Why Rate of Learning is Your Most Important Metric

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the effort and energy that my father put into underlining anything in books, reports or magazines that could be relevant to his work. It’s hard to imagine how much work that is but, to give you a rough idea, my parents’ basement is filled with bookshelves, boxes and filing cabinets of knowledge.

While I found that process fascinating, I was always skeptical. Not only was this taking some of the fun out of reading, it was also taking him a good hour anytime he wanted to show you something…

As my father kept underlining (and still does to this day), I joined the workforce, had ups and downs until, in 2008, I decided to quit my job and start my own thing.

Now, when you start your own thing, you get to define the rules and experiments.

From a young age, I always knew that learning (and knowledge) would be key to my success.

In 2008, to make sure that I keep learning, I created a simple Word document, and systematically began taking note of everything that I learned.

Well… not everything everything, but everything that could eventually be of value.

And I wrote and wrote and wrote until January this year.

At well-over 1,800 insights, my document was starting to feel like my parents’ basement…

Memory Document in Word
Excerpt from my 73-page Word document…

The experiment had been meaningful. It was time to take it up a notch. I…

  • … replaced Word by Excel.
  • … standardized insight categories.
  • … re-validated insight sources (this took a while…).
  • … clarified the writing.
  • … switched to indexable date formats.

Suddenly, I was able to analyze nearly 10 years of learning and extract completely new insights from the data.

I understood where and how I learned best

Through startups (my own, but also those I’ve joined), contents from often-contrarian thinkers like Ken Morse, Des Traynor and Sam Altman, but also through specialized seminars (I had taken great sales and negotiation workshops).

Learning about yourself is key. Number #1 on my list was the 8-month round-the-world trip that I took earlier this year. New experiences generate radically new insights!

I got to see where I’m weakest

A big part of the learnings from my round-the-world trip was the result of putting myself in uncomfortable situations.

How do you stay the path when everyone tells you otherwise? How do you make sure you get what you want when 6 people are yelling at you? How do you bounce back quickly when things don’t go your way?

I started keeping track of the truly important stuff

At the start of every new project (and every 3 to 4 months), I always re-visited my memory. It led to new insights and gave me an objective take on my learnings. It was good, but it always felt like I was missing something.

Download the Excel Template I Use And Start Tracking Your Learnings (Free)

As part of the overhaul of the document, I introduced the notion of ‘key’ insights to highlight foundational knowledge. Now, instead of re-reading 2,400 insights, I read 300.

It reminds me of who I am and what I believe in. It helps set my focus.

I got to be objective about whether or not I was still learning

Although I didn’t have supporting data at the time, a big part of the reason why I left a great job at LANDR to go and travel the world was that I felt like I was no longer learning. My work was becoming more about teaching than learning.

With 9 years of data, I now get to draw charts and visualize when I’m learning and when I’m not. More objectivity definitely helps make better decisions.

Rate of Learning
Learning rate since February 2017.

I built IP

With well over 500 business insights, 300 life insights, but also key insights on a dozen more topics, I’ve built intellectual property.

My presentation 26 Time Management Hacks viewed by more than 28M people and its followup were both (almost) direct exports from the document.

It’s because I’ve squeezed in as much as possible into Lean B2B that I constantly get feedback on how much people have learned reading the book.

Download the Excel Template I Use And Start Tracking Your Learnings (Free)

Learning better. Learning again.

In the age of disruption and automation, I decided to speed things up (not slow things down). I realized that, what got me here, won’t necessarily get me where I want to be.

Knowledge compounds. The more hard-earned lessons and frameworks you master, the more valuable you become… and the more valuable you become, the more certain your future will be.

At 36, I’m probably already in my 4th career. I don’t know what the next 4 careers will be, but I know that if I constantly focus on my rate of learning, I’ll stay ahead of the curve and get to define my opportunities.

Insight #1,770:

Speed of learning creates speed of growth. – Jason Lemkin, Investors and Entrepreneur