How I study five days a week

I had no job.

Then I started driving Uber on the weekends to pay for my studies.

I loved meeting new people but I hated driving a car all the time. Traffic, stop, start, fuel, the air, the aircon, all of it.

I studied machine learning. All day, five days a week. And it was hard. It's still hard.

9-months in, I got a job.

It's the best job I've ever had.

A) Fix your environment

Your grandfather’s first orange farm failed.

The soil was good. The seeds were there. All the equipment too. What happened?

It was too cold. Oranges need warm temperatures to grow.

Your grandfather had the skills to grow oranges but there was no chance they were growing in a cold climate.

When he moved to a warmer city, he started another orange farm.

12-months later, your grandfather was serving the best orange juice in town.

Studying is like growing oranges.

You could have a laptop, an internet connection, the best books and still not be motivated to study.


Because your environment is off.

Your room is filled with distractions.

You try to study with friends but they aren’t as dedicated as you.

Whatsapp goes off every 7-minutes.

What can you do?

Clean your room. Find a different study group. Friends are great when it comes to friend time but study time is study time. Put your phone in a drawer for an hour.

Fix your environment and let the knowledge juices flow.

B) Set the system up so you always win

Problem 13 has you stumped. You’re stuck.

You wanted to get it done yesterday but couldn’t.

Now it’s time to study but you know how hard you worked yesterday and got nowhere.

You’re putting it off.

You know you should be doing it.

But you’re putting it off.

It’s a cycle.


The pile of books stares at you. Problem 13.

You set a timer. 25-minutes.

You know you might not solve the problem but you can sit down for 25-minutes and try.

4-minutes in, it’s hell. Burning hell. But you keep going.

24-minutes in and you don’t want to stop.

The timer goes off and you set another. And then another. After 3 sessions, you solve the problem.

You can't always control whether you make progress with study. But you can control how much time you spend on something.

Can control: four 25-minute sessions per day.

Can't control: finishing every task you start every day.

Set the system up so you always win.

C) Sometimes do nothing

I did the Coursera Learning How to Learn course the other day.

One of the main topics was focused versus diffused thinking.

Focused thinking happens when you're doing a single task.

Diffused thinking happens when you're not thinking about anything in particular.

The best learning happens at the crossover of these two.

It's why you have some of your best thoughts in the shower. Because there's nothing else happening.

When you let diffused thinking takeover, it gives your brain space to tie together all of the things it absorbed during focused thinking.

The catch is, for it to work properly, you need time in both.

If you've set the system up so you do four 25-minute sessions of focused work, go for a walk after. Have a nap. Sit and think about what you've learned.

The world could do with more of nothing.

D) Embrace the suck

Studying sucks.

You learn one thing and forget it the next day.

Then another and forget it.



You spend the whole weekend studying, go to work on Monday and no one knows.

Then after a year of studying something you realise how much more there is to still learn.

When will it end?

It doesn't. It's always day one.

Embrace the suck.

E) The 3-year-old principle

I was at the park the other day.

There was a young boy running around having the time of his life.

Up the slide, down the slide, in the tree, out of the tree, in the dirt, out of the dirt, up the hill, down the hill.

He was laughing and jumping then laughing again.

His mum came over to pick him up.

"Come on, Charlie, we've got to go."

He kept laughing as she carried him away, waving his blue plastic shovel.

What is it that fascinated him?

He was playing. He was having fun. The whole world was new.

Our culture has a strict divide between work and play.

Study is seen as work.

You're supposed to study to get more work. You're supposed to work to earn money. The money buys you leisure time. Then and only then can you be like Charlie and run around laughing.

If you have it in your head study is work, it will be hell.

But suppose, you have the idea about it that studying is the process of going through one topic and then to the next.

Connecting different things like a game.

The same feeling about it as you might have as if you were Charlie going down the slide.

You learn one thing, you use it to learn something else, you get stuck, you get over it, you learn another thing. And you make a dance out of it.

Do this and you'll finish a study session with more energy than you started.

This is the 3-year-old principle. Seeing everything as play.

That's enough for now.

It's bedtime.

That's a bonus.

F) Sleep

Poor sleep means poor studying.

Don't trade sleep for more study time. Do the opposite.


The most precious thing you can give someone

She was screaming.

You don’t know what’s happening Gregory!

You just wait Greg, I know what you’re up to!

More screaming.

There isn’t anything I don’t know Gregory!

I walked across the street. What was happening? Why didn’t Greg know? What did she know about Greg? There wasn’t anything she didn’t know. Was she an oracle?

I should’ve talked to her. I could’ve asked her about life. She could’ve help me figure it all out.

I pretended like I did.

Can I ask you something?

There isn’t anything I don’t know Daniel!

What’s the most precious thing you can give to someone else?

Give them a feeling!


Something that penetrates their soul! Get deep! Really deep! Make it bubble up!

Make what bubble up?

You want it to be there in a year! In 5-years! When they’re in a cafe reading a newspaper and they look up and get nauseous thinking of the feeling! You want it to be so good it comes back! It always comes back!

I get it but why are you screaming?

Why do you think! Do you not listen! You’re just like Gregory! You don’t know what’s happening!

Imagining is almost as good as the real thing. Sometimes it’s better. Sometimes worse. Far worse.

She made me feel something. Unintentional or intentional? Who knows. She was talking to Gregory. Gregory didn’t know what was happening.

Her purple top left her stomach uncovered. And the pants she had on were dirty. Maybe she was crazy. Maybe I was crazy for taking lessons imaginary lessons from a screaming lady on the street. Gregory wasn’t. Gregory didn’t know what was happening.

Financial freedom has two extremes. One where you can buy whatever you want. The other where you don’t care about anything. She was financially free. Rich. Rich with the most valuable currency there is. Rich with effect. Effect on others. Effect on me. She had an audience. Everyone crossing the street was in awe. What was Greg up to?

Effect is precious. It can last an instant but be remembered for a lifetime. It can happen once and then again 1000 more times.

You could be sitting in a cafe in 5-years reading the newspaper. Look up for a second. Your stomach does a backflip. And it comes back, the feeling all over again.

How she smiled at you.

Or how she screamed from across the street.

Once you give a feeling to someone, it’s there. Always there.


What to study

Is far more important than where to study. 

How you learn is more important than how long.

The best teachers are the ones which inspire you to learn more.

The best books are the ones which you don’t want to stop reading.

The internet has provided access to some of the greatest teachers and learning materials.

Now you have the choice of who your teacher is and what you read. 

If you try one and don’t like it, you can move on.  There will be more information on the topic somewhere else.

“Education is becoming more and more accessible. What’s scarce is a willingness to learn.” — Naval

And a willingness to learn comes with a willingness to be wrong.

Who’s it for?

Who’s going to use it?

What do they value?

What’s their background?

How have they done things in the past?

What problem do they need solved?

If you’re making something, it helps to think of one person and answer these questions. Then make it for that one person.

Self-Studying Machine Learning? Remind yourself of these 6 things

We were hosting a Meetup on robotics in Australia and it was question time.

Someone asked a question.

“How do I get into artificial intelligence and machine learning from a different background?”

Nick turned and called my name.

“Where’s Dan Bourke?”

I was backstage and talking to Alex. I walked over.

“Here he is,” Nick continued, “Dan comes from a health science background, he studied nutrition, then drove Uber, learned machine learning online and has now been with Max Kelsen as a machine learning engineer for going on a year.”

Nick is the CEO and Co-founder of Max Kelsen.

I stood and kept listening.

“He has documented his journey online and if you have any questions, I’m sure he’d be happy to help.”

The questions finished and I went back to the food.

Ankit came over. He told me about the project he was working on to use machine learning to try and understand student learning better. He was combining lecture attendance rates, time spent on the online learning portal, quiz results, plus a few other things. He’d even built a front-end web portal to interact with the results.

Ankit’s work inspired me. It made me want to do better.

Then a few more people started coming over and asking questions about how to get into machine learning. All from different fields.

This is the hard part. I still see myself as a beginner. I am a beginner.

Am I the right mentor?

The best mentor is someone who’s 1-2 years in front of you. Someone who has just been through what you’re about to go through. Any longer and the advice gets fuzzy. You want it when it’s fresh.

My brother is getting into machine learning. Here’s what I’ve been saying to him.

A) Get some Python foundations (3-4 months)

The language doesn’t really matter. It could be R, Java, Python, whatever. What matters is picking one and sticking with it.

If you’re starting out, you’ll find it hard to go wrong with Python.

And if you want to get into applied machine learning, code is compulsory.

Pick a foundations course from online and follow it through for a couple of months. Bonus points if it’s geared towards teaching data science at the same time. DataCamp is great for this.

It’ll get hard at times but that’s the point. Learning a programming language is like learning another language and another way of thinking at the same time.

But you’ve done it before. Remember when you were 3? Probably not. But people all around you were using words and sounds you’d never heard before. Then after a while, you started using them too.

B) Start making things when you’re not ready

Apply what you’ve learned as soon as you can.

No matter how many courses you’ve completed, you’ll never be 100% ready.

Don’t get lured into completing more courses as a sign of competence.

This is one thing I’d change if I went back and started again.

Find a project of your own to work on and learn through being wrong.

Back to your 3-year-old self. Every 3rd word you said would’ve been wrong. No sentence structure, no grammar either. Everything just came out.

C) There’s a lot out there so reduce the clutter

There are plenty of courses out there. All of them great.

It’s hard to find a bad one.

But here’s the thing. Since there are so many, it can be hard to choose. Another trap which can hold you back.

To get around this, I made my own AI Masters Degree. My own custom track to follow.

You can copy it if you want. But I encourage you to spend a few days doing research of your own and seeing what’s best for you.

As a heads up, three resources I’ve found most aligned to what I do day-to-day are, the Hands-On Machine Learning Book, the fastai Machine Learning course and the Applied Data Science with Python course on Coursera.

Bookmark these for after you’ve had a few months Python experience.

D) Research is pointless if you can’t apply it

You’ll see articles and papers coming out every day about new machine learning methods.

Ignore them.

There’s no way to keep up with them all and it’ll only hold you back from getting your foundations set.

Most of the best machine learning techniques have been around for decades. What’s changed has been an increase in computing power and the availability of data.

Don’t be distracted by the new.

If you’re starting out, stick to getting your foundations first. Then expand your knowledge as your project requires.

E) A little every day

3-year-old you was a learning machine (a machine learner?).

In a couple of years, you went from no words to talking with people who had been speaking for decades.


Because you practised a little per day.

Then the compound interest kicked in.

1% better every day = 3700% better at the end of the year.

If you miss a day, no matter, life happens. Resume when you can.

Soon enough you’ll start to speak the language of data.

F) Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing something

“Have you ever built a recommendation engine?”


“We’ve got a project that requires one as a proof of concept, think you can figure it out?”


Most people think learning stops after high-school or college. It doesn’t.

The scenario above happened the other week. I’d never built a recommendation engine. Then I did.

Failure isn’t bad if you’re failing at something you’ve done before. You’ve been walking your whole life but you don’t beat yourself up when you trip on your own feet. It happens. You keep walking.

But failing at something new is tough. You’ve never done it before.

Learning machine learning kind of goes like this.

1st year: You suck.

2nd year: You're better than the year before but you think you suck even more because you realise how much you don’t know.

3rd year: ???? (I’m not there yet)

Embrace the suck.

How much will beating yourself up for not knowing something help you for learning more?


Learning something new takes time. Every day is day one.

Learning isn’t linear.

Learning isn’t linear.

How would your 3-year-old self react to not knowing a word?

You’d laugh. Throw your hands in the air and then crawl around for a bit.

It’s the same now. Except you can walk.


Milk or water?

There are two cups. One of milk, one of water. Drink the milk and you get wealth beyond your dreams. Drink the water and you get knowledge.

Which do you choose?

I’d choose the milk.

‘Look Dad, a bird!’

‘Do you know which one it is?’


‘That’s a lark.’

‘There’s lots of them!’

‘Do you want to know what a group of larks is called?’


‘An ascension.’

‘What does asksenchen mean?’

‘Asension means to go up higher.’

‘Dad! Look how high the bird is!’

Acquiring wealth is fun but it’s nothing compared to the pleasure of finding things out.


Being 13 is tough

Dear Pauly,

Being 13 is tough. There's a lot going on.

You're getting to middle school, your parents are starting to talk to you about your grades more, your friends are growing up. Some of them even have girlfriends. Multiple girlfriends.

The worries never stop. The internet says you should be one way. Your parents think you should spend less time doing that thing you enjoy doing. You aren't very good at anything. School work is a drag. You can't keep up with your friends on the sports field because you're overweight. You try. But you can't. There's a cute girl who goes to the events you go to but you're too afraid to talk to her. Plus, she's taller than you.

I know these things because I remember being in 8th grade. I remember standing on the sports field looking at my friends with hair under their armpits. Then being extra careful to keep my arms by my sides whilst I took my shirt off. I kept the shirt in front of me so my stomach wouldn't show.

My hair was always a mess because I didn't like looking in the mirror. I didn't really care anyway. I'd go to class and cause trouble because I needed attention.

I thought, "I can't wait to grow up."

Some years passed. I started to grow. I got hair in the places.

But the worries were still there.

13 is tough but so is every other age. The worries never go away, they only change form.

When you're 13 you're self-conscious about your body.

"Why don't I look like the other kids?"

When you're 23 you're self-conscious about your job.

"Am I earning enough money?"

When you're 33 you're self-conscious about your body.

"Am I getting fat?"

When you're 43 you're self-conscious about whether you can pay for your kids' school.

"Am I earning enough money?"

When you're 53 you're self-conscious about whether you've spent enough time on the things you enjoy.

"Should I sign up for next weeks piano class?"

When you're 63 you're self-conscious about whether you've got enough time left to spend with your grandkids.

"The doctor said I should be taking it easy."

I'm not saying these things to scare you Pauly. But I'm not going to hide the truth from you either.

You're old enough to start thinking about what you can and can't control.

Put it this way. You can't control when you start to grow. And as much as you'd like, you can't control when you first kiss a girl.

Spending too much time thinking about these things will only make you more insecure. It's hard to understand now but I thought about the same things when I was your age. Thinking about them all the time only made it worse.

I want you to try something. Sit down and think for a minute.

What are the things you can control and what are the things you can't?

You'll probably find there's much more you can't control than you can.

But there's one thing you've got within you. One thing that will follow you from 13 to 23 to 33 to 103.

The story you tell yourself.

Now they don't teach this in school. Because it's really hard to teach. Everyone is still trying to figure it out. No one really knows how to explain it. Including me.

The best example I can give is that movie you love watching. You know the one we put on when I came to visit last.

What happens in the ending scene?

Jira becomes King.

But you know he didn't start there.

He started as a young boy. You remember him walking through the streets. The merchants rushing up to him and telling him to get lost.

All he wanted to do was grow up like his older brother, Leroy. Leroy the tall Knight with the beautiful girl.

What happens next?

Jira goes through the forest. He gets lost. He's stuck and doesn't know what to do.

Then what?

Jira decides to face his fears. He fails the first time. And the second time. Then still manages to end up on the throne. But now he's self-conscious about whether he's a good leader or not. There's always something.

You're probably thinking, "yeah, but that's a movie."

And you're right. It is. But I want you to think like Jira. Think like the movie.

You don't have to go through a forest.

But like how Jira ends up in charge of the Kingdom. You're in charge of the story. The story you tell yourself every day.

Being self-conscious is not a bad thing. It means you're thinking about where you fit in the world. Many people would benefit from being a little more self-conscious.

You can't control the challenges you face in life but you can control how you think about them.

You will grow taller.

You will kiss a girl. You'll both lean in and close your eyes. Your lips will touch. Then you'll pull away. And she'll open her eyes and smile. And it'll be beautiful.

You can lose weight if you try. It's hard. But doable.

Every time you think to yourself, you're writing your story. Some thoughts will be good, others won't.

But when you focus on the things you can control instead of the things you can't, you become King. King of your own Kingdom. Just like Jira. Except you don't need a crown.

I didn't get hair under my armpits until I was 18. And I was still 190lbs still at 22.

If you can lose weight, it's better to do it earlier. You can control that one. With food, movement and sleep. Write back if you need some help.

Talk soon,



'That won't be me'

‘30% of you are going to fail this course.’

‘Look to the person to your left and the person to your right.’

‘One of you isn’t going to pass.’

I looked to the left and to the right.

The people sitting next to me did the same.

‘That won’t be me,’ I thought.

It was me.

The professor wasn’t finished.

‘What you learn now will be different in 5-years.’

We were in a biology class.

7-years later a new textbook came out with a bunch of updates.

He was right. Twice.

Not only did I fail the course, I failed a course which (as of now) was teaching the wrong information.

If the beard is grey, trust what they say.

17-year-old me didn’t respect the grey beard.


Food, story and service

That's why people keep coming back.

Keep the story going and they'll be back. They'll always be back.

No one comes back only for the good food, they come back for the story.

The story behind it all. The show and dance. Johnny serves it with a smile.

The food wouldn't be nearly as good without the service.

PS you can change the word food out with almost any product or service. Try it.