August 14, 2023

A Skeptic's Guide to Learning

READ Time -

We live in a world that's obsessed with certificates, diplomas, and structured learning.

The kind of learning that's neatly packaged into college degrees or training programs.

But what if the traditional ways that we've approached learning and education, especially in business, are flawed?

A More Unconventional Path

I remember sitting in training sessions at work, listening to "experts" talking about business strategies, marketing tactics, and growth models.

They were reciting from the same old playbook, but something always felt off to me.

I can vividly remember a board member at my last startup telling me that my salespeople should travel on planes to go prospect - we sold a product that was $6,000. I couldn't help but smirk.

And I can clearly recall looking around the room and thinking, "Am I the only one feeling this way?"

It wasn't long after that I started realizing something: real learning doesn't always come in neat packages.

We learn the most when we start doing things, not hearing or reading things. Even when the teacher has "been there, done that", the advice given doesn't always work. Why?

Because conventional wisdom isn't always wise.

The Skeptic's Guide to Learning

So, what does learning look like when we throw conventional wisdom out the window?

Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Question Everything: Don't accept something just because "that's how it's always been done". Dig deeper, challenge assumptions, and don't be afraid to ask "Why?" Often, the stuff being taught is 5, 10, or even 20 years old.
  2. Use Trial and Error: Failure can be one hell of a teacher. I've made tons of mistakes, and I've learned more from them than from any classroom lesson. Your journey will look different than other people's. So make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons.
  3. Find Your Own Path: Find mentors, read books, take online courses, and experiment. But you can't just seek out knowledge - you must put it into action. Create your unique learning journey by testing, analyzing, iterating, and repeating.
  4. Integrate Learning into Life: Outside of mentors, books, and online courses, make sure that you integrate learning into your daily work. Don't think of learning and working as separate. They are the same! So make sure you're setting up systems to capture what you learn as you put in the work.

Changing the Culture

This approach isn't easy.

It's often met with skepticism, or "trust me, the old way works."

But it's worth asking - are you satisfied with the status quo around learning and development? Are you content with simply going through the motions of another workshop or training program?

There's a better way. A way that incorporates individuality, curiosity, and the entrepreneurial spirit that drives each of us.

It's about owning your learning, taking control, and not being dedicated to the best practices of the business world.

Instead, maybe it's time you created your own best practices?

In Summary

The conventional learning path may be comfortable, but I don't find it useful. I didn't learn how to build a business by reading about it or listening to stories.

Instead, I found that stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing a different approach to learning worked really well for me: Doing stuff and watching what happened.

So, maybe it's time you started asking some questions, challenging the status quo, taking action, and learning on your own terms.

The best investment we can make is in ourselves, in our own way.

And you know what? Your specific journey will always be one worth taking.

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