiences and people.
In general, I’ve found that my thinking evolves the most when it’s majorly challenged or exposed to completely new stimuli.
One experience like this that stands out is when I lived in Tel Aviv for 6 months.
Of course, it’s not always practical to move somewhere completely new, so books are definitely the best, low-cost way I’ve found to transport myself into new situations or expose myself to new ideas. Here are the books I read in 2017, 2016, and 2015.
If you are interested in more in-depth interviews with high achievers check all my interviews in the habits and routines series.