Learning Isn’t the Solution to Everything, Especially Not Winning


“Did you learn anything today?” My father asked me across the dinner table. I thought carefully while chewing a mouthful of stir-fried beef. Tell a small lie, and make a man happy? Or tell the truth, and make the Lord happy? Alas, my old man was out of luck that day.

“I learned that I don’t learn anything in school,” I responded. He was aghast. I guess you should be when you send your kid to a private school. After all, what are you paying for, if not learning? To be fair, it’s not school’s fault. I’m just about the most unsuitable student the world has ever seen. Spontaneous. Impulsive. Scornful of authority. I’m surprised I’ve never been expelled.

But you know what? Maybe it’s just a personality thing. Let’s pretend I was a super agreeable, go-with-the-flow, non-creative guy. Would I survive an undergraduate program? Still no. Because over the years, I’ve noticed my big problem with school isn’t the format or the system. It’s learning.

I’ll be honest: I hate the pure act of learning new things. First of all, learning is a resource-intensive process. It takes energy. Effort. Concentration. It’s not like you get to unwind while learning to code. If learning is relaxing for you, you’re probably not learning much. But that’s not the problem. The problem is learning’s direct purpose: Arming you with knowledge. That’s useless.

Because I’ve become painfully aware of the gap between knowing something and knowing how to use it. Learning means knowing, not necessarily knowing how to execute. And that’s a problem. Because when you have the knowledge without the power to act, you simply become more aware of all your problems. That’s why I can’t stand learning for learning’s sake: It doesn’t necessarily teach you execution.

The perfect example of this is one of my friends from high school. She was very much on a similar track as I was: Technical projects, writing code, the works. The only difference is she was actually smart. As a result, she fell into the trap that snags most smart people: Self improvement. Meanwhile, I had no brains. I had to actually do things to be taken seriously. So I built things from day one. Learning was secondary. My focus was getting the job done consistently.

Fast forward four years later, and I’ve started a tech company that employs people like my old friend. Now, the smart guys work for the dumb guy: Me. How did this happen? I quit learning and started doing the things I was already unnaturally good at. One of those things was persistence.

Once I have a goal, I shoot with everything I have. And I never stop. Do this for long enough, and you’ll leave the smart guys in the dust. So if you want to win, quit looking for new upgrades. Start milking what you already have.

Trading bot engineer, songwriter, sponsor of artists. <mika@myika.co>

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