Study Hacks Blog
Decoding Patterns of Success
Posts from 2017 January
January 16th, 2017 · 5 comments
As you may know, over the past four years Scott Young and I developed an online course about career mastery called Top Performer. It teaches you how to apply the rules of deliberate practice and depth to systematically get ahead in your professional life. We’re planning on opening the course to new students next week. In anticipation for this next launch, Scott and I wanted to share a series of articles on interesting lessons we’ve learned about career mastery from the previous sessions of the course.
Below is the first such lesson. It was written by Scott. To avoid cluttering the blog, the subsequent lessons, and information about when/how to sign up for Top Performer next week, will be sent only to our email lists. If you’re interested, sign up for my email list in the box in the righthand column of my blog.
Take it away Scott…
A Common Complaint
One of the most common complaints Cal and I heard when working on Top Performer is that people feel stuck in their careers. They’re working hard, but they don’t know why they’re not getting ahead.
It turns out a big reason people get stuck has to do with a small distinction people rarely make when pursuing professional advancement: the difference between knowledge and meta-knowledge.
Doing well in your career requires two crucial factors: first, you need to be able to do your work well. This requires knowledge. If you’re a programmer, you need to master the languages you work with. If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to know your market and how to serve them. If you’re a lawyer, you need to have a rich knowledge of the law.
However, this is only the first factor. The second is meta-knowledge.
Meta-knowledge is knowledge about how your career works. For example, which skills matter, and which you should ignore, and how best demonstrate your talent in your particular industry, and so on.
This second factor is often invisible and many people can go their entire careers without getting a very good picture of how people succeed beyond their current station.
One of Cal and my students from Top Performer, Chris L., didn’t even realize that he was missing it, telling us: “I was frustrated specifically because I thought I was doing a good job, and I see people who I don’t think are doing a good job and they’re getting ahead of me. I work hard, but nothing happens.”
He had knowledge but didn’t realize he was missing meta-knowledge.
Read more »
January 11th, 2017 · 18 comments
Hawking’s Fixed Schedule Productivity
In the 1980s, at the height of his intellectual productivity, Stephen Hawking used to head home from his office between five and six. He rarely worked later.
Here’s how he explained his behavior to his PhD student Bruce Allen (now a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics):
“Bruce, here’s some advice: The problem with physics is that most of the days we don’t make any major headway (on our projects). That’s why you should do other stuff: listen to music, meet good friends. There’s one exception to this rule: If you find a solution for a given problem, you work 24 hours a day and forget everything else. Until the problem is solved in its entirety.”
I’ve seen this behavior before from other elite level creatives. For them, deep, audacious results are the only currency that matters. The idea of being busy for the sake of being busy in between those big swings seems superfluous.
To be sure, they constantly seek inspiration in reading and daydreams and conversation with other elite producers, but this is a pleasurable background hum that precedes the cacophony instigated by the eventual epiphany.
(For a great study in the reality of “24 hours a day and forget everything else” technical work at the highest level, I recommend Birth of a Theorem.)
Most of us are not Stephen Hawking and never will be. I wonder, however, if there’s not a more general lesson lurking for anyone who wants to produce valuable things: go big when the work demands it, but outside those situations leave plenty of time for music and good friends.
(Photo by Bryan Alexander. The above quote was translated to English from a German newspaper article. Hat tip: David.)
January 5th, 2017 · 40 comments
The Root Of All Productivity
The new year is here, which means productivity tweaks are in the air.
I’m not going to offer you a specific strategy today. Instead, I want to touch briefly on a meta habit that will help you succeed in any number of areas in your life where you seek more effectiveness.
It’s something I’ve used for years but have never discussed publicly before. I call it: rooted productivity.
Before describing this idea let me motivate it.
A little discussed issue in the productivity community is the role that these strategies play in your mental life. Most people maintain a haphazard and shifting collection of rules and systems only in their head. When a blog post inspires them, this collection may grow, while approaches they once embraced might fizzle unexpectedly.
This unstructured approach to organizing the ideas that are supposed to organize your life can cause problems, such as…
Read more »