3 Quick Steps To Learn Any Topic

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[Dan is a Canadian entrepreneur & co-founder of Clarity. You can view the original post found on Medium here.]

Today I’m excited to share with you something that’s been frustrating the bejeezus out of me, which is that most people would rather be entertained than educated!

It seems like it’s a subtle thing, because you’re like, “Dan, you are entertaining and you are teaching me stuff… what are you talking about? I love this! Why would you stop doing that?”

Truthfully, most people would rather zone out and watch 4 hours of TV, than actually learn something that moves their dreams and ideas forward, or improves their health or their relationships with their family. They would rather sit there and be numbed out by watching the news!

If you watch the news, let me teach you a trick… TURN IT OFF! Never turn that stuff on! If somebody puts the news on around me, I politely ask them to turn it off. It’s just one of those things where I feel like we are not accountable for the audio crap that comes into our ears. It’s no different than eating McDonalds for your health. You want to make sure that you are conscious about what you are learning and what’s entertaining or distracting you.

I grew up in a really challenging environment and got into a lot of trouble as a kid. Fortunately, I found mentors that really changed my life. Most people would have thought that I would have ended up dead in a ditch, in an institution or even in jail.

Since then, I’ve been totally blown away by the success I’ve had in business. I’ve built five companies (the first two were complete failures), I moved to San Francisco, raised money and did things that a lot of people have found inspiring. I teach out of a place of love and care because I know that I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for the people that gave back to me.

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One of the biggest lessons that I learned was to invest in myself and educate myself. I never went to University, so I don’t really have a “formal” education. In fact, I taught myself how to program while in rehab. I was lucky… maybe I was fortunate… or maybe it was “divine intervention” that I learned how to code. It’s what set me on a different path in my life to build technology companies.

There are three things that I do today, continuously, no matter what I’m jumping into (whether it’s a new strategy or a company that I’ve invested in), that help me ramp up what I know as fast as possible. I’d like to teach them to you here.

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3 ways that I educate myself:

  1. Find the best people in the space. These are the people that have been there, had success, mentored, taught, whatever it is. For example, if you want to learn about Bitcoin (which is something that’s super interesting to me), find the top expert, reach out to them, read their blogs, read their books and watch their YouTube videos. Immerse yourself in their knowledge and go on a complete knowledge binge!
  2. Get out of your place! Leave your city, your house, your office, and go to an event on that topic. There’s something about being in the proximity of those people that is really powerful. It’s energizing and you get to do what I call, “pitch and catch.” You are able to share some of the ideas that you’ve learned so far and also have them “pitch” some other ideas back and you “catch” those. It’s an opportunity to really take your thinking and understanding and move it forward.
  3. Teach it to other people. There is something magical when you are a student, under the premise of, “I’m going to teach this to somebody else.” When I am learning something new, or when I know that after reading a book, the first thing I’m going to do is teach what I’ve learned to my wife, to my kids or to my family, then I learn from a different perspective.

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In addition to helping other people, I always tell people that when they’re having a bad day, the # 1 thing you can do to switch that around is to be of service to somebody else. No matter how challenging the morning has been, in the afternoon, the first thing you can do is to send out a few emails to people and say, “Hey, is there anything I can help you with?”

Getting into that state of service and getting into that mode of teaching other people, is one of the fastest ways to just get a sense of gratitude and joy out of seeing somebody else progress in their life.

I choose to watch very little TV, because I don’t want to numb myself. I don’t really care about consuming that kind of information. I feel like life is so full of opportunities that I’m sure I could find a topic that I’m interested in and go through the same framework I just shared with you and get EDUCATED instead.

How do you stay educated? Please leave a comment below with some of your biggest takeaways, or the number one thing you learned that really resonated with you.

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