Break Your Education Addiction and Start Making Money/ November 7, 2016
It’s easy to succumb to education addiction when there’s so much neat stuff out there.
This is, after all, the information age. Humans have never in history had such fast and convenient access to so much information.
Basically, we have unlimited potential.
With a little willpower and an internet connection, you can learn almost anything you want, and still more resources are made available literally every day.
But with that limitless potential, we also have unlimited distractions.
Now more than ever, it’s important to learn the skill of discernment – and I don’t just mean the ability to tell if something is true or false.
Of course there’s a vast pool of inaccurate information out there, but consider this:
Just because a datum is accurate doesn’t mean it’s useful.
[A datum, by the way, is a single piece of data. See what I mean about useless information?]
Empty education is addictive, and it can be hard to tell the difference between valuable knowledge and more intellectual clutter.
What Is Education Addiction?
Have you ever heard about a new topic and been absolutely hooked?
Suddenly, you want to read every book, follow every blog, and join every Facebook page that even remotely relates to your topic.
Sometimes, it’s a momentary obsession that lasts until the next thing catches your eye…
And sometimes, you dive in and join the community.
That desire to consume all the information available is education addiction.
In most cases, it’s pretty harmless.
Who cares if you spend all your spare time reading about string theory and time travel? You’re probably not hurting anyone, right?
But here’s the problem:
Education turns into procrastination really fast.
If you’re happy with your life and you don’t have any goals on the horizon, go ahead and indulge your education addiction.
If you’re learning in order to actually accomplish something, though, proceed with caution.
Learning feels like accomplishment.
Spending time consuming information is a low-investment activity that gives you the illusion of productivity, but without the effort and hassle of actually doing something productive.
That low effort/high payoff feeling is what makes it so addictive…and so dangerous.
Education Addiction: The Silent Killer of Entrepreneurship
The second most important thing you’ll do as a blogger is begin your self-development plan.
The most important thing you’ll do is act on the skills and knowledge you already have.
Take courses. Read books. Go to seminars and listen to podcasts.
Just make sure you’re doing something productive first.
It’s very common in the world of entrepreneurship to see would-be entrepreneurs attending conference after conference, happily dreaming about the day they’ll finally make it big.
The thing is, going to a conference doesn’t make you any money.
It doesn’t build your audience.
It won’t help you sit down and write your business plan, and it won’t market your skills for you.
Learning does have value, but when it’s not prioritized correctly, it becomes a business killer rather than a secret weapon.
Think of it this way:
A nail is a necessary piece of hardware when you’re building a house. You simply can’t build a house without nails.
Let’s imagine you have a $200,000 budget to build yourself a home.
Nails are pretty darned necessary, so you spend $160,000 on nothing but high quality, top-of-the-line nails.
You get different nails for different jobs, so your collection is “well rounded.”
You’ve got roofing nails, finishing nails, masonry nails, and a hefty portion of dependable round head nails that are good for just about any nailing purpose you can imagine.
You put a lot of thought, effort, time, and money into those nails…and yet, all you can ultimately build is a shack.
Because nails are important – necessary, even – and yet they’re not the most important thing.
As important as they are, nails alone don’t build a house.
That’s what education addiction is doing to a lot of would-be entrepreneurs.
They’re putting forth $200,000 worth of “investment,” yet barely building a shack, because education is in the wrong place on their priority lists – they’re spending all their money on nails.
The Fate of Education Addicts
Look, I get it.
I’m a professional blogger.
I make money based on sharing information and giving education.
People like me don’t usually encourage others to partake in LESS education, because our livelihoods depend on people like you purchasing MORE online courses and ebooks.
Most of us are also marketers, so we’re very good at emphasizing the absolute necessity of education to your success.
Here’s the thing, though:
Experts like us know that very few people who take online courses, go to seminars, and listen to entrepreneurship podcasts actually do something with that information.
The majority of people consuming these informational products aren’t buying an education that’s going to become the foundation of a successful business.
Those people are, in large part, buying the feeling that they belong in the same group as actual, successful entrepreneurs.
We experts are selling exclusivity without distinction – we’re helping average people pretend they’re special without putting forth greater than average effort.
For the most part, that’s okay.
We’re not in the business of forcing people to succeed, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with giving people what they want.
But it is a bit irritating for people who are looking for real, tactical advice, because most education isn’t directed at those folks.
On top of that, the people who only want to pretend eventually end up frustrated, because their outward circumstances remain average despite all of their education expenditures, and all of that marketing material designed to make them feel successful.
A few of those frustrated people eventually turn into secondhand “experts” and start their own self-help companies.
You’ve seen them: so-called gurus who’ve never actually done anything they’re teaching.
They’re painfully obvious to the few who are actually taking action in their businesses, and most of them dissolve into obscurity before they ever gain real traction.
So, here’s the question:
What are we going to do about it?
Breaking Education Addiction
It’s not easy to take stock of yourself and start making changes.
Believe me, I know. The first few times I was really honest with myself, I threw a little pity party and cried for a couple of hours, which only made me more pathetic.
It’s worth the effort, though.
Note: you’re probably not nearly as melodramatic as I am, so don’t worry too much about the crying part.
Here’s a brief disclaimer:
The steps you’re going to read below work, but I’m assuming that you already know your ultimate goal.
If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, take a step back and figure that out first.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?
With that in mind, the first step in breaking education addiction is this:
Recognize what you already know.
A few years ago when I first started accepting real mentorship, I came to the conclusion that regurgitating information is easy, while thinking is hard.
I was one of those “smart” kids in school that always passed tests and never struggled to “learn.”
Fun fact: I was not smart, and I was not learning.
My brain is very good at absorbing lots of information, and later recalling it for things like answering test questions or beating my friends at the most aptly named board game of all time, Trivial Pursuit.
In fact, smart people absorb information, then apply it to accomplish useful things, like advancing their careers or solving problems.
When you learn something, you can use that information to do real, actual things.
Like me, you probably know a lot of stuff that you haven’t learned yet.
Take a look through your old notes, the blog posts you’ve bookmarked, and the slides and outlines you’ve gotten from all those presentations you’ve watched.
Most of that stuff, you’ve probably heard over and over.
I’d bet you can recite a lot of it offhand.
Once you start recalling how much mental stuff you’ve compiled, it will be easy to recognize that you probably know most of what you need to succeed.
Recall will get easier as you go, so jot down some notes about all the areas in which you’ve been collecting information.
Take inventory of all the things you KNOW, then move to step 2:
Turn your knowledge into learning.
This is where most people stop. It requires effort. It’s hard.
This is also the part that makes all that knowledge into something potentially useful.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that the skill of discernment is particularly valuable in the information age. (Not that I’ve lived in any other age, mind you. I’m not that old.)
Discernment is the ability to tell whether or not a piece of knowledge is worth learning – if it’s going to be useful and productive, or not.
Once you become more accustomed to actual learning (and the effort involved) you’ll find it easier to make that judgement quickly.
Look back at your notes, your lists, and your outlines.
Odds are, you’ve been trained on some variety of techniques.
Maybe you’ve got some program outlines that were supposed to take you from ground zero to a profitable business, or help you organize your house, or whatever.
There’s probably a smattering of inspirational and motivational quotes, and a few positive-mental-attitude materials.
All of those things have some value.
But not everything is going to apply to you right this minute.
You’re an intelligent, capable person, and your judgement is probably pretty good as long as you’re putting forth the effort to apply it, so do that now.
What do you want to accomplish?
Why did you seek out all that education in the first place?
Now that you’ve got a little distance between yourself and the marketing that sold you those courses and materials, which ONE thing do you think, if executed, would get you closest to achieving your personal goals?
Maybe there’s a step-by-step program that you never finished, or that you read through without taking any action.
Or perhaps it’s time to improve your people skills and work on that one really good technique you read about.
Here’s the point:
Learning takes action.
You learn something by thinking through how you might apply it in real life, and then actually doing it.
As you grow and see results, you’ll get better at identifying where you need to work on your weaknesses or amplify your strengths, and you can seek additional, specific education as needed.
If you’re working on breaking your education addiction, it’s best to work on only one skill at a time.
Remember, too, that being able to verbally explain a concept doesn’t mean you’ve learned it.
This is life, not a public school.
Learning has to do with being able to creatively use your knowledge to solve some problem or achieve some goal, and if you haven’t done it, you haven’t learned it.
You’ll take stock of your education situation in step 3:
Analyze your progress and make adjustments.
Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t always learn from our mistakes.
If we did, we wouldn’t make the same ones over and over again.
Experience alone isn’t a great teacher – we experience life all day, every day, and most of us never actually learn anything from it.
Evaluated experience is the teacher.
It doesn’t have to be negative to be a learning experience, either. Pay attention to the things that go right and the things that don’t work out the way you planned.
Now that you’ve taken inventory of the things you know and intelligently selected something to work on, do yourself a HUGE favor:
Write down your end goal and give yourself periodic check-ups to make sure you’re actually moving closer to accomplishing it.
Whatever you’re learning, you should be sure that 1) it’s working, and 2) it’s relevant to your personal goals.
Having a mentor helps with this, but you don’t technically need one to learn.
It’s also immensely helpful to keep a journal, because you’ll be able to look back and see how your thought processes have changed and evolved.
It’s like the “before” picture when you start a fitness routine, so you can always look back and see how fat you used to be, except you’re tracking your mental fitness level.
You’re probably intelligent. At the very least least, you’re fairly literate since you’re reading this blog post.
Just apply yourself a little bit, and you’ll actually get some results out of all that education you’ve acquired.
Learning isn’t easy.
It’s not automatic.
It takes effort.
Most people who consume educational products never actually learn anything – and most people who start blog-based businesses never make any money.
The difference between a financially successful blogger and a frustrated, broke blogger isn’t what they know.
It’s what they do with what they know.
So what are you going to do?
You’ve probably already guessed what your homework assignment is.
Right now, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, look back at some of the courses you’ve taken, blog posts you’ve bookmarked, notes you’ve written, or books you’ve read in the last year.
Even if you don’t have any of those materials with you right now, you can probably remember at least one thing you “learned” this year, but didn’t really learn.
Choose one item.
Maybe it’s a technique, a principle, or a business strategy. Whatever.
With that ONE item in mind, mentally picture how you would apply that lesson, and answer these questions:
- In what situations would you use that knowledge?
- What benefits might result from applying it?
- How does it fit into your overall business strategy?
- Which of your personal goals might this thing help you achieve?
- What drawbacks might there be in committing fully to the application of that lesson?
Only you know whether or not it’s worth the work to really learn a thing, so use your judgement and decide whether or not to act on that particular bit of knowledge.
If you don’t think it’s a worthwhile pursuit, repeat the activity with a different bit of education you’ve been hoarding until you find something you’re actually going to do.
Then do it.