“Hardcore Learning”

A small attempt to setup rules and guidelines

Ezra Fayet
8 min readJul 14, 2020

What we will be calling “Hardcore learning” here is a method to master a subject efficiently in the smallest amount of time possible. This set of rules doesn’t come out of nowhere. I used and collected them through my many lives: to successfully get a law degree after working 10 years as a carpenter, to write a book about mathematics for students, then to change life again after an accident and become the CTO of a small startup building code and architecture of a modern web application.

Before going any further, I want to make clear that this article will not help a student who knows nothing about a subject to pass an exam. This is probably an interesting topic but the point of this article is to integrate knowledge on a long term basis.

Let’s dig in a set of advices first, and into the method second.

I. Set of advices

There is no easy way

I will bring bad news right away: it is tough to master something, so mastering something fast is tougher. According to K. Anders Ericson, one needs to learn and practice a subject for 10.000 hours to achieve an expert-level. If you are learning 15 hours a day, this is roughly 2 years of learning/practicing. Don’t worry though, he was talking of a very high level of expertise. You might need less to achieve your purpose.

Breaking from a comfort zone to another is always painful and feels risky. You know it will be hard, but right now this is virtual. It will get real, there will be hard times, and it will bring doubt.

As a developer, it took me 1 year and a half of 17 hours a day (average) learning and practicing professionally to start to feel confident about my knowledge. But In two weeks (24/7 as you can imagine) I could already deploy a basic API and serve a basic front. This brings us to the next point.

Know your goal

Each technical topic leads to many other topics. And each one of them is just as deep and big as the one above. This means you should have an idea of what you want exactly, and what level you want to arrive to.

Between 0 and 1, there already is infinity. The same rule applies here.

Know yourself

This is an important part. You have to know “until where” you can push it. The purpose is definitely not to break and loose self esteem or confidence. You will need

Know people around you

This is an important part too. If you live with your wife / husband or family, of course they are happy for you there is no doubt about it, but:

  • They don’t want to hear you talking all day long about all the details of what you are learning.
  • Breaking your confort zone will also break theirs. Therefore you have to check with them what they can accept and tolerate, you don’t want to divorce because of this.

Know the maximum you can dedicate to learning (and be realistic about it)

This one is also pretty self explanatory. If someone takes 1 year to achieve something by working normally, you will achieve it in 6 months by working twice as hard. But not everyone can be working and or learning 30 hours in a row. This is not a problem though, you just have to make it fit with you planning.

You will succeed

Hopefully, it is impossible to fail as long as you stick to it. When I am facing a problem I have this motto: “If a human did it, I can do it”, and so do you. Of course I see you coming, there are plenty of things I can’t do, I most certainly won’t run 100m in 9s57. But for the extremely vast majority of cases we should be confident that very hard work will get us there.

The two things you need are time and energy.

Progress will not be linear.

You probably know it already, but you will not progress linearly. You will progress by steps. Each step lies on the work you did to get there, and each step will take longer to achieve. One of the ‘danger’ actually is to feel comfy enough at a specific step and stay there.

Faster means more focus

There is something great nowadays, you can play audio or watch videos faster than its regular flow (like 1.25 or 2 times faster). It is great to learn some easy parts faster, be careful though, it will require to be extra focus.

Do it

This article is not about stopping procrastinating. I am assuming here you already know yourself enough to stay 10/15 hours in front of a piece of paper without opening YouTube or Facebook. I can share a single advice though:

- Procrastinating is very frustrating, it is a loose-loose deal. If you do something else than what you are supposed to do in the first place, you will just feel bad about yourself and not even enjoy what you are doing. If you are in this situation, do it backward: work first for a set of hours, then give yourself the “social media” or other thing as a reward. This way you won’t feel bad about it and soon you’ll probably even loose interest in the other stuff.

- Do not wait for the perfect setup either. You don’t need a 10.000€ camera to shoot short movies on YouTube, you don’t need a 1.700€ laptop to start coding, you don’t need to find the perfect font to start writing (don’t worry though, we’ve all been through this).

- Activity brings activity

II. Set of rules

Dig deep

If you want to ever be confident about what you do, this is the first rule: learn things for real. Learn the definitions and understand them.

Always learn something (slightly) too hard for you

This advice is a key to success. You should ALWAYS be learning something above your level. The danger is to keep at a level for a time that is too long. It is not necessary.

Ever felt, when you moved from a school grade to another, that the previous grade was easy even if you didn’t learn the stuff again ? This is the same here, when you learn something harder, it makes your brain use the thing you learned before in a new creative way.

Step-back once in a while

Once again the progression you will follow doesn’t need to be linear. I like to see it as a constant moving in two directions, I always learn a step above and a step under all of the time. As stated before, when you learn something easy after learning something hard, you will understand it on a deeper level. The amplitude can be as big as you want.

The same thing happens when you watch a movie for a 2nd / 3rd time: this is the same movie, but either you notice things you didn’t notice before, or even knowing the end will make you understand some scenes differently.

Learn, understand, practice

You should always practice from day 1. It helps you to understand the real meaning behind the theory right away. You should not avoid any of those three approaches.

Memorize by heart

There is something fascinating about the brain, if you repeat something enough time, you will end understanding the deep meaning of it all of a sudden “out of nowhere”. People even do it in front of a mirror sometimes.

Don’t be scared if you forget

Forgetting is a part of the process. A law teacher of mine told us something: you have to learn things, forget them, learn again, forget again … As many times as necessary. It’s not until the 3rd time that you will start remembering them. Don’t worry though, it gets a lot easier with time, practice and expertise.

Use various strategies

Some people remember better when they read, some when they write, some when they listen, some when they explain and the list goes on … One thing is for certain though, you should definitely try to use various strategies, not only the one you are confortable with (even if this definitely is the one you use the most).

Read documentation / listen to podcasts

You should start listening to actuality about the topic you are learning, listening the debates, even if you don’t get everything right now.

Push yourself to the breaking point

Bringing your brain to the edge of what it can take is a very interesting exercice. Some say it is worthless to learn if you are completely exhausted or can’t take it anymore. I would not completely agree with it. It might even be the magical moment when things gets written in deeper parts of your brain (I don’t have any source to validate this). The brain is plastic, you have to force the new connections to make. My strategy is to push my brain to its further limits then rest. When you do, you definitely see the progress.

Don’t be scared of failing

As already stated, moving from a comfort zone to another definitely feels dangerous, but failing is part of the process. No one comes out of nowhere, master something without failing a dozen times before.

Fail fast

We tend to work on things better when they fail (and we have no choice but to fix them). Therefor a motto we hear a lot is that one should fail fast : Fail fast, learn fast.

Be modest all the way long

At time we all feel like we are better than others, even if they are specialists. This is a bad habit though, we should first doubt our words before other’s.

When you ask a specialist a question, the answer will often be “it’s complicated” rather than “here is the magical solution”. Why ? Because they know it is complicated …


Explaining to someone will help you even more than the person you are explaining to. Explaining will force you to express and to build a concept very clearly using simple words and demonstrations.

Put yourself in a position where giving up is not an option

This one is not easy, but if you can be in a situation when you are in charge of something important, failing is not an option. You will then deploy incredible strength and strategies to make everything work smoothly. It can be photography a wedding if you are a photograph, find a job that leave you no options but to go forward …

All that left for me right now is to thank you for reading and wish you a good luck, I hope some advices were useful for you.All feedback on the topic / the writing are highly appreciated.