Preparation: Rules of the Game

Preparation brings up many emotions for me.

Not Good Enough: Sometimes preparation stops you from starting.

The first thing to note about preparation is to ask yourself, “does this preparation get me where I️ want to go effectively and help me avoid common pitfalls or is this just excuses and laziness in disguise?” Often times, preparation is really just excuses you have to delay yourself from doing something that scares your butts off.

I’ve felt, and I’m sure most of us have, that I️ was unable to take on something new because I️ didn’t know enough yet. “As soon as I️ take this second online course, I’ll start executing my idea.” “As soon as I️ finish school” “As soon as I️ have the right equipment” “As soon as have more $….”

Excuses excuses. 98% of this is BS. A disempowering belief of “I’m not good enough yet” that’s wrapped in a shiny gold ‘someday’ that never comes. I­t­ took me a while to understand, but here’s honest truth: You will never know enough. You will always think you’re not good enough. Even if you know more about music than anyone else you know, you’ll still feel inadequate. Unless you try I­t­ and go after I­t­.

Too Much Info For Your Own Good: Something I­t­ hinders you and muddles your ability to see and think clearly 

The second thing to note about preparation is too much preparation can actually be a bad thing depending on your goal. Ask yourself, “Is this preparation a requirement?”
If you’re studying to be a doctor — you need to prepare. No one in their right mind would let you be their surgeon on your first day of medical school. You can cover a bad tattoo or haircut, but you can’t recover from a bad surgery.

But if you are trying to do something new by piecing together commodity types of thinking, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before you even leave the starting point. No about of reading is going to make you a better public speaker. I­t­ can inform you on certain arts like how to tell a great story, but becoming a great speaker requires you to speak, and get up there and fail.

There have also been people I’ve known who just know too much for their own good. You probably know someone that is so smart and wise, yet they never do anything that they want to do. They know too much about the negative side of what might happen if they try, so they never try at all.

They learn and understand so much — usually narrowly focus in one area — that they’ve completely thrown out everything else about how to live. 

Some of the best programmers in the world would become even better if they also actually knew how to talk to other human beings. Some of the most outgoing and connected people can’t even stand to be by themselves and alone with their thoughts for more than 5 minutes. They’ve learned to be great about connecting. They suck at connecting with themselves. We need both to make a real impact in the world.

Being too narrowly focused makes you top heavy. And one thing leads to another and you find yourself unable to reach higher levels of performance.
Unless you start working on counterbalancing your knowledge.

Life’s emergency kit / Batman’s toolbelt: Sometimes I­t­ takes you higher than you thought was possible.

The third note about preparation I️ want to close with is just the right amount of preparation might be exactly what you need to become great in your endeavors. What’s the right amount? I️ have no idea.

What I️ do know is adopting and creating systems and principles will put you in the right margin of having the right amount of information.

Take applying for a new job, for instance. If you send your resume to a company that you know nothing about, whose employees or values you haven’t gotten around to yet, with a resume you haven’t updated in 2 years, you’re not gonna get that job. Even just 20 minutes of preparation might have shown you that a friend of yours actually knows someone who works there. And reaching out through that channel would have dramatically improved your odds of getting a job, even with an outdated resume. 

Another example is learning. Do you really need to learn the entire worlds knowledge archive about photography, before you even purchase a camera? No! You just need to read a Wirecutter article on which camera to buy. And after you buy a camera, you need to learn how to turn I­t­ on. Then you can learn how to shoot I­t­ automatic mode. Then you can play around with lens. And so on and so on, chipping away at a skill on curious step at a time.

Takeaways:

If it’s an excuse, start immediately.

If you know too much for your own good, start immediately if you’re holding yourself back, while learning other life skills you’ve been neglecting in your thirst for knowledge.

If it’s not an excuse, and you’re looking for ways to avoid common pitfalls and to have the clearest path to your destination, then start seeking systems and principles to keep in your toolbelt. What is a toolbelt, after all, but a set of instruments you curate, for just the right types of needs or emergencies.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

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1%

Think of something big you want to accomplish in life.

Create a successful business, write a well acclaimed book, go to mars, learn 5 languages… 

Whatever I­t­ is you’ve set your mind on,  there’s you, your goals, and a bunch of unknown, terrifying, exhilarating, rock bottom, uncomfortable things standing in between of where you are and where you want to go.

Big picture goals are like a large realistic painting you view at a distance. When you get closer, you realize the picture was made from dabs of different colors and strokes of movement. Mistakes, creative epiphanies, techniques and layer and layers of work and expression are what turns stretched canvas and some tubes of paste into a masterpiece that resonates through time.

It’s the same with our big goals in life. It’s hard to see how a BIG goal is made when you’re starting at ground zero looking up at this looming mountain, lacking a Sherpa to guide the way. You want to get to the top, but how?

1%.

Doing even just a tiny amount of consistent and deliberate work dedicated to accomplishing your goal will accumulate up over time.

1% doesn’t just add up, it multiplies. The more consistent and good you get at something you love, the more you’ll want to do it.

What’s one small thing you can do today — right now — to get you one step closer to your goal?

Start with 1%, Stick with at least 1%, and one day you’ll be in the top 1%.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

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Shortcuts to Life’s Biggest Problems.

Books are my go-to when I’m facing difficult problems.

(Well… and books are my go-to for fun too.)

(Heck, they’re just my go-to.)

Learning and reading are shortcuts to life’s biggest problems.

What would you rather do: lose all your money, or read a book about someone losing all their money and how to NOT do that. Sure there’s nothing like learning from your own practical experiences, but there’s also nothing like learning to avoid pitfalls we all can make when we’re stumbling towards a dream.

Starting a business is great. But what about starting a business testing a personal MBA you’ve developed by learning from the books of the greatest entrepreneurs in history?  Better.

Books teach you how to think well.

Books won’t necessarily give you the answers to the test (aka life), but they will give you a more capable understanding of the questions. When you read a book, you’re not just learning the content, your learning how the writer thinks. And if a book resonates with you, you’re absorbing ways to think about the world the way the author does.

When I’m facing a career change or a health issue, money anxiety, happiness, and fulfillment problem, I seek books or lessons from people who have been there done that and come out thriving and better than they were.

We are as only as capable as we think we are. 

Having a more meaningful, inspirational, financial free life will be ours when we adopt a more capable way of thinking and taking actions.

Learn from the best. Absorb lessons from their wins and loses.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Insights

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” Leo Buscaglia

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Who are Master Learners? (Learning Playbook) — Part 2

My goal of becoming a master learner (the micro skill of learning) isn’t about being a know it all. As much as I would love to dominate the next time I play trivia night at a local bar, that’s not the end goal for me. I want to become effective at learning so that I can use those principles and tools to teach myself other things I care about (such as music, writing, and design). Learning is a fundamental skill that can improve every aspect of our lives. What do you do when as soon as you graduate college everything you learned is outdated? What do you do when you want to build a product but don’t know how to even start? What do you do when you’re industry changes on a dime and you have to either learn the new ways or fizzle out? Becoming a master learner means you can *learn anything.*

By knowing the principles of learning, we’re building a playbook or foundation of always stay current in our careers and the areas we care about. (More creativity and abundance, less friction, and anxiety)

So the question is who are masters of learning that we can learn from? Who makes learning look easy?

What resources do they recommend?
What questions do they ask?
What habits do they have?
Who do they learn from?

The first three that come to mind in today’s age are Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss and James Altucher.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla, X.com (PayPal) and a plethora of other innovative (rock ’n roll) companies leading the charge to change the world, had this to say about learning on a Reddit AMA a couple years ago had this to say:

“I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying,” he insists. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

In other words, Elon has mastered the art of learning.

Tim Ferriss writes (The Four Hour Workweek, Body, Chef, Tools of Titans and his most recent Tribe of Mentors) and podcasts about deconstructing “world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc).” On his podcast, he pinpoints the habits, tools and tricks of experts and experiments by applying what they know to his own life. What’s interesting about what Tim does is he doesn’t look for just the talented, he looks for world-class performs who on the surface shouldn’t be good at what they do.

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James Altucher, writer of Choose Yourself, Reinvent Yourself (and million other great books) and podcaster (The James Altucher Show) is another avid learner who is a huge fan of uncovering the micro-skills of a skill. What are the 50 to 100 micro-skills that make up a skill? James also does something I’m a huge proponent of, which is stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what scares you.

The question is are there any patterns in the way they learn?

I can see 5 actions they all do:

  1. They study and apply the art of learning.
  2. They are avid readers.
  3. They absorb knowledge faster by connecting and befriending world-class experts.
  4. They learn from top-level performers in various fields and from historical titans.
  5. They make bold moves — they challenge themselves, take calculated risks, and do what others don’t.

I’m positive there are a ton other people who are great examples of master learners (and I’ll kick myself for not thinking about them later)

Other Master Learners from History:

Leonardo Da Vinci
George Bernard Shaw
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Benjamin Franklin
Bruce Lee
The Wright Brothers
Nicola Tesla
Malcolm X

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Learning Playbook: Resources on How to Master Learning — Part 1

Yesterday I made a list of the micro-skills of mastery, skills that if mastered will create massive improvements in all areas of our lives.

Tonight I want to talk about learning. My aim here is to start building a master learning playbook to teach myself (and anyone like me) how to master the art of learning. Why learn how to learn? Because learning is a universal skill that affects all aspects of our lives. By becoming a more effective learner, you will be able to develop any skill, trait or habit you desire.

Questions I have:

Q: How can we teach ourselves to learn? (Learning how to learn — or meta-learning if you want to get fancy pants-y)

Q: What are the books, blogs, courses, tools and other resources we can add to our learning playbook?

Q: Who are Masters of Learning that we can learn from? How makes learning look easy?
    What resources do they recommend?
    What questions do they ask?
    What habits do they have?
    Who do they learn from?

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Books baby, booooooks:

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin 

Learning How to Learn by Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Gowin

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger II

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss (A learning book disguised as a cookbook)

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch

Teaching Smart People How to Learn (Harvard Business Review Classics by Chris Argyris

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live by Tony Schwartz

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright

 Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations by Joseph D. Novak

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Mind Mapping: Improve Memory, Concentration, Communication, Organization, Creativity, and Time Management by Kam Knight

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

 

I’ve started reading Be Excellent at Anything, and have read The Art of Learning and I’ll be diving into these in the coming months so expect full reviews here on the Renaissance Life.

Did I miss any books? Let me know.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Fundamental Skills of Mastery

Q: What are the foundational skills that affect all areas of our lives? What are the micro skills that other skills/pursuits are built upon? (design, entrepreneurship, writing, public speaking, etc)

Or perhaps a better question: If I learned how to ________ would it completely change my life?

The ones I can think of at the moment are:

  • Learning: Going from A to Z on a topic.
  • Understanding: Absorbing what you learn for use.
  • Reading: Reading to learn; Learning to read.
  • Thinking: Connecting ideas, analyzing, memorization, remembering, applying and questioning everything.
  • Health & Wellness: Understanding how your body, mind, emotions, and spirit works. Knowing what foods work for you and how to use them well.
  • Moving / Exercising: Knowing how the body moves. Knowing how to move your body.
  • Teaching: Restructuring what you understand and have learned for others to understand.
  • Psychology: Knowing how humans think. Knowing how you think.
  • Mindset: Positivity, affirmations, belief. Vision, power, confidence determination, resilence.
  • Talking: communicating your thoughts and ideas eloquently. witty, thoughtful, clever, agreeable.
  • Connecting: relating with others. Building community.
  • Hearing: Listening, feeling music and soul. Intuition.
  • Dancing: Expression through music and moving. 
  • Seeing: Observing others and yourself. Seeing what others don’t. Making interesting connection.
  • Acting: Charisma. Facial and Body Expression.
  • Playing: Letting lose. Having fun. Knowing what you like. Washing away anxiety and friction.
  • Applying: Taking action, executing, taking calculated risks, minimizing fear.
  • Creativity: Imagination. Expressing your ideas and mind. Seeing, making connections and applying them in new and interesting ways.
  • Ideation: Creating, brainstorming, making connections with other ideas, or from observations yet to be seen.
  • Pattern Recognition: Seeing and connecting ideas that make up larger themes about how the system/world works.
  • Numbers: talking and seeing with mathematics. Understanding probabilities. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s interesting is the interconnection between these skills. By improving and mastering the fundamentals, we can apply it anything we want to learn going forward.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”Bruce Lee

“I can’t say it enough that learning how to learn is one of the greatest skills anyone can have. It’s why I advocate that everyone go to college.”Mark Cuban

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”Ernest Hemingway

Beginner’s Body

Beginner’s body is the disconnection between what you’re mind says you can do and what your body is capable of doing.

Drawing is a great example. If you don’t know how to draw and you sit down and try to draw a landscape or from your imagination, most of the time you’ll be disappointed because you can only manage to draw stick figures.ww

When we think, ‘I can run a triathlon’ and then go do it — without a day of training (unless you count MarioKart) — but our bodies say ‘what the h🌋ll you think you’re doing?

At this stage, our skills aren’t aligned with our mind. Beginners bod can be really discouraging especially when we are trying to learn something new. We think we should be great immediately (like the movies) and when we’re not we tend to give up before we get going.

However, the beginner’s body is just a part of the learning process. In fact, I think successful people are envious of you. To see the world with a fresh set of eyes without the weight of success. Of course, you’re going to suck at the beginning. That’s why they call it the beginning. 

Fear not: Keep going — despite the suckitude — you will grow out of your beginner’s bod. If you really want to master a skill you have to learn to be okay with failing at the start. What could possibly stop someone who decides to never give up?

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”Jack Ma, Alibaba

“Don’t quit. Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can’t see it. Listen to your drum and your drum only. It’s the one that makes the sweetest sound.” Simon Sinek, Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Find Your Why

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  — Winston Churchill

College Degrees Are for Suckers (Like Me)

College has become a great way to make friends and a bad way to learn how to build a successful career.

I’m generalizing here, there’s always exceptions to the rule:

Becoming a doctor, lawyer, nurse — anything requiring specialized practice.

But wait.. why aren’t all majors set up like those?
Doesn’t every skill require practice to become a master?

Sure, there’s internships (which is a loaded word) but in the current college environment tests and grades are much more important to school. The game is more important than the results. As long as the money keeps rolling in who cares?

Grades aren’t a sign of knowledge: Just the gamification min / maxing of learning.

At least this has been my experience. I have a burning desire to learn and improve myself and skills yet I’m completely put off by the whole system. We’ve been duped. I’m not telling you to drop out — I’m telling you something needs to change.

The worst crime is the fact that the classroom can’t keep up with the industry.

Businesses move quickly, things you learn in textbooks are outdated if not obsolete by the time you started. In my programming classes, certain foundational theories were transferable, but there was no practicality to the exercise. If you didn’t self-teach yourself outside of the class, you were dead in the water. I️ had classmates who didn’t know how to program applications. Imagine that, a coder who knows code but can’t make anything. It’s like knowing the entire dictionary without knowing how to form complete sentences! The same goes for most creative majors.

But what’s are potentially solutions?

The tides are turning. As student debt rises, people are getting fed up.
The smaller the gap between what we learn and what’s happening out in the world the better we will be. I think there will be a Renaissance — revitalization — of apprenticeship. Why not combine an old school mentality to a new age of technology? Apprenticeships meets the internet. 

What if we cut out the middleman? Businesses teach the students. As a student, you learn under the wing of someone who has a job you desire. Mentorship in action. Sure, you still have classes that give you well-rounded wisdom about how the world works, but when you want to get practical, you go to the cutting edge.

I’m sure there are holes to my logic of course. But what would you rather do: learn business from a classroom, or from Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos..? learn to code from a teacher who doesn’t, or from Steve Wozniak, Paul Graham, Matt Mullenweg..? learn to direct from a classroom or from J. J. Abrams, Tarantino, Christopher Nolan..?

But of course we can’t all apprentice under one titan. There’s where the internet comes into play. Universities aren’t isolated learning silo’s anymore: I can be on the east coast and look up exactly what another university is teaching in psychology on the west coast. (There’s probably even video too) I think the future of education is the mesh of hands on learning with the internet giving us access to direct insights from the best of the best in what we want to learn.

Let me know your thoughts / outrage in the comments below.

Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

https://forms.convertkit.com/273691?v=6

Related Wisdom:

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” — Mark Twain

Unwilling to Learn

I think a lot about learning and teaching (waaaay more than someone should)
One idea that jumps out at me is you can’t teach to someone who is unwilling to learn. Not truly. They might listen and nod there heads in agreement, but they aren’t real in it. And if you force them to learn it anyway they will resent you for making them. (who does this guy think he is anyway?) Forcing ideas down people throats (even for the right reason) backfires into the opposite of your intentions.

Have you ever had a doctor that smoked?

It’s difficult to teach about health & wellbeing, values, relationships, business, life and more without a willing and openness to improve and learn in those areas yourself. To teach a topic, you must first live the example. Or in other words — You must do it. 

You can’t teach someone about health if you don’t practice what you teach. They will take one glance at you and know that you are phoning it in.

This is amplified even more so when you’re trying to help friends or family — someone you have known for a long time. In my experience, sometimes you can be too close to someone for them to take your advice. They painted you as a happy-go-lucky person, watched you make mistakes, or have seen you in your boxers — not as someone who has valuable insights on life.

Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach.
Some teaching requires a handshake. It takes two to tango. 
Without a willingness to grow on both sides, neither will learn. (Don’t leave me hanging bro)

If you desire to teach someone, they will listen when they are ready to be taught. And if you’re too close, guide them subtly by pointing them to other resources (books, people, etc) that have helped you on your journey. 

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” — William Arthur Ward

“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” — Swami Vivekananda