Can you learn your way to success?
I believe successful people learn knowledge, skills, and attitudes in unconventional ways that help them target and structure relevant information to maximize their energy while they learn from their failures, moving rapidly toward their goals. In other words, successful people are not only good learners, but they are perceptive, discerning and deliberate learners.
I didn’t say successful people were high academic achievers. In fact author Eric Barker, in his book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong,” cites a study by Boston College, which tracked 81 valedictorians after their graduation in 1981. 15 years later, they worked hard and learned a lot, but not a single one changed the world in earth-shattering ways. Contrast that with the surprisingly large number of college dropouts on the Forbes 400 list.
The lesson here, Barker says, “How good your grades are only predicts one of your abilities, and it’s not one that matters in the real world.”
Here are a few examples:
Ryan is the CEO Treehouse. Like all of us Ryan had a time when he flat-out did not know what he needed to do to.
“I started to work really hard and it was just super discouraging, [but I knew] I basically had to build out our business to business. We were a consumer business and we didn’t t sell really much to business at all and I knew that’s where we needed go and I had to go figure it out… it was just super discouraging I didn’t know anything about sales I literally had to go to YouTube and learn how do you sell things.
I felt humiliated… Here I am I’m a grown man, I’m a CEO and I don’t know how to sell something and I don’t want my employees know and so I had to try to teach myself all this stuff and it was months of getting rejected feeling dumb not knowing how to build a sales pipeline.”
Once Ryan learned the skills he had to work hard and visualize what sucess looks like.
How did Ryan win? He learned his way out.
How did he learn? He framed his learning and became self-directed.
Consider the story of Bruce Hendry,
born in 1942, raised on the banks of the Mississippi north of Minneapolis by a machinist and a homemaker, just another American kid with skinned knees and fire in the belly to get rich. When we talk about self-made men, the story often sounds familiar. This is not that story. Bruce Hendry is self-made, but the story is in the winding stair, how he found his way, and what it helps us understand about differences in how people learn and what people need to learn to be successful.
Bruce’s CV would read like this:
- Bruce went to work for Kodak as a microfilm salesman. In his third year, he was one of five top salesmen in the country.
- Joined a brokerage firm and sold stocks
- Became an investor
- Made his fortune investing in bankrupt railroads
Without an understanding of Bruce’s learning framework neither you nor I could follow this resume path and be as successful.
First and foremost Brice is an active learner and his teacher is necessity, his tutor is desire.
- At eight he bought a ball of string at a garage sale for a dime, cut it up, and sold the pieces for a nickel each.
- At ten he got a paper route.
- At eleven he added caddying.
- At twelve he stuffed his pocket with $ 30 in savings, sneaked out of his bedroom window before dawn with an empty suitcase, and hitchhiked 255 miles Aberdeen, South Dakota. He stocked up on Black Cats, cherry bombs, and roman candles, illegal in Minnesota, and hitched home before supper. He then sold them to other paper boys at a marked up price.
“The way Bruce figured, rich people were probably no smarter than he was, they just had knowledge he lacked.”
If there is a formula for how Bruce learned here it is:
- Taking charge of your own education, a habit with Bruce from age two that he has exhibited through the years with remarkable persistence.
- Leans into the unknown in order to learn. As he throws himself into one scheme after another, he draws lessons that improve his focus and judgment.
- Is aware of the larger framework at play. He knits what he learns into mental models of investing, which he then uses to size up more complex opportunities and find his way through the weeds, plucking the telling details from masses of irrelevant information to reach the payoff at the end.
These behaviors are what psychologists call “rule learning” and “structure building.” People who as a matter of habit extract underlying principles or rules from new experiences are more successful learners than those who take their experiences at face value, failing to infer lesson that can be applied later in similar situations.
How did he make millions investing in bankrupt railroads?
The facts of how he made his money through investing is interesting, but the facts don’t establish an insight into learning. Even if we shared Bruce Hendry’s desire and determination and took his pointers we would still lack the learned skill of picking the right investments at the right time.
“As the story of Bruce makes clear, some learning differences matter more than others.
Each of us has a large basket of resources in the form of aptitudes, prior knowledge, intelligence, interests, and sense of personal empowerment that shape how we learn and how we overcome our shortcomings. Some of these differences matter a lot—for example, our ability to abstract underlying principles from new experiences and to convert new knowledge into mental structures. Other differences we may think count for a lot, for example having a verbal or visual learning style, actually don’t.
Academic learning didn’t help Bruce, but contextual learning, coupled with learning how to build and plan wrapped around beliefs and philosophies on how to learn from failure and repeat success. It’s all learning. That which can be learned can be acquired, assimilated and repeated.”
helps you structure your learning goals and create your own path.
A Learning Frame
is a systematic approach to change your learning behavior and mindset, helping you learn your way to success.