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12 Apr

Why we don’t learn as much as we could.

A girl I know expressed this to me recently:

“Raj, I want to get good at being on camera… clicking selfies, making reels, talking on camera… any tips?”

I said,

“You have a smartphone, you have a camera, click as many selfies as you want, shoot as many videos and reels as you want. You don’t have to publish them, you can always delete them all if you aren’t happy with them. Why aren’t you doing that?”

You see, the lack of infrastructure wasn’t stopping her. The real reason why she wasn’t doing that was because she held herself to a pretty high standard even before she started. And she wouldn’t like it if via experimentation she found out how lacking she was compared to that ideal in her mind.

She wouldn’t like to know that about herself.

And this is why most of us don’t learn as much as we could. We stop ourselves from getting started under various excuses like

“I need to do more research.”

“I need to read more books.”

“I need to quit this job before I can do it.”

“I need to save up more money before I can commit to this thing.”

Learning doesn’t matter in the short term. But in the longer term, it is all that matters.

Let me explain.

If you take 10 beginners who have never made a reel and ask all of them to shoot their first reel, you will get 10 bad reels.

But if you take 1 beginner and ask her to make 10 reels, you will get 3 bad reels and 7 good ones.

She learns on the way. And that's the only way she could have learned. Until you do it, you don't even know how many variables you aren't taking into account that will mess up your attempts. No one has that kind of foresight to predict everything that could go wrong — let alone beginners.

So many things went wrong while I was shooting my first YouTube video that I could have never predicted beforehand:

  • My camera battery died
  • Someone got in the way
  • There was too much background noise
  • Electricity went off and ruined the lighting
  • The audio was bad, there was an echo
  • I looked too self-conscious
  • I kept forgetting my lines without a teleprompter
  • I was so anxious, I forgot to hit that record button
  • The camera angle wasn't flattering
  • I never thought about where I was going to place the cuts
  • I had never talked to a camera lens before and felt super weird

… and many many other technical and skill-level problems that messed up my early videos.

It is only after a lot of experience that I built a library of things that could go wrong and plan for them.

And as a beginner, it is only when you start doing that you start building this library of things you need to take care of to shoot a good reel or execute anything well.

The trap you fall into, Amir Rachum calls Knowledge Debt:

Living under the impression that there's always more to learn before you get started.

"You should do stuff way before you can figure out how it works. For a while, you should intentionally be ignorant about distracting details."

— Amir Rachum

Like Aditya has touched upon in his #100DaysofMBA series, real learning is ugly. And no amount of reading books will prepare you for the failures you must accrue on the way in order to become good. Simply because you don't even know so many of the variables that add to the recipe to make up the pie!

Do you know what separates a novice from an expert?

Novices think it's the knowledge.

Experts know it's not just that. Knowledge may perhaps account for a third of their expertise. It is actually their appetite and ability to deal with uncertainty — that they built up over a long period of failing and getting their hands dirty — that makes up the remaining two-thirds.

They are better able to handle novelty when compared to novices.

And you only develop that muscle, appetite, and intuition via iteration (failure!).

If your output doesn't match your taste today, the only way is to clench your jaw, suck it up, and still continue. There's no other way to learn.

Speaking from experience, of course.

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