The year was 2014, I found myself recovering from 2 rounds of chemo. With an obliterated immune system and a lot of time on my hands I was both depressed and very bored. By depression I mean I didn’t feel like me, and I wasn’t remotely interested in things I’m usually excited about. While this was no fun, I stumbled upon an awesome mindset and habit. I hope to help you painlessly do the same. What accidentally happened is: I adopted a growth mindset and insatiable hunger, I learned how to stand on the shoulders of giants, and I discovered the power of YouTube.
Foster a growth mindset.
During treatment I knew I would recover. I stumbled upon a growth mindset that (hopefully) will stick with me forever. To create a similar mindset, know that you can create your own luck.
You can change more than you think:
- Given the right resources, brain cells regenerate.
- Epigenetics shows that our environment changes the way our genes are expressed.
- Meditation practice increases IQ score.
- Techniques and practice help you read faster (and learn faster)
- Keep an open mind and continuously learn.
- Admit failures and learn from them; everyone fails.
- Whatever you’re afraid of, do more of.
- Don’t wait for everyone around you to grow. Step up now. Compare your performance to your potential, and compete against yourself instead of others.
Today be a little bit better than you were yesterday. A growth mindset is a mindset that many do not have. Most people decide to plateau; you choose to foster a growth mindset.
Months later, my YouTube habit continued to evolve. I started deliberately searching out interesting people. I found that YouTube holds boatloads of interviews, lectures, and panels including all kinds of field experts. Every time I drove to work, I streamed a 30-40 minute video. I jokingly said these people were my ‘virtual mentors’. Eventually, I lost track of the list of people I learned from, and to this day I never lost that hunger. Only Google knows how many hours of video I’ve streamed.
I don’t think many other people use YouTube this way, since most people wouldn’t sit through a 30 minute video lecture. There’s a ton of noise to filter through if you don’t deliberately search using a name or keyword. Note that YouTube’s recommendation engine is very strong once you filter through the popular crap. If you want to try this right now, I’d recommend typing in a name like Niel degrasse Tyson, and finding a recent speach. (If you find the one where he wears a Van Gogh painting as a shirt, please send me an email).
Stand on the shoulders of giants
Great people read and study the works of great people who came before. Lifetimes of mistakes and lessons-learned are recorded and waiting for discovery by the curious mind. For example, Sam Walton (Walmart founder) records his life’s work in ‘Made in America’. If today you try to accomplish a goal, almost always, someone else has already done it. Learn from their trial and error rather than repeat it.
It seems obvious that everyone should take advantage of the vast wealth of searchable, free knowledge floating around the interwebs. There’s YouTube and podcasts and Khan Academy and Udemy and Coursera and countless more. Make no excuses for not standing on the shoulders of giants.
The power of YouTube
In my first few days of treatment, while I still had energy, I finished 3 books. As my energy levels waned, I burned out on reading. A lifelong reader, I wanted nothing to do with books. Mysteriously, I became fascinated about growing plants, and I turned to YouTube. I watched every instructional gardening video I could find. I learned about hydroponics, aquaponics, vermiponics, and fogponics. YouTube became a wonderland, and I dreamt of my future garden.
The YouTube generation is going to kick your ass
I used to joke that someone should experiment by locking a kid in a room for years with nothing but Wikipedia. Will they turn into a genius? Surprisingly, this is naturally happening by way of YouTube, and maybe a little Wiki magic, too.
If you’ve never watched Master Chef Junior, you should check it out. Remarkable kids, some merely 7 years old, cook up beautiful, exquisite dishes. Where did they learn to do this? They learn from YouTube, then they cook for family. When they reach the extent of their teacher’s knowledge, their passion to learn leads them to dive into YouTube’s treasure trove of content. They learn how to bake cream puffs, filet salmon, you name it. By watching and emulating experts, these kids learn and accomplish unbelievable feats. The YouTube generation is going to kick your ass.
In a way, this is a little scary. We now have the ability to study with the masters without traveling to France. These tools enable new, higher levels of craft specialization. Anyone with enthusiasm can learn on their own, without waiting for a teacher. The good news is: you can do it, too.