Have you seen those articles with headlines that promise the impossible?
- “1000X your personal growth!”
- “Change your life in 10 seconds!”
- “Learn EVERYTHING in 1 hour!”
You and I both know that these types of claims are BS — it’s nothing more than cheap clickbait. But why are we still baited by these headlines?
We’re optimists! And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Look, we all know that there’s no such thing as 1,000% growth in a short period of time. We also know that we can’t finish a 300-page book in 30 minutes. Mastery doesn’t work that way. There are no shortcuts.
However, getting good at something is also not totally unattainable. Because like these above extreme claims, there is a counterculture that says it takes 10,000 hours (or more) to master a skill. As you might expect, I’m more on the side of that it takes longer to get good at something.
But I firmly believe there’s a difference in the way we learn. You can spend 10,000 hours doing something and learn nothing.
That’s why I’m sharing 5 things that have worked for me in the past to accelerate my learning curve and learn skills faster.
1. Use best practices
“Don’t reinvent the wheel.” It’s a platitude you often hear. And yet, we all think we’re majestic wheel-inventors.
When you start learning a skill, it must come from a place of humility and admiration for the practice.
Whether it’s writing, value investing, or playing the pan flute; start with the basics. I get that people want to be different and try to do new things. But no one ever started as an “original.”
We start by doing what everybody else did. Once you master the basics, you can go out and do your own thing. When I started writing, I copied my favorite authors. And I followed advice from books like On Writing by Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway.
It’s the same with investing. I didn’t try to create my own strategy from the beginning. I learned about investing from my mentors and from books. I didn’t make decisions on my own. That only came later.
By listening to best practices, you can avoid making mistakes in the beginning. And that’s exactly why most people never get good at something. They quit too early.
Don’t be like most people. Instead, learn from the greats. And have respect for the skill you’re learning.
2. Measure and evaluate your progress weekly
Your goal is to get better at a skill, right? How do you know that you’re getting better without measuring it?
Measuring your progress is the only way you can evaluate it. You don’t need hardcore data to evaluate. I use my journal as an evaluation tool.
Every day, I write about what I’ve learned. What mistakes I made. What I need to avoid. What I want to focus on.
And every week, I review my journal and look at how it went. Did I spend enough time practicing? Did I make enough notes? What should I do differently?
Looking for tips to get started with journaling? Read this.
3. Get feedback
It’s important to get input from mentors, coaches, or experts who’ve done what we’re trying to do.
I can’t stress this enough. Show your progress to an experienced person.
- Play the guitar in front of a teacher
- Send your articles to an established writer
- Discuss your business model with a successful entrepreneur
If you don’t have access to an expert, consider paying someone. Getting feedback from a more experienced person is scary. I’ve been there many times.
We don’t like to be told that we’re doing things wrong. We also don’t like to look stupid. That’s normal. But what’s more important. Your feelings or your career?
Also, good mentors and coaches never make you feel bad. Remember: If make you feel bad, you’ve asked the wrong person for advice.
Seek out people who are already established and have nothing to prove. They will help you better.
4. Don’t quit
This is so obvious that it often gets left out. You can’t master a skill if you quit early. There’s no point in talking about that.
However, understanding WHY we quit can help us to prevent quitting early. So when you’re learning a skill, your progress does not grow linearly over time. But we all expect that learning is linear.
“The more time I invest in something, the better I should get, right?” Unfortunately, learning skills don’t work that way. Our progress looks more like this:
We hit learning plateaus — and all of a sudden, we don’t get better. But the problem is that time does not stop, only our progress does — and that’s very frustrating. And what does frustration cause?
That’s right: An urge to quit. So when you stop growing, know why you want to quit. The trick is to acknowledge the urge but not giving into it.
Remember: When you accelerate your learning curve, you will still hit plateaus (see drawing). The difference is that you expect them. That alone will help you to push through plateaus.
5. Work harder
“Yeah, but I work smart, dude!” There are always Einsteins who try to tell us that they work “smart.” Good for them. But that’s not what I’m talking about (listen to my podcast episode about working hard if you want to hear more on this).
Even if you work 2 hours a day. I’m saying: Work hard during those two hours. Every day, work hard. Don’t hold anything back.
I always thought I worked hard. But I wasn’t working nearly as hard as I am today. And I can still improve a lot.
As you and I both know, hard work is not about appearing busy or doing useless tasks. It has everything to do with focus.
I know this sounds cheesy. When you’re working; work.
Don’t go for coffee 10 times a day, stop looking at your social media apps, and don’t lounge in your chair. Don’t wander around, thinking, “what should I do now?”
If you want to learn faster, achieve more, and make a contribution, you must take your personal development seriously. You can’t slack off. This is not high school.
I’m not always a fan of black/white thinking. But when it comes to getting good at what you do, it is indeed a binary choice: Are you learning or NOT?
There’s no middle ground. You either move forward, or you go backward.
It’s up to you.