During college, I started a club for people interested in working for a pharmaceutical company. It was my first time starting anything. I had a pretty decent job working at Pfizer and was still deciding if I wanted to go into medicine. The club sounded fun and something good to put on my resume.
I asked a couple of my smartest friends to join. And somehow got the courage to ask my favorite professor to be part of it and he even said yes. I was ecstatic. I already had visions of the club being on the biggest at school. Unfortunately, it never got anywhere close to that. It only lasted a few meetings before it fizzled out.
What did we talk about for those meetings? The name of the club. That’s it. We couldn’t come up with a name. And each person wanted it to be something different. It was my first venture as a leader. Looking back, I’m thankful that it was something with such low stakes.
I was with my smartest friends. I didn’t feel I had the right to change the subject. I wanted everyone to have their say. Everyone was so excited to start the club. We lost all our momentum. The club never even got started.
Thinking back, we lost the forest for the trees. A name? It didn’t matter. Just look at some of the biggest names out there now: Google, Uber, Facebook. Their names don’t mean anything. Nothing profound. If instead, we would have gotten a few easy wins the club may have survived to do something meaningful.
It did lead me to learn some lessons:
1. True leadership means looking at the bigger picture and choosing priorities
2.Don’t waste the momentum and excitement you have when starting something new. Do something.
3. Remember that not everything needs to be right in the beginning, you can always change or pivot.
What does a typical day look like for you? You wake up, then coffee. More than likely you grab your phone, respond to some texts or emails. Go to work. Come home, some family time. Dinner, TV, and then sleep.
If you’re like me, then between all those times you try to fit in as much as you can. Read articles or blog posts. Listen to podcasts. Try to get a workout in if there’s time. You squeeze out every minute of free time. out. All in the name of productivity.
There’s not a bit of free time. Free time. Do we even need it?
Well, think back. When was the last time you had an epiphany? What were you doing? All a sudden an answer comes to you despite not thinking about the problem at all. Your mind was idle for a bit so it had the brainpower to work on your problems in the background.
Or it was something you told yourself you have to remember, but somehow you forgot. Just letting your mind sit idle for a bit was able to bring it back.
We often run our brain at top speed and wonder why we still feel tired after a good night’s sleep. Our brain is mentally exhausted because it’s been working non-stop. It would be like going to the gym for 8-12 hours a day and expecting not to be sore the next day. Then beat myself up when I can’t come up with any creative solutions for my big problems.
To combat this, I try to insert a bit of free time throughout the day. So that my brain can run free. It can relax if it wants, or go and attack whatever it wants in the background.
Small stuff here and there. I stopped taking out my phone as soon as I got in the elevator. I sit there and stare at the door. A few seconds of blissful free time. I’ll listen to music or even commute in a silent car. Instead of turning on a podcast as soon as I step in the car. I’ll wash the dishes and resist the need to play a video or podcast.
Try to think of where you can insert a little free time into your life. Your brain will surprise you with how much more productive it can be with a little rest and free time.
If you’re like me, you have a ton of different subjects that you’d love to learn. I have a 1400 page art history book that’s been sitting in my bookshelf for years. I’ll get to it one day.
So then how do decide what I should learn next? I have a couple of criteria that I look at:
Is it interesting?
Will it be applicable to more than one area of my life?
Is it difficult to outsource?
I try to answer yes to all three questions before trying to learn it.
For the first part, is it interesting? There are countless subjects out there. I’ve realized that there’s no reason to force myself to learn something that doesn’t interest me. This is not to say that the subject isn’t interesting, just not to me.
If it doesn’t interest me, it’ll take way longer to learn. Learning is a lot of work. Why work so hard if it doesn’t interest me? I’ll not even keep much since I’ll have to force myself to get through it.
Next, will it be applicable to many areas of my life? I’m busy. I’m sure you’re busy as well. We love to multi-task, often to our determinant. I want to be able to apply whatever I learn in at least two aspects of my life, hopefully, all of them. For example, I could have learned how to create this website. It would have taken a few weeks. I could have even done it for free. YouTube is a treasure trove of educational videos.
But when would I need it again? A few more times in my life, if that. Instead, I picked up a book on writing. I know. You’re having flashbacks from high school English class. But, better writing would flow through everything I do. Even if this blog failed, if I became a better writer through it, I would consider it a success.
Finally, is it difficult to outsource? Prepare yourself, this is a little morbid. We only have a specific amount of time in this world. I’ve already gotten to the point in my life that I’ll read less than 1000 books. Less than 500? Who knows, even less? If the subject doesn’t interest me and it wouldn’t be applicable to many areas of my life, it’s much better to outsource.
The creation of this website was outsourced. Even better, I was able to find someone that was willing to teach me some of the basics. This way I could do a majority of the work on it myself after it was made. This saved me at least a couple weeks of time learning how to make a website and run it from the ground up. I was also able to hire him on an ongoing basis in case I break something.
There are other topics that I would say yes to the first two questions, but no to the last that I outsource. Well, with some sadness. There is too much to learn that I have to make sure that it meets all my criteria.
This is the last post in my three-part series on how to learn a new subject. You’ve already learned the basics with some structured learning. You’ve even started doing. You’re awesome! Now, how do you know what you are doing is correct? You need feedback.
Back in our classroom days, the feedback was tests or school projects. Yeah, I know. Tests suck. But it was the best they had. In residency, we had someone above us looking over our shoulders to make sure we didn’t hurt anyone.
The problem is where to find someone like that. It kind of depends on what you want to learn. Here some basic tips and some examples. Say I’m trying to learn a language. I can study and practice all I want, but I could be saying everything the wrong way and have no idea. I would need to find someone that knows the language. A tutor. Unfortunately, most that I know are pretty expensive. They also aren’t available in the middle of the night, my preferred time to learn.
The internet has made this process much easier. Through a website called italki.com, I was able to find a language tutor in Spain that worked well with my schedule. He was a college student that was a native Spanish speaker, so it was a lot cheaper than I’d have to pay a formal tutor.
Well, what about other subjects? This may seem a bit odd, but another great source of feedback is through Facebook. Specifically, Facebook groups. For example, say you are learning a new program or application. There is almost always to be a relevant Facebook group. When we were creating our online course, the Kajabi Facebook group was pretty helpful. What if you wanted to learn the basics of finance? Well, there are a ton of Facebook groups to help you. There’s even one’s for specific careers such as finance groups for engineers, lawyers, or doctors. There’s even a Facebook group for people trying to learn Spanish.
There are a couple of benefits from joining a Facebook group to help you learn:
You learn by reading what other people are talking about (passive learning)
You’ll start to recognize some of the words and topics you learned in your structured learning. And it’ll transfer to long term memory (spaced repetition)
You can start to ask questions such as I was thinking of investing here or why do you use this word instead of this? (active learning)
I’ve found people are pretty helpful on Facebook and will often go out of there way to help you (social learning)
This discussion with the members in the group will help you solidify what you learned in structured training. As scary as it can be, once you start posting and getting feedback, you’ll speed up your learning. At some point, you’ll even be able to help others and take your learning to the next level.
Now you’re ready to learn anything. Let me know how it goes. What subject did you decide to learn?
In last week’s article, I discussed how to start learning a new topic. Most people often get stuck in that first part. They decide they need to read one more book, take another course, or go to another conference.
So if you’ve gotten past that part congrats! Now that you’ve got the basics down: What do you do with that knowledge? Well, you do… exactly what you wanted to do in the first place. So if it’s learning a language so you can speak it, you start speaking it. If it’s learning about real estate or investing, you start investing. I know. I know. You don’t feel ready yet. That’s okay. We’re going to start with some baby steps.
When I woke up on my first day of residency, I was hoping to feel different. Somehow, I’d wake up with all the world’s medical knowledge. Or at least, enough not to kill anyone. Nothing seemed different from the night before. But now I had the title doctor before my name. I felt like I could have used another year of training or ten. But I had patients to see.
Those extra years of training wouldn’t have mattered. I needed practical training. Those 6 months alone were priceless in my training. I still refer to what I learned at that time to this day. That’s because I had to put myself out there. I was taking care of real people. My decisions mattered.
Medicine was created this way. Well over 100 years ago. The forefathers of medicine knew we couldn’t learn by reading or listening. I had to go out and do. That doesn’t mean I was out there on my own. I was an intern, the bottom of the totem pole. I had a resident and an attending above me and countless other staff to teach practical medicine. How things were in the real world. I had to be the one that made decisions. On a daily basis. What did the patient have? What medicines should I give to them? Why?
Every little decision I made, wrong or right, was a teaching lesson. We went over sample patients. We discussed each other’s patients. Would I have treated the patient the same or differently? What was the eventual outcome?
So how would this translate into whatever you wanted to learn? Well, take investing for example. If I wanted to start investing in real estate, I would start to look at houses for sale in the area. What do I like? What do I think of the ones for sale? Would I have made an offer on this one? What would my offer have been? There are apps and websites that will let you favorite a property. How long does it take to sell? Was my pretend offer close to what it sold for? What type of properties sells quickly? What is so special about them
Each test case will get you some more information. Approach each one like the real thing, and you’ll be learning all that much more. Feel free to go back to your notes from the structured learning part. In the next part, we will learn how to get some feedback and solidify all that you learned.
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