Self-Education vs. Formal Education
This week I read a quote that made me stop and think:
Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.
Simple but powerful! Self-education is how people accelerate wealth accumulation (and their life trajectory). As knowledge accumulates, it compounds. This leads to a better understanding of the world, improved decision-making, and unique insights. These benefits lead, in turn, to identifying unique ways to create value. And value creation often leads to wealth.
Self-education is a slow process, but as with any type of compounding, if you stick with it, the backloaded results are outsize when all’s said and done.
Biography Hack: Watch Speeches and Interviews
I’ve been learning about successful entrepreneurs who happen to be investors—I call them “investor entrepreneurs.” They invest as their full-time profession, but not by working for someone else. I’ve been reading as much as I can about these people, including biographies about them.
A biography, of course, is written by someone who spends a lot of time learning about their subject—in this case, an investor entrepreneur. They talk to family members and coworkers. They read files. They interview the investor entrepreneur. All to get a better understanding of the life of the person they’re writing about.
Sometimes the author can’t fit everything they learned in the book, or the investor entrepreneur won’t agree to certain information being published. Sometimes these missing pieces of information can clarify what made the person exceptionally successful.
Biography authors sometimes talk about what didn’t make it to print. Whenever I read a well-researched biography, I search for recordings of interviews and speeches the author gave about the book. This simple hack has led to stories and facts that helped me better understand some of the greatest investor entrepreneurs.
Personal Learning Hack
One of my personal goals is to acquire knowledge daily. I focus on knowledge related to concepts I want to better understand so I can attempt to develop unique insights about them.
One of my favorite tools for consuming knowledge is YouTube. I subscribe to the premium membership to avoid ads and to access extra features. I start by deciding what concept I want to understand better. Then I identify people who have a deep understanding of it and search for videos of them sharing their knowledge. I add those videos to my watch list. During my daily treadmill walk, I watch these videos (usually at 1.5X speed to challenge myself). I’ve found that consuming videos while walking is the best fit for me. It feels productive, as I’m exercising and learning at the same time.
I’m a fan of the YouTube platform. It’s been a helpful tool in my quest to learn daily.
A Growth Mindset
I had the chance to listen to Andrew Huberman recently. His video on applying a growth mindset caught my attention. It’s lengthy, but I found it to be a great listen on a long drive.
Huberman defines mindset as “mental frame or lens that selectively organizes and encodes information.”
He defines a growth mindset as “attaching your identity and your effort and sense of motivation to effort itself and the process of enjoying learning and getting better at learning anything.”
He goes into much more detail in his video about this topic. But I especially like how he framed a growth mindset as embracing challenge in a way that allows you to optimize performance by focusing on effort and learning. This is great because it focuses on what you can control (effort and learning), not what you can’t control (outcome).
Before Emulating Someone Else, Find Out Why They Did What They Did
People emulate the habits of successful people. I think this is a good approach because consistent positive habits increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. But going deeper is even better. Understanding what actions led to success is helpful, but understanding why successful people consistently took those actions can be even more valuable. If you emulate actions without understand why, you might not get as much value from them because you don’t know what you’re looking for.
When I learn about habits that led to success, I now dig to understand the why behind them. Understanding this has helped me maximize the value of those habits I’ve emulated.
A while ago, I listened to an investor share that he keeps a log of all his lessons learned from each investment. (This is different than the investment memo that he writes when he’s evaluating whether he should make the investment.) After the investment is made, he keeps a log of lessons and observations. He started the log to try to minimize making errors more than once. Identifying the lessons, writing them down, and reviewing the log periodically was helpful to his investment process.
I’ve started a similar log, albeit a less formal one. I’ve been keeping a running list in the Notes app on my iPhone and laptop. I recently reviewed the log while considering a new investment and altered my approach to making that investment because of a lesson learned.
I’m a fan of logging my lessons learned. I hope to keep the habit up and compile a single list of lessons learned over many years that I can eventually share.
Focused and Intentional Reading
Today I listened to an investor describe how he prepares mentally for investing. It’s a process of continual learning by being focused and intentional with his reading. He reads with an intent to acquire knowledge on a specific subject. After picking a topic he wants to understand better, he finds books written by people who understand the topic better than he does. He focuses on identifying and understanding the main argument of each book, not consuming every supporting detail. This allows him to consume the most important parts of the books at the rate he deems appropriate (instead of consuming the books—with every detail and example that supports the main argument—at the pace the authors intended). This approach also allows him to compare what he’s reading in various books on the same subject and uncover valuable insights more easily.
There’s more to his approach, but that’s the gist of it. It really got me thinking. I’m going to learn more about it.
How I Consume Books I Value the Most
Over the years, I’ve used Audible to enhance my book consumption. I like the service and have found it useful when I’m doing other tasks, such as driving or exercising on a treadmill. It isn’t the ideal way to consume all books, though, especially the ones I value most.
The books I value most teach me something new or enrich my understanding of something. This means I’m usually reading the thoughts of someone who understands a topic far better than I do. I need to maximize my understanding by taking notes, highlighting important sections, trying mathematical formulas with my own numbers, etc. This is best done when I’m singularly focused on what I’m reading, not multitasking. And it’s best when I have a way to capture my reactions to or thoughts about what I’m reading.
For these reasons, I consume this kind of book the old-fashioned way: I read the physical book. I get a lot of value from having it. Annotating the book improves my comprehension and makes it easy to find key concepts and refresh my recollection of them. It also means that I’m usually focused on reading the book and not doing anything else.
I think services like Audible and devices like Kindles are great, and I love them, but I get the most value from certain kinds of books by consuming them the old-fashioned way.
An Overlooked Reading Hack
I enjoy reading nonfiction books. Books that recount historical events or people’s lives and books that enhance my understanding of complex subjects are my favorites. I’ve come to appreciate these books for more than just their content. Well-written nonfiction books can be great jumping-off points.
Most well-written nonfiction books take a long time to create. The authors spend lots of time researching their topic. They read and talk to people to make sure their facts and understanding are sound. The amount of information found and consumed during their research can be staggering. Identifying and accessing this information by applying their investigative skills can consume a material amount of time and energy.
What most people don’t realize is that authors often share their research process in their books. They cite the sources of facts and important concepts throughout the text. But more importantly, they often have a notes section at the end of the book that lists all the articles, books, interviews, etc. they researched and used in the writing of the book.
The notes section of a great book can be an overlooked gold mine. It gives me a list of additional vetted sources of knowledge about a topic I’m interested in. The author’s countless hours of research are summed up in one easy-to-read list. I’ve used the notes sections of books many times to find other wonderful writings and people I otherwise would have never known about.
When I finish reading a good book, I make a point of reviewing the notes section for golden nuggets and bread crumbs.
Seasoned Investor Insights
I was exchanging thoughts with an investor friend about other seasoned investors. These are investors with many decades of experience. They’ve typically been through multiple cycles and navigated them successfully.
My friend said he doesn’t believe in reading about the thoughts of seasoned investors. He wants to know what action they’re taking and what their strategies are—not principles or concepts. Because they don’t share their current actions or strategies, he doesn’t read any of their writings; to him, they’re not interesting or insightful.
I disagree with my friend. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect an investor to share his strategies or real-time investments. Doing so would likely mean more capital being deployed into those investments, which would raise prices and reduce returns. Why would anyone want that?
I also think there’s value in understanding the frameworks other people use to inform their actions. How they view and think about the world may be different and worth considering, even if you disagree with it. Lastly, there’s something to be said for the wisdom accumulated during decades of success. It’s taken these people a long time to figure out some of their insights. Even if you don’t agree, it’s worth listening them—it might take you decades to reach the same conclusion on your own.
I may disagree with elder investors’ views, but I actively seek out material in which they share their insights because I have respect for the wisdom they’ve accumulated over their successful careers. The wisdom might not be valuable at the moment, but it could be priceless at some point.