The Most Important Skill You Need to Learn Before You Turn 30
It’s not grit or hard work.
This summer, I’m going to turn 25.
I’m a little nervous, to be honest. Not that 25 is old, but 25 is roughly the year that your brain is fully developed. After all this time, I’m going to finally have a fully developed brain.
That’s pretty wild if you asked me. I’ve never had a fully developed brain before.
As you get older, your brain changes. Things get harder.
Most importantly, learning gets harder as your brain gets older. In your 20s, it’s been scientifically proven that it’s easier to learn than it is when you’re 40, 50, or 60.
This doesn’t mean that older folks can’t learn new skills — they certainly can — however, this does mean that there is a sweet spot for most efficient skill development and that it is not 75-years-old.
It also means that there might be a way that you can game the system and hack your brain for lifelong skill development. All you have to do is learn the most important skill in the world at a young age.
Most people never do that.
The most important skill to learn is how to learn
People don’t put time into learning the same way that they put time into their skills themselves.
I’ll use myself as an example here.
For most of my life (more than 12 years), I’ve been a combat sports athlete. Specifically, I’ve been involved in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. During this time on the mat, I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to attack and defend takedowns, apply submissions properly, and how to use my opponent's leverage against them to amplify my attacks.
I spent a lot of time learning skills, but I didn’t spend a lot of time learning how to learn skills.
Everything changed when I started teaching
When I first started teaching martial arts, my answer on “how to learn faster” was a bit of a cop-out.
“Just practice more,” I’d say.
“Just put in more time.”
“Just work harder than everyone else in the room.”
I said this partially because I wanted to boast about my hard work, but I also said it because I genuinely didn’t know how to get good at stuff. Grit is an important aspect of getting good at stuff, but it’s certainly not everything.
In wrestling, you learn a lot of different skills, but the only skill that anyone ever tells you to your face is “go hard or go home”. Everything else, I’ve kind of had to learn on my own. I’m a largely self-taught learner, but I’ve studied a lot of different methods of skill development.
You don’t become stuck in your ways at 30
Skill development in certain areas gradually becomes more difficult at 30.
This doesn't mean that on the day you turn 30, you’re stuck with the skills you’ve built. However, skill development does start to get harder as you get older. If that makes you mad, don’t get mad at me, get mad at people who are way smarter than me, and research this stuff for a living. Skill development is hard no matter how old you are, but as you get older, your brain starts to change.
The gap in the rate of knowledge acquisition isn’t really noticeable between a 25-year-old and a 27-year-old, but it has been seen to be significantly different between a 20-year-old and say a 75-year-old.
This doesn't mean there’s anything wrong with people who are older, it just means that they will have a harder time developing cognitive skills.
Luckily, there might be a solution for all of us.
The solution is finding “the way”
“If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything.”― Miyamoto Musashi
Instead of learning things, start learning how to learn. Use dopamine hacking, discipline, grit, mental training, and all those other important aspects of personal growth to become someone who gets excited about lifelong learning.
Develop a mindset that you don’t have to be young to learn new things. Develop a mindset that’s based on the idea that there is a framework that the human mind can follow in order to improve learning, skill development, and improvement.
Learning how to learn will open your mind to the hard fact of life that you have so much to learn. Ultimately, learning how to learn will change your life.
Learning how to learn gave me a career
When I was 17, I had no skills besides some mediocre high school wrestling abilities.
This lack of skill gave me a lot of anxiety. I was very incompetent in just about every area of my life. I wasn’t street smart and I wasn’t book smart. I appeared smart (which overthinkers often do), but I was a total doofus. Most 17-year-olds are.
Then, I stumbled into a martial arts academy.
A few months in, I got paired up with a great coach who made me realize that fighters can be highly intelligent people. Up until then, every coach I had encountered had been a bit of a meathead when it came to athletic performance. My Jiu-Jitsu academy was nothing like that. My Jiu-Jitsu academy’s logo is literally a sloth to symbolize our slow, methodic, and intelligent movements.
By learning Jiu-Jitsu, I learned how I learn best. Then, I used the same principles to learn how to write. My goal for 2022 is to learn another skill using the same principles.
I want to master how to learn before my brain becomes stuck in its ways. This quest for knowledge also gives my life a great deal of purpose.
No one has to learn new skills.
Lifelong learning is not a requirement for humanity.
However, a lack of lifelong learning leads to some of the world’s biggest problems. A lack of lifelong learning is the reason that world leaders are stuck in social norms from 20 years ago. A lack of lifelong learning probably also has a lot to do with the causes of racism, sexism, and other sorts of social discrimination.
If people learned how to learn, they’d be able to learn how to develop important skills like compassion, love, and empathy.
Learning is the one skill that can truly change the world.
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My Quora Account Is Blowing Up Right Now
In the last month, I’ve gotten more than 200 thousand views on my Quora answers.
That’s 8 times the size of the town I grew up in.
If you’re not following me on Quora, what are you doing with your life?
Here’s my most shared Quora answer of the week:
Humanity’s best-kept secret is that everything that we do is completely made up.
The ability to understand complex stories is the most important part of being a human.
Money is a story we use to understand the allocation of resources. Country borders only exist because we drew them. Laws exist because we wrote them.
Bitcoin is a story. My passion (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) is a very sweaty story. The words you’re reading right now only make sense because you and I agreed to communicate through the English language today.
The English language only exists because a bunch of people decided to use it.
When you realize that reality is entirely comprised of stories, it becomes a lot easier to exploit the rules of reality in your favor. Life is a game and there are rules, but the rules are much less strict than you might think.
Life is a bunch of games, and you’re a character.
This way of looking at reality is very freeing, but it’s also a bit anxiety-inducing at first. There’s really not a whole lot keeping this whole thing together. Humans might just be highly advanced monkeys, but we’re also monkeys that have come up with some pretty cool stuff.
Being a person is cool, but it’s not as serious as you think. Relax a little bit.
I’ve been focusing on making a focused effort to be present, not stressing out over fictional stories I tell myself in my head.
Before you go…
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Wishing you the best,