Success Without Studying

Picture the scene, I'm in a coffee shop having a conversation with a 20-something male in relatively good shape. He's rocking the beard and slicked back hair combo, and after a little banter, an interesting question pops up.

"How can you be successful without studying?"

Here we go again, I thought, another one looking for the easy way out—typical shortcut mindset. But then I realised, there's more to this question than that.

So instead of dismissing the question, I decided to flip it on its head. Instead of 'how can you be successful without studying', let's imagine it's 'how can you be successful by studying'.

We don't realise that information is addictive. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more dangerous you become. Whether it's books, videos or anything in between, we consume information to improve our knowledge.

At least, that's what we tell ourselves.

Our addiction to information is similar to our addiction is food. On a primal level, we're all addicted to food—food = survival. Anyone who doesn't eat will eventually run into problems. However, when it comes down to our dietary choices, we'd much prefer to eat food based on taste, rather than nutrition. We tend to prefer a hamburger to a kale salad.

Why? Because if it feels good, we're happy to do more of it.

Our information addiction is the same. We'd much prefer to consume information that's entertaining rather than trudge through long-winded academic journals. Most people would prefer to watch a short entertaining video, then read an entire book.

Like eating, removing our addiction to information is impossible. The information addiction is primal, and we're wired to learn. If you compare society now, to society 300 years ago, we've learnt and changed a great deal. Compare that to 1000 years ago and life is unrecognisable. Information and knowledge caused this transformation.

And we gather information in one of two ways:

  • By being given or taught the information
  • By learning from our own experience

Simple, right? But having the information is only one small piece of the puzzle. After all, what good is information if you don't use it? If you have a hamburger (or a kale salad) that sits on the table, then it's useless. Information is the same, you have to do something with the information to make it useful.

If you have information that sits on the table, why gather it in the first place?

And this is the biggest problem with our information addiction. We're happy to learn, but we're not happy to do. We feel productive and happy that we've learnt the information, even though we're not doing anything useful with it. If we took this same approach to food, we'd starve. Imagine preparing dinner every day and then deciding not to eat it. Ridiculous, right?

So, how can you be successful without studying? By doing. If humanity never 'did' then we'd still be stuck in the dark ages. Instead of consuming, spend your time using the information you've already learnt.

Even if you're a student that's studying something as complex as medicine, at some stage, you're going to need to sew a few stitches, make a few diagnosis and put yourself on the line. Do it sooner rather than later.

The same is true for future founders. How do you learn how to run a business? By running a business.

Business books may document a few universal mistakes to avoid, but you're not universal. You'll have your own flaws that you'll need to work on. You might realise you're a terrible salesperson. By doing, you'll discover what you need to 'learn' in order to fix the problem. That's when you should absorb new information.

Action is like the kale salad, it's good for you and it'll fuel your success. Consuming information is like the hamburger, it feels good but it's not going to support your goals in the long-term.

A Lesson for Future Champions

Spend more time doing.

Most of us have an imbalance between what we know and what we do. Instead of consuming even more information you're not going to use, use what you already know to take action. You'll make mistakes, but you'll learn quickly.

You won't avoid making mistakes by spending all of your time learning. Shortcut the process of making inevitable mistakes by going out into the world and making them. Consuming information feels rewarding and requires little effort. Getting things done is hard, but it's where you'll find the real rewards.