Don’t Just Learn New Skills; Learn New Ways of Thinking

An improvised success formula. Yes, another one.

Everybody agrees that growth hacking is a mindset, not a skill.

I knew this already because I’m one natural born hacker. I cannot code or break walls of security — and thank God, I don’t want to go to prison — but I do like to upgrade many stale ideas like… CV’s, writing, and so on.

Hacking is a way of better living. That’s my way of thinking about it. Other ways of seeing it might include words like “tricks” and “cheating”.

And while everybody else is busy defining the term, I just keep doing it day and night because it’s a compulsion… not a skill I am developing. And every compulsion means you were born with it. But here’s the thing:

Even if you weren’t born with the odd desire to upgrade or tweak things, it is still something that can be learned.

Before I tell you how, let me give you an example of a person whose way of seeing the world is working towards his benefit. I am reading Scott Adams’s (the Dilbert cartoonist) How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It’s such a good choice for entrepreneurial inspiration. I spent about two hours choosing between Ryan Holiday, Guy Kawasaki, and other famous people who wrote such books to finally bet my chips on Scott Adams.

This was an exceptionally serendipitous thing as it inspired this post.

The thing about Adams is: he sees patterns. While many people just assume things, question nothing, and never stop to think everything’s not what it seems, Adams analyzes it meticulously to find common symptoms and when he discovers them, he attacks the source, and vanquishes the malady.

Case in point: Adams’ tennis partner beat him for seven years before Adams figured out his secret: his opponent was doing the math. A seemingly obvious move on the court was counterproductive and, what is more, the solution was counterintuitive, but once he saw the game from his opponent’s PoV, he could apply that knowledge against him and win many a game.

And he won because he inquired beyond the obvious.

This reminds me of a time I naively thought that I was going against the odds, and that it was a good thing. My personal brand was “Lyn Midnight Against the Odds”, which abbreviated as LMAO. (Yes, I realize that Lyn Midnight is not my name, but that’s a story for another time and place.)

I bet a lot of you can relate. The world is a harsh place where few people thrive, and it feels like the only way to do so is to beat the odds and come out victorious. But this is yet another wrong assumption.

When you fight against something, that something will fight back.

In physics, when something pulls or pushes, an equal opposite force comes into action to balance out the first one. So fighting against the odds might make things worse. Making the odds to work for your benefit, however, is another story. If you can do that, the odds will be ever in your favor.

This is what Adams demonstrates in his book, again and again.

If you can stop and think about why things happen, you’ll develop insights into the world that are more valuable than any skill you may acquire.

But how do growth hackers develop this mindset? How did Adams come to be so insightful and successful? Simple, these people keep their minds open and consume as much information as they can. In Adams’ words:

The more you know, the more you can know.

This goes back to my recent research on motivation and inspiration. You can read the entire article here, but basically, according to the neurological process called neuroplasticity, the more the brain learns, the more connections it forms, and the more creative and flexible it becomes. In other words, the more you learn, the more easier it is to learn more.

Simple, no?

Adams likes to read news on a daily basis to keep his mind flexible. I like to read every article there is on a given topic of interest and simultaneously watch movies, which relax me and engage my mind at the same time. I like to consume knowledge in different forms, and that’s why I’m suggesting that you pick the form of your personal preference and run with it.

The beauty of it is: you won’t run out of brain space. On the contrary, the more you learn, the more your brain will be able to accommodate more learning. It’s a form of modern greed, but the good kind.

Finally, in my quest to:

  1. Learn a new skill. (Transferable skills are better.)
  2. Adopt a new mindset. (One that did not come naturally.)

I have decided to take the One Month Rails course by Mattan Griffel. He’s described as an “overachieving kid from New York” who started this revolutionary course on teaching the basics of Ruby on Rails, but more than coding, it’s about problem-solving and building a simple web app.

According to the reviews, you might not learn how to code — I don’t want to anyway, not in my DNA — but you might learn a new way of approaching problems AND come out with an application or two to call your own.

This is exactly what I want and I am glad to have found it.

In the end, the success formula comes down to this:

  1. Keep your mind open and consume information.
  2. Question things, doubt assumptions, and look for patterns.
  3. Don’t fight against but work with challenging forces.

This will help you acquire new ways of thinking. And here’s how:

  1. Learn transferable skills: they’re the ones that come with mindsets.
  2. Read books/articles written by people who think differently from you.
  3. Talk to people who have knowledge of things you struggle with.
If you don’t challenge yourself and your brain, nobody else will.

When a piece of information includes a new way of seeing things, it is worth reading/watching/understanding. Once you read enough and learn enough, you will start to recognize patterns and question things on a daily basis.

This is how habits are formed, or so I’ve heard. This is also the way that new theories are born. An example would be my personal observation that while something is unlikely to happen twice, it it does, it will surely happen a third time. Knowing this, I managed to win money three times in one day.

Alice — when she’s not in Wonderland — says:

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Why don’t you try to question six things before breakfast? And if you do, tell me what you came up with so I — along with others — can learn from you, too. It’s a vicious circle this learning business, and don’t we all love it.

P.S. If this was not helpful at all, at least I tried.

If it was, perhaps you’d like some more hacks in your inbox?

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