Learn how to learn

Christopher Lochhead was the CMO at Mercury Interactive during its renaissance. He’s the best speaker I have ever worked with. Period. He taught me more about marketing and speaking than anyone else I have ever known, read or worked with (yes, that includes Seth Godin). He had many one-liners that he would illustrate with examples that would drive home the point with humor. Being with him in a meeting (just one-one) would be like being in a surround-sound experience at a PVR.

There’s one thing that he said that I want to highlight. It was about experience and learning.

“50% of what you know, will be useless & invalid in 6 months”.

The point he was making was about experience & learning.

This plays in my mind daily. In every way possible. From the mundane to the arcane.

Examples (from the useless to the useful):

1. I thought I figured out the best way to get from home to work via a bunch of shortcuts and learned the right bus to catch at the right time, and change buses at the right stops. Bangalore traffic police though, have other intentions. Every road that was a one way is now a one way in the other direction. So much for “optimal way to get from point A to point B”.

2. Facebook advertising was simple until a few months ago when they introduced precise targeting. Now there are over 200 providers offering 2-3 day courses on facebook advertising and marketing.

I can give a lot more examples, but take anything you know and expect that you will not need to know it in a very short period. Since it will evolve, change and morph or more likely go away. Begs the question – why should I even learn it? And the answer is “it will teach you to learn”.

I believe there are 2 “kinds of learning” – that which is from first principles which gives you a lens or framework to learn anything new and that which is temporal in nature.

The temporal most likely is the one that pays the bills. Knowing a new language, like Ruby or Clojure will likely fall into this category. Learning how to learn a new language, though, falls into the former category.

What I have figured out is “I does not matter how much I know”.

I am constantly humbled daily by having no clue about something that I think I should know.

On the flip side, the only thing my experience has taught me is that if I learn with the intention to share / teach, its a lot more fun.

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