Wasted Opportunity

Everyone knows something important, but getting it out of them is difficult.

I’ve come across a bunch of people recently who are having professional or personal problems that others around them could solve. Yet, they don’t know how to ask those people. They don’t even know who to ask.

Hell, I am one of those people. I have trouble with it all the time.

One of the biggest obstacles to progress is finding out what your contacts know. If a friend of yours knows the director at your bank branch, while you’re trying to get a mortgage, you’d want to know, right? But unless you know to ask, you miss out.

Everyone is constantly missing out on opportunities like this. Little ones, big ones– all the time. It’s a huge passive time waster.

I’m trying to solve this problem now. I’m learning to ask people what they are working on and what they care about– about the things they know how to do that others don’t. But it took me years.

A big question I’m asking myself is why I do not have at least the skills of those I know– if not more.

Some are restrictions of personality or intelligence, sure.

But the real answer is simply that I don’t know how to ask or to learn as well as I should.

So what is the most effective way you have of learning? What is the most valuable thing you know? If you’re willing, please tell me in the comments below.





57 responses to “Wasted Opportunity”

  1. Paul Jun Avatar

    Curiosity and desire are two major things that I’m trying to exercise to learn things I am unaware of.

    I’ve been constantly asking myself, Why? or How? Instead of accepting it for just what it is. I want to find patterns. Connect the dots. I look for those “Ah-ha” moments.

    How did FeBreeze become the product it became? (there’s actually an answer for that in a book I’m reading).

    How did a blog go from no-name to 100k subscribers? Why was this new start-up successful and why did the other one fail? Why is this pizzeria better than the one across the street?

    Once I become curious of something, I do my best to unravel the mystery. But there also needs to be a desire to learn — something that can’t be taught, in my opinion, because it comes from within. There has to be a craving to learn. An incentive.

    You also said something interesting: “I’m learning to ask people what they are working on and what they care about– about the things they know how to do that others don’t.”

    Once you ask someone what they care about, the conversation gets real interesting. I learn more by getting the other person to speak about their desires and interests and skills. Dale Carengie said it best in his book under principle 6: “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”

  2. Analog Eye Avatar
    Analog Eye

    I think you’re asking a question that won’t bring the real answers out… most people don’t know what their most valuable knowledge or skill, for the very reason that makes it valuable: it’s become second nature for them. I’m not sure what the right question would be, but it’s an interesting riddle.

    However, maybe from what people write in the comments, you might be able to tease out valuable skills for you, that the people who comment here have…

    1. yliharma Avatar

      I think you’re right…very often when people tell you “if only I knew you could do/knew/etc…” you react like “what..? but it’s such a common skill/knowledge/etc…is it not?”

  3. Meredith Avatar

    I’ve got some serious pride issues that I’ve had to work through over the years — especially when it comes to asking for help. I’ve had to learn that we need to give others the gift of feeling helpful. If you’ve helped someone in need, you probably know how it feels to see his/ her situation improve. So, instead of feeling like I should know something or be able to fix it myself, I’ve taken to giving others the opportunity to help. I know I need help, I know they want to help, and I know it helps both of us learn about each other.

    Now executing this is really less of a learning process and more of a practice. Asking for help is a skill, and most skills benefit from practice. You can’t maintain a great batting average if you’re not constantly playing the game, right? The same goes for asking for help, I think.

    1. mquirin Avatar

      Well said. Asking for help is a very humble thing. But there can be strength in humility which helps with the pride issue.

  4. Diego Avatar

    Asking for help is quite differente from being needy. When you’re needy, you are only focused on YOUR issues, YOUR problems, YOUR ego fighting against something.

    Some time ago I tried doing and exercise of looking at people as if they have great abilities that I can help developing by asking them to help me. It’s like everybody in the world had a great superpowers, and how awesome would it be if they add it to my superpowers!

    It’s kindda childish, I know.

    But if you try looking at other’s help as some kind of positive alliance, you can make through whatever is keeping you from asking help. It’s not like if you were TAKING something from them, but as if you BUILDING something WITH them.

    I’ve read something in a buddhist book that explain this: “Instead of building yourself a big wave, you can surf in a sea full of them”, written in a much better way. 😛

    Good luck!

    1. kindness first Avatar
      kindness first

      I love this idea, Diego. We all know how good it feels when someone recognizes our skills. I love seeing asking for help as a way to help them! Also, I sometimes don’t ask because I don’t want to “burden” someone else. But that’s just assuming they won’t say no if they need to say no. So literally, I’m helping them learn to say no! Or to say yes freely and happily. Cool.

  5. Graeme Avatar

    I had to gather my thoughts for this one. I came up with two things, except they’re really one, and I don’t think they can be separated.

    * I can learn new things, quickly and with competence
    * I can see the big picture

    Learning New Things: For some topics, I have go to places: Chowhound for food, metafilter and reddit for everything, Hacker News for things internet and entrepreneurial.

    I do a search for comments that seem relevant, identify keywords, and quickly learn what I should be searching for. Once I have a better grasp on things, I’ll go to amazon.com and read reviews of leading books. I note other books and authors mentioned, and read about them.

    For a large task, I buy the leading book and read/work through it. The final step (if necessary) will be reaching out to an expert on eLance for consulting.

    For smaller learning goals, this lets me achieve them within a couple of days, at most. Usually within 30-60 minutes. For larger goals, this has let me lay the groundwork for future structured learning.

    Seeing the Big Picture: I see how the parts of any system work together. It’s harder to describe how I do this, but it starts with seeing the myriad ways that one element of a system can be affect by other thing. I stop and ask myself what factors might be relevant.

    This combines well with #1. If an elements seems relevant to a system I’m working on, I learn about it. I learn about a system from the bottom up, by becoming familiar with many components and how they interact.

    It’s very easy to get trapped into thinking that whatever we are focussing on is the most important thing that affects a system. To a limited extent, I think I can sidestep that.

    Working with the LSAT has helped with this. Most of the questions deal with weakening arguments by imagining other ways that things could go. I’ve been able to extend this to other areas.

    Some say that we should only consume information right when it is needed. I haven’t found this helpful. Passive consumption of information from Hacker News and elsewhere has given me a wide view of the internet. I can now speak with experts in a variety of areas (marketing, programming, design, etc.), even if I can’t do what they do.

    My grasp of this larger picture lets me know what to do when an unfamiliar situation pops up. I then apply the steps above from “learning new things” as needed. In the process, I expand my skills and broaden my worldview.

    Virtually nothing is irrelevant to what you want to do, and it pays to have a superficial view of a variety of fields. The key is seeing beneath the surface and extracting the principles that underly successful concepts in seemingly irrelevant areas. And always be thinking about how what you see elsewhere could be applied to your domain.

    I also try to keep prejudice about the source of information to a minimum. If I see a scammy internet marketer, I know there’s a principle there that works, and that could be applied to my field in a non-scammy way.

    I’ll end here, hopefully that isn’t too unfocussed to be useful as a guide.

  6. Ken Brand Avatar

    Thanks for all your sharing:-) I’be been in the residential real estate biz for 33 years. Mostly in a leadership role so I’ve had the chance to work with, compete against and observe up close some of the biggest winners and losers in the biz. Plus I’ve personally made thousands of stupid and lazy mistakes (some of them over and over again). I know what really works when you work and what’s wishfully thinking, hope and doing the wrong things with the wrong people in the wrong way does not do. So I can point people in the right direction, although few people (including me) go there often enough. I’d say that’s about it. Cheers.

  7. Dave Delaney Avatar

    I find exporting your LinkedIn contacts and printing them is helpful. Read through your list and see who you can help or who can help you. You’ll be amazed who you are connected to.

    Besides, you should be backing up your LI contacts from time to time.

  8. Becky! Avatar

    This is a loaded question. I want to take more time to think about it, but I’m afraid if I don’t answer something now, it will just slip away.

    Is this the most valuable thing I know? Not sure, but I am certain that there is only one me. Cliche! I know! If nothing else, I know I am an expert at myself. It was around the time I figured this out that I started a project called, “I’d Rather be Short”. It’s silly, but it’s me. What would my dream book be like? I would write and illustrate something quirky that would make people feel good. Since I knew I couldn’t fail at a project I made up, I made the rules and went balls to the wall. Now it’s getting published.

    I didn’t pick something trendy and I didn’t change my style to match those I most admire (though I still try to learn from them). Now I’m trying to apply this principle to other areas of my life.

    Still learning. Still observing.

  9. Kara Avatar

    I love your posts lately…

    As for finding out who knows what:
    I’ve had luck with posting questions/ topics on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You’d be surprised who knows what/who that can help you. It’s important to maintain a relationship with the person that is helping you/teaching you to ensure they continue to help you in the future or even refer you to their contacts.

    I would say the most effective way I learn would be by doing. If someone knows how to do something (whether I think they do or know for a fact they know how to) I ask them for help. I ask them to teach me how to do whatever it is and often take notes to ensure I can do it in the future and teach others. By doing this, I learn something and I make the person who is teaching me feel better (because most people usually feel better after helping a person…) and of course I am thankful and appreciative of their time.

    One of the most valuable things I am learning is to not care what others think and to ask for help. I am also learning that the most important thing a person can have is a relationship with others- focus on helping them and they will help you back (whether they know it or not.) We all have something to learn from another, whether you are a Harvard Professor or the homeless guy standing out on the corner.

    Other valuable things I know- how to make amazing guacamole and margaritas.

  10. Joh Avatar

    In my experience, people love to be asked about things they know, which isn’t to say I always remember that. I am always pleasantly surprised. I have had more success with asking directly people who I believe could have the answers, than just putting the question out there to my whole network. I think people maybe have some kind of stagefright or feel they are not expert enough, but if I put a little more thought into it and ask directly and perhaps even in private message/email or phone call – the response is usually very positive.

  11. AnnW Avatar

    Thirty plus years ago I took a course in New York City, at something called WomanSchool. Carole Hyatt, a famous market researcher taught us about the rule of three: If You Know What You Want, some you know, or someone they know. or someone the second person knows can help you. But first, you have to know what you want. You also have to ask. I thought it was pretty interesting. I also remember that one of those books before Outlier said that most favors in business that resulted in real jobs or whatever were on the “acquaintance level,” not on the best friend level. I find this to be true in my husband’s experience. Most people want to help other people, or connect people. I think it makes them feel good, and powerful. That’s it.

  12. El Avatar

    Sometimes people want to figure things out on their own, without asking for help – therefore it never occurs to them to ask. Figuring it out themselves is more important than the solution coming from an external source – only sometimes is help what is actually needed. For situations that would benefit from help, learning to recognize that need and how or who to ask is the work.

    Trying to help people become more conscious is your skill. Mine too. I’d like to think it is one of my most valuable skills, that would be great!

  13. emmanuella Avatar

    I like the idea that I am writing this down!

    The most valuable thing I know, is that I have a great sense of style and aesthetics.
    I inherently know how to combine things and get a great result.

    By writing this down, is like stamping “approved” on the idea of a personal styling service I am thinking of setting up in the very near future!

    Thank you
    Emmanuella 🙂

  14. Mary E. Ulrich Avatar

    What thoughtful comments. It’s interesting that so many people responded they use media/social media to answer their questions.

    I’m old, so perhaps my methods are old fashioned–but I try to find the expert (online or through personal networks) and then contact the person–in person if possible.

    Professional organizations also give me access to the experts. I volunteer on a committee, share my expertise, and get access to people who might be able to help me solve my problems. Give/Take/Make Friends and contacts.

  15. Rob Avatar

    I know a lot about beer. I know the awesome beers, the average beers and even the shitty beers you should just skip trying. I already took one for the team a few times.

    You could look around my site all day for ideas and opinions, or I’d be happy to make suggestions just for the asking. No strings attached.

    I know what beers are available in what markets, and when I don’t, I know who does and will pass along the question.

  16. Miguel Nicolás Moreda Avatar

    Most first encounters end up quickly in a: “So, what do you do for a living?”, if it doesn’t happen in a “less” subtle: “Oh, I work in this, so I know about that.”

    This said, I like to meet a lot of people all the time. It sure gets boring sometimes and I go back to the circle I trust, but only for a little bit. What is better is when the people you trust tell you: “You should meet this person, he’s awesome.” You know whatever this person does for a living or hobby, they probably do it with passion and are willing to go all-out to help you learn.

  17. Michele Welch Avatar

    Yup, I’m with your Julien; have a hard time asking people for help. Hmmm… lone ranger complex for sure.

    As for your question, what’s my most effective way of learning and what the most valuable thing I know – it’s learning by doing (got to get my hands dirty 🙂 and what I know is that all answers you seek are within. It’s just a matter of having the courage to do so.


  18. Brittany Laughlin Avatar

    The best tool I’ve found to date to help with this problem is http://alche.my/. Each week you are prompted to ask for help or offer help. The responses and requests come back the next day so you can help where needed.

    Now you know! Perhaps this could create a good give + take with the community you’ve built.

  19. Cory Annis, MD Avatar

    Thanks for asking, Julien.

    Taking the approach of Analog Eye above, I thought about the knowledge that is so “second nature” that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have it. It’s an ability to put myself in other people’s shoes to see all sides of a situation. Makes election time really annoying for me but it’s an excellent gift for practicing medicine. The hardest thing for me to learn was how to use that ability to make decisions rather than be paralyzed by the options. An old mentor had to teach me that “M.D. stands for ‘Make a Decision!’”

    Turns out that talent, coupled with hard-won practice at decision-making, gives one an ability to craft win-win situations.

    Now, if only politicians would come to me before they opened their mouths!

  20. Eric Walker Avatar

    The most valuable thing I know is that having an understanding of a problem or situation is far more valuable than an merely having an answer.

  21. Jennifer M Brown Avatar

    I learn best when in action and under pressure to make decisions.

    When asked about what I know that is most valuable, the answer is from my perspective and I believe it is how to put myself out there no matter how raw or unfinished.
    There is a pull from the inside to create art, connect to the community of fashion and collaborate.

    My day job skillset is to organize for better understanding of the money situation but it is learned behavior after years of practice and the means for paying the bills at this time.

    Somehow, someway, I will continue to work on making my lingerie design business the means of survival, and hopefully do more than simply survive.

  22. Brian Adams Avatar

    I find that I frequently ask for other points of view to help me with my work. It’s my job to discover what resonates with people and so I am frequently polling friends and colleagues. This constantly leads to unpredictable conversations allowing me to learn about the skill sets possessed by others.

    That said, I also find myself trying to get others to break out of their shell and lay out their ideas to see who else can help. Just today I decided to bring this process from my nonprofit work to my “out of office time” with this post on my blog: http://brianadamspr.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/lets-get-social/

    I have had success opening up to others and hopefully they will continue to do the same.

  23. John Hepworth Avatar

    Gratitude. When things have been getting hairy at work or at home I take a second to be grateful. It’s trite but it’s true. I tell myself whatever happens I have been incredibly fortunate, and owe it to the universe to acknowledge that fact.

    Plus it feels a lot better than bitching and moaning.

  24. Matthew Avatar

    I’ve never had trouble learning. Always been a sponge. Always been curious. Always felt like the smartest thing I could is say “I don’t know. Tell me.”

    My most valuable asset is my legal training. Both in terms of substantive knowledge and in terms of how my brain functions since having been a lawyer. I didn’t much like practice, though, so I have spent the last several years trying to find a way to make use of my training – Currently a Contract Administrator and recently wrote an eBook called ‘You Can ACE the Bar Exam’.

  25. Mike Avatar

    So what is the most effective way you have of learning?

    Revision… read it, write it, say it, hear it, teach it – knowledge comes through understanding. If you understand something, you have learned it.

    What is the most valuable thing you know?

    Everyone is shaped by their history, just as I am – respect it and you will be able to work with them.

  26. Salah Avatar

    This reminds me of a famous saying in Arabic “The person who asks won’t get lost”.

    No one can loose anything by asking, especially now with social media and the internet, this becomes even easier.

    For example, for the past few months I have been looking for an apartment, without any luck. So, I decided to ask, I just posted it on facebook, and within a couple of hours I booked more apartment viewings than by using my own research.

  27. Dave Avatar

    Stop thinking ahead about the next thing I want to say – and more often than not – that next thing is self serving. If I can shut myself up internally and really listen to the answewr to my question then within that answer will come my next question. If I can shut myself up and really listen I will learn something. It helps tremendously to be prepared.

  28. kindness first Avatar
    kindness first

    The most valuable thing I know is just to try to be kind, as often as possible. It feels good and it works wonders. My favorite way of learning is to use “beginner’s mind.” Even when you’re expert at something, there’s more to learn.

  29. Leah McClellan Avatar


    I’ve been reading here for awhile though I haven’t commented so far, but this post and your questions really caught my interest.

    My most effective way of learning is to do or try something and figure it out as I go. Ideally, I’ve done some preparation, and I usually have some sort of an outcome or ideal in mind. I’m thinking of everything from building a fish pond to designing a website to formatting an ebook to backpacking around Europe. I’ve been the same way with sports like skiing, surfing, or inline skating: put skis on or jump on board and go learn. Watch others, ask for tips, read, adapt along the way. Learn by doing.

    The most valuable thing I know is the English language. Editor/copyeditor here so that means grammar, punctuation, and all the rest. British or US plus a few varieties of slang, including all known swear words :). For that I had a formal education, but learning by doing is what cemented it all for me. And knowing what I *don’t* know is what makes me look things up–that applies to anything I do. The end result, which is constantly evolving, is that I accumulate loads of knowledge in many areas. But the language skills are my most valuable, and that includes learning other languages (handy while traveling :).

    There are so many things to know, and only so much time. So it’s great to know what others can do and ask for help. Know anyone with advanced WP development skills who needs an editor? 🙂

  30. Susan Cooper Avatar

    Your article so resonated with me. I get that. Sometimes it not that I don’t know what I need to ask but being comfortable asking and not wanting to look and feel stupid… DUH… LOL

    Gosh, the most valuable thing I know is I don’t know everything… LOL. With all kidding aside I have learned that I am good at vector drawing and creating images for my blog. That has come as a surprise to em because a year ago I had little to no idea that I would be doing that. I also have extensive background in marketing. 🙂

  31. Jeff Avatar

    I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I learn very effectively by reading (not sure which is the result of the other!). One of the most important habits for me in terms of learning has always been to immediately seek additional knowledge/clarification about things I don’t understand. If I come across a word I don’t know, the first thing I do is stop reading and reach for a dictionary. If I’m at the super market shopping for vegetables and I suddenly realize I don’t know what the difference is between a sweet potato and a yam, the first thing I do when I get home is look it up. Curiosity is like inspiration: it can be a powerful tool for development, but only if you act on it.
    As far as the most valuable thing I know (putting aside self-knowledge, which obviously comes before all else), it would probably be knowing how to trade equities. This is something I’ve actually started learning just recently, so I wouldn’t presume to try to teach it to others–instead, I’d refer them to the resources I’ve been using for my own education–but simply learning what’s possible in the realm of personal investing has been pwerfully transformative for me, and is the sort of thing I’d be thrilled to share with those who have a genuine interest in hearing about it. The surprising thing to me is how rare genuine interest is. Most people, if they inquire at all, do so with polite, but casual, interest. They may be genuinely interested in you, but they are usually NOT genuinely interested in what it is you do, or know, or love–it is of interest to them only insofar as it helps them form a picture of who you are. There’s nothing wrong with that–it’s just part of building relationships, and that casual knowledge of what people do can be useful down the line when you suddenly DO have a genuine need of their knowledge. It’s just amazing to me how much valuable information people routinely disregard simply because they didn’t have a preconceived interest in it. It’s kind of like a beachcomber who doesn’t bother picking up gold doubloons because they’re too busy looking for seashells …

  32. Michelle Avatar

    I’m good at organising events, meetings, parties and such. But not good at keeping my house organized, in fact it is a disaster. I would like help with that but don’t know where to start or who to ask. In a way I am embarrased to ask because my house is such a mess. I think it might be easier to move than get organized.

  33. CJ Maurer Avatar
    CJ Maurer

    “For it is in giving that we receive.”

    The ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.

    When you are interested in other people, when you ask them questions, when you offer them advice, when you connect them to people they’d like to meet, they see you as a person of value. You’re a leader. You can help them get to that better place; a place they might not be able to get to with you.

    The human spirit is hard-wired for reciprocity.

    Most people underestimate this and/or are unwilling to get out of their own way to do something that doesn’t promise a direct return to their individual effort(s).

    Help people. Connect people. Give to them.

    They’ll gladly return the favor.

  34. Bronwyn Avatar

    It’s impossible to know everything about everyone, or to always know the right question to ask. Follow your gut. If you suddenly have this urge to talk to someone, or ask what feels like a random question, do it. Usually your gut is right and you get something out of it.

    Also, be verbal about what you need. Talk to your friends. Throw it out there in conversation that you could “insert type of connection here” or really need “object of desire” Maybe that friend will have or know where to get what you need. Or when they are talking to someone and what you said will come up in conversation.

    Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Social media is also a good source. It is an insanely easy to share form of word of mouth.

    Biggest lesson I learned recently is: Don’t assume what people don’t want/like/need.
    I was at a mutual friends house the other day, she had a store of sewing and crafting supplies from a business prior to retiring and I was going through some of it to see if there was anything I could purchase off of her for my doll making. I told her this and suddenly she assumed what kind of dolls I was making and started to put away stuff she said I would have “no interest in” Oddly enough that was the exact stuff I wanted.

    Don’t tell people what they don’t want. Don’t make assumptions based on what you think this person is after. You could be completely off the mark.

  35. Lynn Avatar

    A question I try to ask just about anyone who is at least lukewarm: “What is the best advice you’ve ever received?” This usually opens up a lot of interesting dialog. I asked a vibrant 89 year old woman seated next to me on a plane, “what advice would you give a bride-to-be?” Her response: “Always buy good meat.” Then she told me how she and her husband met, it was fascinating. The key to all of it, no matter what, is to listen. People share valuable information all the time. Thank you for opening up this discussion!

  36. Zub Avatar

    Simplify and be sage like about it. I think having too much attachment to pursuit or knowledge you end up in a muddle. That kind of stuff makes you think you’re progressing but you’re moving backward.

    There’s a thousand ways of thinking about things at different levels. Practice one way. For example in Buddhism the Sutras have enough stuff in those few words to last a lifetime meditated upon the ultimate minimalism. People know alot but end up a mess, because they hop on several boats at the same time.
    Each way is like a road that’s been carved out
    it’s not meant to be changed unless you have the virtue to go beyond it. Mixing is too abrasive, a lack of sensitivity to the amount of words were willing to deal with.

    There’s nuances we miss when we dont commit. Everything should be savored slowly and enjoyed reading a few paragraphs a day should be quaint in feeling.

    Try and limit how much you consume, thoughtwise or anything else. Minimalism is the key I reckon.

    Just do a few things each day.

    A clear headspace invites subtle impressions, these become inspired ideas and grow with time.

  37. Zub Avatar

    Alright, I’ll give you a clue. Jung talks about the shadow which he experienced first hand. Look into it.
    The words he wrote about it but on experiencing it yourself.

    I experienced it via Ayhuasca. It took me many years to get passed it. Ayahuasca will put you head and shoulders above the rest, the great progenitors visionaires have all taken it including Alex Grey, Stuart Wilde and others – Sting as well!

    The shadow is basically the splinter in the mind everyones mind driving them crazy what morpheus talks about. I thought I was a wonderful guy before taking Ayhuasca. You must be ready to look at your shortcomings, and you have to be tough to withstand Ayahuasca – a real man, it was a terrifying but rewarding experience. Its different to drugs.

    If you already know you’re an asshole, then you’re well on your way!

    My best thing I could give to someone is the Falun Gong qigong practice. Practice it it elevates one rapidly.

    Good luck


  38. J Avatar

    Listening to people more experienced than myself is the best way I learn, that includes learning through books and online videos. And I can only admit that they are more experienced than me by assuming that everyone knows more than me.

    The most valuable thing I know it the top five most common regrets of the dying. They shape my life and help me live a better one.

    1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

    2. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

    3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

    4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

    5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

  39. Lawrence King Avatar
    Lawrence King

    This was a very good question and there are very good comments in reply; I am going to be counter-intuitive and remind all of you that so much of learning revolves around “listening.” And listening is not a one-time moment, it is a life-time process. You might be surprised and pleased with what you discover!

  40. David Slezak Avatar

    I’m a budding photographer I’m good at trivia (except sports and entertainment. I have an interest in autralian plants and wildlife. I’m reasonable good at interdependancy so I ask my friends for advice and get a lot about marketing and creating websites and they ask about photography and setting a business and getting business cards etc. I have good musical knowledge and used to play sax and keyboards but photography has taken over

  41. David Slezak Avatar

    Photography. Trivia (except Sports and Entertainment) Australian Native Plants and Animals. Music.

  42. Slade Avatar

    I know how to drop into the universe and feel people’s hearts. (In a hippie way, not a rip-the-still-beating-heart-from-your-chest way.) And I know how to keep my friends and loved ones accountable to their dreams, and make them identify in exactly what ways their lives are killing them. They have to grok that to change it.

    And I know about Jed McKenna, whose work is well-enmeshed in this stuff: http://www.wisefoolpress.com

  43. Anthony Connell Avatar
    Anthony Connell

    Grow some fucking balls Julien. People are going to have skills you don’t. Navel Gazing has brought some great insights through you, but asking the question “… why I do not have at least the skill of those I know – if not more” seems like you’re making the slide towards a a kingdom of one self-perfecting, navel gazing twat. Another option is to work together with people in situations where each other’s strengths can be an asset to the group, and their ‘failing’ are covered by others strengths is such a better . Doesn’t matter that you don’t have the skills of others. It’s actually helpful if everyone doesn’t. That’s the strength of the pack. If you have visions of grandeur, then learn skills that allow you to help bring groups like this together. But whether you’re the chieftan, group member, or scribe you’re going to have to trust people. I’d suggest that if you wanna be the lone-wolf, stop living in a fucking city, blogging about your life, thoughts, drama’s, hit the road and be a real lone-wolf. If not, you’re welcome to join my pack bro’.

  44. Brant Wiwi (yesssss its pronounced just like that. lol) Avatar

    I am wondering what the real root of this entry is actually for. I paused and asked myself, “what the eff am I doing, commiserating loops in my head about what I’m actually good at” In reading between the lines I now wonder if the object was to get us to really really think about it, in order to make us all more effective in life’s goals. I mean, isn’t that why we all have subscribed to this blog?

    the best way I learn is to sincerely ask and gather, until I understand. then fail, or then successfully crush it!

    and theeeee most valuable thing I know for sure is… that I don’t know much and ready to know more however, what I know the most about (whether its valuable?ssheeesh! I dunno yet) is about body mechanics and sports sciences, specifically kinesiology

    Wiwi likey! Thank you.

    And sweet baby Jesus! the comments are just as useful as the blog’s seeds of thought. Again, I suspect by design! Thank you more!

    my original answer to “how do I learn has now been refined as I learn from surveying many other thoughts here.

  45. Paul Avatar

    To start the learning process, I often have to toss off apprehension from doing something new, or else my brain will never get momentum. Fear, self-doubt, and sometimes being judgmental stop my learning. I often have to toss off those three throughout the learning process.
    Once I set aside those three, then my mind is freed to find out or notice how a mathematician, historian, CEO, teenager, etc. thinks. If I can get in their heads or wear their hats, then I can be in their world. In this state, I try to hold a tenuous but productive conflict between humble acceptance (as a pupil to a sensei) and healthy skepticism.
    The acceptance facilitates comprehending concepts. The skepticism helps me think for myself. They act as checks for each other.
    One more thing: If I can’t see how it helps people, then I soon lose interest. The human element in the learning, teaching, and applying processes is super important.

    1. Paul Avatar

      You might find “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin and interesting read

  46. Adam Weisblatt Avatar

    I’m very good at explaining, in a visual way, murky concepts like how technology is used for learning.

  47. Jeremy Grenemyer Avatar

    Julien asked, “So what is the most effective way you have of learning?

    Strange as it may seem, the current most effective method for me to learn something is to strike up conversations at the neighborhood bar, preferably with people I don’t know.

    A few examples of the bits and pieces I’ve learned include:

    The state of the solar power industry in California and transporting finished solar products to South America.

    The rules and regs of some local biker clubs.

    What it’s like to be a union member and an electrician in the Bay Area (California).

    What life is like for pilots of private jets who ferry executives around the country.

    Being a Marine in charge of Drill Instructors.

    The good and the pad of being an independent contractor that produces computer animated graphics and special effects for Hollywood based movies and television.

    The politics, the joys, the headaches and the similarities between being a public school teacher and a private school pre-K teacher.

    Some of these conversations led to travel and job opportunities I might not have had otherwise.

    Great post Julien. Thanks for doing what you do.

  48. Jeff Bronson Avatar

    One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned and now know is:

    There is a huge difference between reading/learning something and taking action/applying it. Realizing our time on this planet is limited,and you probably know enough to just get started , on whatever project you have waiting.

  49. amnahwajahatgmailcom Avatar

    Hi, Julien I just heard about your book Flinch and want to read it but I don’t have Kindle and the book isn’t available for readers in Middle and South East Asia… Can you plz tell me if there’s a way to get the PDF version? Thanks 🙂

  50. Matt L Avatar
    Matt L

    Find the expert in what you want to know and ask. Most will spew information because they love to talk about themselves. Some will ask for money and rightfully so but many will just talk and talk.

    Working as a bill collector I learned that if you don’t ask for what you want people will not just give it to you.

  51. Masha Kubyshina Avatar

    Hi Julien, great post! I have been there so many times.
    As for your question, I think that the most effective way to learning something is to be open to this learning. To forget that it did not work in the past and do it anew with the full believe that it must work and it will work. the first time I started a company it did not work at all, for a simple reason is that in reality I did not believe it would. I started it with an idea that most startups fail, and it did not go anywhere. Right now I am believe that I can learn anything (if I shut up and listen) and that mentally we are not open to our success. When we go on a diet we believe that this time it will not work either. If you forget this part, if you do it just following the steps and not thinking of past experiences, with full believe that it will work, then it will. For me, to learn you just have to be open to everything, be open to listen. Even if what you hear does not go along with your ideas, moral, judgments, still being open and have bad memory about negative past does the trick 🙂
    Just my two cents. I am sure there are many other good thoughts and advices here.

  52. Phil Avatar

    Yea I don’t really ask around people I know even though I should.

    Pretty much since I was a teenager I have depended on the Internet for help. So my number 1 resource is the Internet. I would always search or go to forums relating to what I want to learn. Then sometimes I would even find individuals online and end up getting help through instant messaging. Through this I learned a lot such as: photoshop, flash, html and so on.

    I learned a lot through just independently doing research on my own and getting some help from online communities. So if you don’t know anyone personally to ask, I’m sure with a bit of effort you can find some answers online.

  53. F.Hoyt Olsen Avatar

    The most important thing that I know is…”That I am the ONLY person that CARES enough about ME to change the outcome of ANYTHING, good or bad, that presents itself to me.”

    I am the weak link. My ignorance and/or my arrogance usually cause me grief. There is no such thing as luck!
    Karma…Bah! It is what you make of it. So chance really does favor a prepaired mind

    There are a zillion old sayings and even some of yours that prove this point. The reason there are old sayings is because they are true. If they were false they wouldn’t have any value and they would just go away.

    You have said it as well as many before and surly many more after..”It is within you and you alone to make yourself happy”. You cannot derrive happiness from another, you cannot buy it and you cannot give that which you do not posses.

    Find yourself a measure of contentness and guard it selfishly.


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