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David Heinemeier Hansson: An Interview With A Real-World SuperLearner

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“Strip out of your brain that there are speed limits to learning… You can compress most learning trajectories into a much, much shorter amount of time…”
— David Heinemeier Hansson

Greetings, SuperFriends!

Today we are joined by a real-life superhuman – a man who has risen to prominence in not just one, but two extremely competitive arenas.

David Heinemeier Hansson, better known as “DHH,” is a software developer, entrepreneur, and race-car driver from Denmark.

He’s most known for his company, Basecamp, and for creating the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework that has taken the world of web development by storm. In 2005, he was recognized as “Hacker of the Year” by Google and O’Reilly. He’s written a slew of books on software development, and 3 very popular books on building and managing software companies: Getting Real, Rework, and Remote.

If that weren’t enough, David has also had a meteoric rise to prominence in the world of auto-racing, climbing through the ranks and coming in among the top spots in what many would call record time.

In this episode, I wanted to deconstruct David’s thinking process and figure out how he learns so much so effectively. I wanted to understand how he has managed to be so successful in two entirely different worlds, and see what tips he had to offer to anyone looking to live a life as diverse as his.

We talk about how he manages his time, but more than that, we take a deep dive and deconstruct his entire learning methodology in depth, flow, habits, happiness, goals, and how David has spent decades deconstructing and analyzing his own performance from every possible angle.

Quite honestly, I can say without exaggeration that this is one of the absolute BEST episodes we’ve ever done.

If you agree, make sure to leave us a review, drop us a tweet, or reply in the comments below!


This episode is brought to you by the all new SuperLearner Academy!

Want to develop a learning toolkit as powerful as David Heinemeier Hansson's? Check out my exclusive MasterClass using this link and save 10%.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • A brief summary of David Heinemeier Hansson's life & work up until this point
  • How has DHH managed to balance so much with such success?
  • How did DHH start work on Ruby on Rails and 37Signals with just 10 hours per week?
  • The secrets behind David Heinemeier Hansson's time management skills
  • Group chat as a replacement for email: friend or foe?
  • How the heck does David Heinemeier Hansson learn? How has he learned so much so quickly?
  • The story of how and why DHH invented Ruby on Rails by learning from the best code & coders in the world
  • The story of how David Heinemeier Hansson learned (and began dominating) auto racing
  • Which surprising resources did David use for learning resources, which you can access right now?
  • What “uncomfortable” and painful situations did DHH find in his pursuit of accelerated learning?
  • In what ways does David Heinemeier Hansson leverage the beginner's mindset and learn from others?
  • What are the many commonalities between the SuperLearner methodology & DHH's learning toolkit?
  • What other areas of learning has David applied his learning toolkit or “template” to?
  • Is there spillover between the areas David Heinemeier Hansson learns in?
  • In what ways are programming, business management, and race car driving similar?
  • What does “developing an eye” for something mean, and how can you do it? 
  • What does David mean by “operating at 2Ghz” in a race car, and how is it different from how others operate?
  • A discussion of the “flow” state, neural networks, and what DHH calls the “residue” of flow
  • Does David Heinemeier Hansson read a lot? If so, what does he read?
  • What are the skills, routines, and habits that help DHH perform at such a high level?
  • How has Stoicism impacted DHH and improved his life and his productivity?
  • What, if any, are David's next milestones or goals? What is he hoping to accomplish next?
  • Why is David Heinemeier Hansson patently against having “goals?”
  • How much happier is David today than he was decades ago living in a tiny apartment with no AC?
  • Are there any major challenges that DHH is facing right now?
  • What book or books have most impacted David Heinemeier Hansson's Life?
  • Where can you reach out to David or learn more about him?
  • What one takeaway would DHH hope for you to keep with you for the rest of your life?

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from David Heinemeier Hansson:

“I don't think there's any superhuman-ness about the way I go about work. A lot of it is just not doing a whole lot of work that perhaps others would have thought was necessary.”
“It just so happens that most people, most of the time, don't make their hours count.”
“Most people mistake the amount of time they spend in front of a computer… as work.”
“If I really get into the zone, I can do in 2 days what would otherwise take me 2 weeks… It's just not even on the same scale.”
“I didn't get my driver's license until I was 25, I didn't sit in a race car until I think I was almost 30… Those are not the hallmarks of someone generally who gets to compete at a high level.”
“I never had the ambition to be the fastest driver at my local track… I wanted to be the fastest amateur driver in the world… Why shouldn't I be?”
“Most people who are really good at something… they really like when someone looks up to them, or when someone approaches them.”
“I tried different things, and these are the things that worked.”
“There's just a way of learning that applies to most domains, and once you sort of find that to be successful in one domain, it's not that hard to just basically say ‘copy paste.'”
“They're perceiving that experience at 100Mhz. I'm perceiving that experience at 2GHz.”
“One of the quests that I've had for a long time is to design my lifestyle in such a way that it's sustainable and filled with as many happy moments as I can cram in.”
“One you've tasted flow… you want more. It's like crack cocaine.”
“And you know what? Things will be just f&#$ing fine if I go back to square one like that.”
“Stop thinking that there's one answer to anything.”



  1. Luiz
    at — Reply

    Thanks, I learned a lot of interesting things in past episodes.

  2. Shivaditya Purohit
    at — Reply

    loved th heart and the depth of the conversation. The way that Dr. Metivier shared from his enormous experience and insights was just amazing. Thank you Jonathan for doing this podcast!! 🙂

  3. Rob
    at — Reply

    Great interview with Dr. Greg Wells! He mentioned a doctor from Colorado around the 42:30 point of the podcast, discussing turmeric and black pepper. I couldn’t make out the doctor’s name. Can you provide me with his full name and maybe his website or contact info. Interested in his products.



  4. Muhammed Sani Ibrahim
    at — Reply

    I am new here, and learning really fast.
    Thank you.

  5. Leonia
    at — Reply

    Maybe oarts of the things he has to share are right, maybe not. If I look at him which impact his nurturing and living style has on himself I see a very old looking man! He is year 1973!! That is not old and he looks definitly much older!! If I would not know his birthyear I would guess that he is in his mid-60ies!! A bit concering for someone who claims his lifestyle is suitable for a long life, isn’t it?

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