Top Skill-Learning Lessons Learned from One Year of Experimentation
For the sake of this article, we’ll define the word “Skill” as such: “the ability to do something well”. “Well”, doesn’t necessarily mean professionally.
The moment I read and understood the following quote is the moment I knew I had to turn my life around and become a more skilled individual:
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery
Now imagine the scenario where you learn more than 35 skills in a year:
How much more “successful” do you think you could be?
How many ways can you combine those in creative ways?
A lot of times we can’t see how two or more skills may come together until we have acquired the knowledge.
And then one day you wake up and realize that by using a multitude of skills you’ve acquired over the years, you come up with a brilliant idea that could change your future forever.
Just 7 months ago, I didn’t really know how to write good stories. Writing was just one of the skills I wanted to learn over the course of the month of January.
During that month only, I:
got published by The Startup (after 5 days in fact!);
became a top writer in 7 categories on Medium.com;
learned to build mass and gained 5kg of pure muscles (and lost 2% body fat);
started a fitness group that grew from 2 people to 13 in just a few days;
became way more proficient at day-to-day Spanish conversations;
made a new partner for a side-business I was working on; and
built my personal brand website.
The next month, I learned how to do Social Media Marketing (with emphasis on Facebook), how to speak/write basic Tagalog and how to grow muscle mass in the legs for someone with chicken legs.
I also released my video game, launched my Viking store, read more books, attended toastmasters events, and grew my networks.
So how can I learn that many skills so quickly and accomplish more?
Simple. In theory at least:
I learn 3 new skills every month.
Let my story above inspire you to try this approach.
Keep reading to learn how I choose the skills, when and how to practice them, why this approach works so well and some of the criticism I’ve received concerning this approach.
How I Choose My Skills
First off, I choose 3 skills that use completely different sections of the brain. I’m certainly no brain expert, but here are a few categories of skills that I’m almost 100% sure use different parts of the brain:
Logic/Science (Programming, Math, Physics, etc.)
Creative (Art, Music, Writing, Design, Movies, etc.)
Health (Nutrition, Body-building, Sports)
Speech (public speaking, speed, tone, etc.)
The first month I tried Logic, Creative and Languages, more specifically: Categorization using Machine Learning, Drawing using Photoshop, and Past and Future tenses in Spanish.
Be Specific and Realistic
As you can see, these are very specific subsets of skills.
Always be realistic.
What if I chose Programming, Drawing and Spanish? This is way too broad! Where do I start? What is it really? How the heck can I learn all that in one month! How do you track progress on that?
Being realistic and specific will help you focus and stay motivated, and ultimately help you stay consistent in your practice.
When And How To Practice Them
Practice each skill 30 minutes per day
Thirty minutes for each skill is achievable. If it’s unreasonable for you, just reduce to 1–2 skills instead.
Sometimes I do 2 skills in a month, sometimes I do 4, but I do 3 on average.
And is 30 minutes each day enough to learn a skill? I say yes.
Remember our definition at the top: “the ability to do something well”.
In 15 hours (30 minutes X 30 days), you can learn A LOT.
Have a schedule
Be extreme in telling your brain that you HAVE TO do it or something bad will happen.
This is made easier if you do it consistently at the same time every day. I practice on weekends also. I don’t want to break the momentum.
Learning new skills requires energy, much more than doing things you know.
For that reason, I do them when I’ve got the highest amount of energy. For me, that’s 30 minutes each skill, starting at 5:00am every morning.
Most skills can be practiced passively. That is, without you actually “spending” time practicing them.
During your day, you spend a lot of time doing passive things: Commuting to work, basic cooking, doing the dishing, health hygiene, etc. I bet for most people, that’s at least one hour of their day.
Use this time to learn passively. Most skills have good theoretical knowledge required. It’s not hard to find good articles online, podcasts and videos to teach you the theory required to learn a skill. Just put your headphones on and learn while doing those passive activities. Learn the jargon, the techniques, etc.
Of course, don’t spend all your time on theory! I spend at least 75% of my time on practice over the course of a month.
4 Reasons Why This Approach Works
Learning 3 new skills every month completely changed my life for the better. I’m a much better person than I was a year ago. And trust me, it’s not as hard as you think it is. In fact, most of us do learn 3 new skills every month without knowing it. Being aware of it makes all the difference.
1. Because All Skills Are Useful
I will start by saying there are (almost) no useless skills.
Everything I aim to learn has a purpose. The first skills I chose were: classifying documents using Machine Learning, Drawing using Photoshop and Learning The Past and Future Tenses In Spanish.
In one of the current startups I’m working on right now requires my acquired ML skills.
When working on my game, I can now draw decent enough sketches/drafts for my artists to understand my vision.
I moved to Spain 2 months after learning the past and future tenses. I had no idea I would go to Spain at the time.
I use and improve these skills pretty much every day now. The progress has become organic.
2. Because I Build Stronger Connections
I work in co-working spaces. I work with people from all over the globe with different backgrounds. As such, it’s not always easy to have deep conversations if you have nothing in common.
By learning so many skills, there’s a much higher chance that I’m going to find something that unites me with another person.
I’ve connected with people I would never connect with normally, and these connections ended up being some of my strongest connections.
3. Because I Discover Hidden Talents Or Passions
I didn’t aim to write. I didn’t aim to take photos.
Yet I’m now getting paid to do both.
If I didn’t try them as new skills, I would never have known that 1. I’d be good enough at them, and 2. I’d really grow to like them.
4. Because The More You Know, The Faster You Learn
And for me, that is the best reason: learning constantly, at a faster pace.
There’s (almost) nothing I enjoy more in life than learning. It’s such a great feeling when you reach a level of mastery you never knew you could reach before.
“The person who can learn from everything will beat out the person who judges harshly who and what to learn from.” — James Altucher
2 Critics To This Approach
1. I Don’t Have That Much Time!
Yes, you do.
In Analyze How You Spend Your Time, And You will Realize There Is Plenty Of Free Time, I talk about strategies to help you figure out where you can get more time.
One of the realizations I made for myself a few years ago is that I can’t do anything productive after work. I’m too drained mentally. Because of that, I had decided that I’d wake up earlier to work on side projects. It worked great.
Today, I wake up between 4am and 5am depending on the month and the schedule I make for it. I’m productive from 5am to 7pm.
Sounds difficult, right?
Here are key lessons I learned to make waking up early easier:
Wake up at the end of a REM cycle. Experiment to see what it is for you, because it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s about 90 minutes. So I usually sleep between 10pm and 4am, which is 6 hours, or 4 full cycles.
Take power naps (10–15 minutes rest) during the day. 6 hours is not enough. I take one power nap in the morning and one in the afternoon. Again, this takes practice. It’s hard to pull off initially. More tips in Pro Tips For Power Napping Like A King.
2. You Never Master Anything
This is not entirely true.
On the moment, it’s true that I just become good at the skill, without reaching for mastery.
But what’s the point in mastering something you don’t yet know is going to be useful for you?
The key here is that as the months go by, I practice complementary skills and eventually become great at it. Skills are a series of sub-skills. I learn sub-skills every month that add to a whole.
For example, I learn different aspects of a language over the course of a few months, and eventually I “master” it.
So even though the next month’s skills may be completely unrelated to the previous month, it doesn’t mean it will never be connected to a skill I’ve previously learned.
Eventually, the skills that matter will reach mastery.
Hopefully, you’ve learned something and it will inspire you to become more skilled. It had an incredible impact on my life and I hope it will do the same for you too.
36 skills in a year is definitely attainable. Of course, it requires dedication, good planning, and execution.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing and following! :)
First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/how-truly-understanding-this-quote-turned-me-into-a-successful-serial-entrepreneur-3b6b7e649e73