‘The Matrix’ is nothing short of being a sci-fi masterpiece. Every time I rewatch it, I’m fascinated by its cinematic semblance, philosophical depth, and of course, other-worldly action scenes. But there’s a particular scene that stands out for me — Neo “uploads” martial arts into his brain and becomes a kung fu expert.
I wonder how different the world would be if we could upload information into our brains, just like we copy data from a laptop to a Pendrive. Now, although this might be a possibility in the future, it’s only a hypothetical process for now.
Learning anything new — be it martial arts or a coding language — is a prolonged and tedious process. Even in a world where information is in abundance, we struggle to go from point A to point B.
The older we grow, the more we contrive to our day-to-day snags. Consequently, we don’t have time to learn anything new. But what if our perception of learning has been wrong all this while? What if acquiring new skills isn’t as slow as we think it is? What if everything we learn about business in B-schools is flawed?
The 20-Hour Rule
There’s a common belief that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. I’m not going to question that. But if you think about it, time and progress are not directly proportional to each other. Not every hour that you invest in developing a skill is the same.
Josh Kauffman, a renowned neurosurgeon, came out with the 20-hour rule. The rule suggests that the first few hours of learning anything new are as rewarding as frustrating because they allow us to go from being newbies to reasonably proficient.
Put simply; our learning curves are almost linear during the first 20 hours of practice.
But the whole idea behind the 20-hour rule isn’t as simple as it sounds. Because if it were, we would all be acquiring an array of new skills almost every month.
Practical Learning Beats Theoretical Learning
I don’t want to generalize the education system in B-schools. But in my experience, what I learned was never targeted towards adding prestige to the business world. Instead, it was replete with theoretical knowledge that would potentially help me get a decent job.
I don’t blame the business schools for this. They are offering what the herd is demanding. Most people pursue a degree in business studies to land a well-paid job later. Although there’s nothing wrong with seeking a good job, it’s self-defeating in context with learning.
For instance, in a digital marketing class, we were taught about the definition of terms like Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click, Etc. But the practicality of these concepts was often ignored.
The professors who taught us these concepts had excellent tenure-track with “minimum requirements of qualifications.” Their knowledge of subject matters was enough to create so-called intellectual scholars. But not real-life practitioners. And again, I’m not blaming the professors either. They did a great job of teaching us what they knew was right.
Unfortunately, almost everything conceptual that I learned about marketing is available on the internet for free. Google has free certification courses for digital marketing. So, where exactly is the ROI?
Thus, it goes without saying — you could learn a lot more through two years of working in a startup than investing those years into a business school.
Your learning curve in a startup will be more linear because you’ll be acquiring skills relevant to the real business world. No one there expects you to memorize the definition of Inbound Marketing.
Taking the 20-hour rule into consideration, the method of your learning matters a lot during these initial hours. Not all “learning” is the same.
Leaders of the digital space like Gary Vee and Casey Niestat are not certified digital marketers. They just devoted a lot of time to learn the patterns and workings of social media platforms.
The Art of Optimized Learning
There’s a big difference between actually knowing something and then just “knowing something.”
In better words, one can talk all about the technicality that goes into martial arts or boast about business-related concepts. But only someone who has practiced the art and experienced its different stages of learning will have a clear understanding of it.
This is where the Feynman Technique comes in. According to the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, the best way to learn or review something — regardless of how complex it is — is by explaining it in a straightforward and simple language.
The process is divided into four steps:
- Choose something you want to learn.
- Analyze it or teach it to someone in the simplest possible manner.
- If you get stuck, review everything you’ve learned.
- Come back and try giving a simple explanation again.
The basic idea behind Feynman’s concept is that if you cannot reduce your learnings to the level of a newbie, you haven’t learned anything at all.
Getting back to the subject matter, I believe this is where the teachings of most B-schools go wrong. We are encouraged to learn about hefty terms and concepts of marketing, business, and entrepreneurship.
But the real learning does not come from their wordy jargon-induced definitions. It comes from their simple applications in real life.