Learning how to learn has been one of the most important skills I’ve acquired in my life. I learned how to learn in the Dojo (Karate School) and it has led to continued success.
- I knocked an opponent out in less than 15 seconds to become a bare knuckle Karate Champion
- I became one of the top break dancers in the country
- Turned an advertising agency into a multimillion dollar business in less than a year
- Made AdAge’s coveted 40under40 list
The single thing that led to each of these accomplishments was knowing how to acquire the necessary skills so that I could learn the craft and increase my chances of succeeding.
I’ll show you how this works in the context of my career and entrepreneurial ambitions.
I’m currently the Global SVP of Search and Content Marketing for the MullenLowe Group.
I slowly gained the skills to get me here. My plan was to develop a new skill every year that compounded to make me the best at digital marketing and eventually become a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
- Skill one: Video Editing: First I picked up a book called Final Cut Pro For Dummies. I read and took action on the lessons. Soon I learned how to shoot and edit videos and started my own film production company.
- Skill two: Website Design: Then I figured if my clients liked me for film, they would love me for website design. Because of this, I read many articles online which would teach me how to build a website.
- Skill three: SEO and Social Media: The following year I learned SEO and Social Media marketing to help me increase traffic to the websites I was building.
- Skill four: Learning to fail: The following years were hard because I had to buy my business partners out and close my video production company. I learned that I didn’t know enough about business to run my own. Learning this skill was not planned but that’s how life goes.
- Skill five: Learning to recover: I then got a job and found a company that would pay me based on my skills.
“There’s no easy way around it. No matter how talented you are, your talent is going to fail you if you’re not skilled. If you don’t study, if you don’t work really hard and dedicate yourself to being better every single day, you’ll never be able to communicate with people – with your artistry – the way that you want….” – Will Smith
Once I got to the agency world, I learned that most of the people didn’t have the breadth of skills that I had. This made me confident in my client recommendations, confident that I could solve their problems and the results included making them millions doing digital marketing.
The point is that my skills built up overtime toward the goal of being good at digital marketing. The compounded value presented itself in financial reward (my salary), rapid career growth and the satisfaction knowing I helped CEOs and CMOs of major brands find success in digital.
If you are looking to succeed in business, a sport, or your career; then learn the following four tips which will help you be a superstar:
1. Pick a skill
First, chose a skill that aligns with one of your bigger goals. For example, I want to be a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) one day, so I am slowly building those skills over time like I explained above. Video lead to website design which led to SEO and Social Media. Once I learned the hard lesson that I didn’t know how to run a business that became the new skill I started learning.
Action Step: Pick a skill that aligns with a bigger goal. Overtime, you build up skills that compliment each other and help you accomplish the bigger goal.
2. Deliberate Practice
In William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well he says, “ The only way to learn how to write is by writing.” He is absolutely right. Repetition is the mother of all skill. I learned to fight by fighting. I learned how to edit videos by editing videos. Set some time aside to practice your skill everyday. If your skill is learning to code then use it to build a project that forces you to code everyday. It’s important that you put time into deliberate practice.
Action Step: Put time on a calendar to develop a skill. Find a group of people to practice with and exchange notes. Practicing with other people can help keep you motivated.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
3. Keep Doing
Confucius said, “I see and I forget. I hear and remember. I do and I understand.” Once you have gained a decent level of aptitude in your selected skill, keep on doing. Chose another skill complementing the one you are developing. This way both skills develop over time and you get a deeper understanding of each. If you are learning how to code then learn SEO. They compliment each other well and people who know how to code don’t necessarily know how to optimize code for search engines.
Action Step: Pick another skill and repeat step two. This time keep in mind how you can apply what you learn in skill one to skill two.
4. Earn while you learn
Getting paid while you learn is the best. Once you are adept enough in the skill you are learning get someone to pay you to apply that skill. This will not only motivate you to keep learning but you are getting paid to practice. I’ve done this with every digital marketing skill I’ve acquired. I learned Local SEO by getting paid to building the Local SEO product for a company called LocalVox. This worked out because I knew general SEO well and I learned how to learn so I knew I could learn Local SEO quickly.
Action Step: Find someone to pay you as you learn your skill.
The repetition of learning a new skill every year teaches you how to learn. You will slowly build up your own tricks and process to make acquiring and retaining new skills easier.
What is a new skill you desire to learn? Let us know in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com