The More You Learn, the More You Earn

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” – Henry Ford

Years ago, a famous rock star returned to her high school to speak at an assembly. Although she had not graduated, she told the kids to stay in school. “The more you learn, the more you earn,” she said.

Nowhere is this truer than in the business world.

Your success is likely to be directly proportional to the amount of knowledge you possess. Knowledge about your products… technology… and market. And about your profession.

Yet, though we live in a knowledge-based economy, most of us graduate knowing relatively little of what there is to know of the world. Or even about our college major. And with the dizzying pace at which new knowledge is created, the gap between what we know and what there is to know seems to grow each day.

As Thomas Edison observed, “We don’t know one millionth of one percent about anything.”

More recently, Professor Richard Dawkins said in an interview with Scientific American magazine: “All of us are ignorant of most of what there is to know.”

So, with all of us knowing next to nothing… what can we do to learn – and thereby earn – more?

First, find a niche – an area of specialization – and concentrate your efforts within that niche. The narrower your specialization, the better your chances of keeping reasonably up to date in the field.

Second, become an “information junkie.”

Read constantly:

  1. The leading trade magazines in your industry.
  2. A daily newspaper.
  3. A weekly news magazine such as Newsweek, Time, or U.S. News & World Report.
  4. One or two of the top e-newsletters or blogs in your area of interest. (ETR fits the bill nicely for entrepreneurial success, as do The Daily Reckoning and Investor’s Daily Edge for investing.)

Third, read widely.

Even though you are a specialist, you need to acquire a solid base of knowledge outside your field.

Of course, your time is limited. So even here, you must choose carefully. What should you read… and why?

MU, a Ph.D. candidate and consultant in the science of innovation, says that to be more creative you must read in “adjacent areas.” An adjacent area is something different from but at least peripherally related to your major field.

Example: A systems analyst might read in architecture, because both deal with designing systems.

Why do you need to read in adjacent areas?

Research shows that the ability to be innovative is dependent on possessing a wide storehouse of knowledge from which ideas can be generated. People who are not well read have a limited store of knowledge. They are, therefore, hampered in their ability to come up with new solutions.

Of course, reading is not the only way to learn. Doing things is equally (or, in some cases, even more) valuable.

According to an article in Prevention Magazine, new experiences stimulate the production of dopamine, a chemical involved in learning and memory. In addition, new experiences build brain mass and increase mental agility. Meanwhile, the absence of novelty causes the brain to shrink.

Solution: Take up a new language, hobby, sport, musical instrument, or anything else that offers continual challenges.

When does all this learning stop?


“School is never out for the pro” is ancient advice, and still true today.

You might protest: “But I am too busy putting out fires at work for all this studying!”

Then do it after hours.

In his book 212: The Extra Degree, S.L. Parker advises, “Add a few hours each month to your professional development outside of the work day.” By doing so, you can add the equivalent of a full week of work to your most valuable asset: you.

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