Learning how to learn is a key skill for first-class founders

Draft s455, research material featuring Brian Chesky @ Blitzscaling class #18.

The following are paraphrases from the Blitzscaling 18, a lecture-interview by Greylock featuring Brian Chesky (Airbnb). The following is Brian’s tip of advice that came after a question from a student — can you talk about learning how to learn?

For Brian, learning depends on your ability to find the right sources of knowledge, such as the right books or the right people. From his experience, we can clearly see that success and networking can be used as an opportunity for learning — the successful people you know are the ones you can ask, and learn. Brian also adds that, even if you do not have a great network, yet you can learn from the best because the best people write their ideas, such as the right book sources. Brian also reminds entrepreneurs to be shameless, to not prevent themselves from asking and leaning.

What this applies to

  • Early stage entrepreneurs;
  • Beginners willing to create new companies — the necessity of being an infinite learners;
  • Entrepreneurs and managerial roles going through scaling, such as high growth conditions;
  • Anyone interested in mastering fields of expertise and does not have all time;
  • Investors willing to understand good role model attributes of the best entrepreneurs;
  • Students of business courses, MBA and other fields with research interest, data collection, interest in psychology of entrepreneurship, culture, consciousness, and more.

(What if you had to learn quickly?)

I want you to learn everything that’s important. I want you to become like an expert, or at least a temporary expert, such that you could know the basics, and know the most important things. You would probably read like a ton of books, talk to a ton of people, interview people, and go through this fairly exhaustive process just to learn about UI design. And so, what if I told you that, in that week, I also actually want you to learn about the basics of front end development, I want you to learn about the basics of accounting so you can have balanced books and I want you to also understand how to incorporate a company. Now how do you do that? (Greylock 2015, 1:21:09)

(And you don’t have the hours for that?)

Because you start adding the hours — you don’t have hours. So what you learn is: you can’t learn everything about a topic, so you have to be very good at short circuiting to learn from the definitive source about the topic. (Greylock 2015, 1:21:45)

(Going to the right source)

The skill becomes: you hope that you go the right source. Because if you go to the wrong source, you learn the wrong things, but you also find that if you read the right source, you don’t have to read any other sources. And, about management, somebody (*)gave me the book, “High Output Management” and it turns out I never had to read 10 management books, I just had to read that one book.

* [Reid] That was Keith. [Brian] That was Keith Rabois, that’s right.

And it’s about Andy Grove, founder of Intel. And if you read that book on management, you kind of know about management. And, you know, Paul Graham probably was a version of that for Y Combinator. (Greylock 2015, 1:21:56)

(Seeking out for the experts)

And so, what I’ve had to learn how to do is seek out the experts. And, it’s kind of the equivalent of like, reading and writings of intelligent people rather — if you want to learn about the news, read about somebody who’s deeply informed than watching a political talk show for four hours. (Greylock 2015, 1:22:27)

(A platform of connections through knowledge)

And the cool thing is, the more successful you get, the more you have access to them. But even before you get really successful, you can certainly read about the best. And I also learned from biographies. (Greylock 2015, 1:22:27)

Since Brian mentioned Keith Rabois, I decided to look up Medium for him and found a cool list he have published:


Greylock 2015. (2015, November 30), Blitzscaling 18: Brian Chesky on Launching Airbnb and the Challenges of Scale. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W608u6sBFpo

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