How To Stop Falling Victim to the Trap of Learning
When I ask my most intelligent friends how their current jobs are going, the most satisfied will typically reply with something along the lines of: “I’m learning a lot!”. Their job satisfaction is directly correlated to the amount that they learn.
As a cynical person, I often wonder what that actually means. So, what if you’re learning a ton? I can go to any library and pick up a book and learn about anything for free, on my time. Between books and the internet, we will never have to worry about a shortage of opportunities to learn, ever again.
I worry that these friends get lulled into a painful trap. I am concerned that their companies pay them well and continually give them just enough challenge to hit the right receptors in their brain, making them feel accomplished at the end of week.
My fear is that companies use this tasty carrot of learning as a motivator for my brightest friends. These are the people that genuinely want to build cool things and change the world, not cash out and buy yachts. Thus, they are not motivated by copious amounts of cash alone.
What they are truly inspired by is a future where they are a smarter, cleverer, more sophisticated version of themselves. A version of themselves that is so equipped for success that, when they finally step out and take a big career risk, they couldn’t possibly fail. Consequently, they look for jobs that enable them to get closer to this future idealized version of themselves.
But they never will. Because this definition always shifts.
They tell themselves: once I learn XYZ, then I’ll be ready to finally start my own company OR I don’t have an idea yet, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.
But XYZ never gets done. Or once they cross the finish line, it’s suddenly not enough and there is suddenly a new thing they need learn first.
They never get an idea. They constantly chase the perfect one and it never comes, because it doesn’t exist. They are ultimately too afraid to risk rejection and failure to try any idea an end up attempting none.
They defer their life for the safety of a steady paycheck and enough intellectual stimulation to keep them engaged. It’s a fine way to live, honestly, and one that 99% of the world would gladly take.
But the people I’m talking about aren’t like everyone else. They have the ability and desire to do great things. They are the future Founders of $100M — $1B companies. They can help lead charities and non-profits to new levels. They are in the rare minority that give a shit about the world and actually have the mental horsepower to do something about it.
Yet they sit on their yoga balls or standing desks each day, learning (I’m not immune to this). Like a boxer in the off-season, they hit mitts, they drill footwork, their cardio is on point. The difference: they’ll never actually step in the ring.
Ask yourself, have I learned enough? Is it time to start doing?
You if you want to dedicate your entire life to learning, go into academia. If you want to dedicate your life to making an impact, stop learning and start doing.