I’ve had the fortunate ability to excel in almost anything I’ve put my mind to ever since I was little. I made my first B in 11th grade, placed top 10 at the International Science Fair, learned how to play the guitar with no teacher or YouTube within 24 hours and played for my youth group that same week I bought the guitar, was team captain of several championship seasons for flag football, director of our national children’s youth ministry before I turned 20, completed a triathlon with limited training, was the most scared of public speaking and years later spoke across the country to inspire youth in front of hundreds and thousands of people, perfect in every math SAT, SAT II, ACT category, I made my first $2M in just 4 months with under $7,000 startup, one of my newer companies became the fastest growing internet company surpassing $100M in under 19 months. You get the point.

I say this humbly and I say this to let you know that you can do that too. Everyone has the ability to do achieve exactly what they want and one of the foundations is to how you learn.

There’s two types of learning: cognitive and experiential. Cognitive is what you learn in reading books, learning from a teacher or mentor, it’s head knowledge. Experiential is learning by doing. It’s experimenting and making mistakes and having the true lightbulbs and “aha” moments.

Now if you rely solely on the education system to teach you what you should know, that’s the first mistake because you rely exclusively on cognitive learning. And sometimes false, manipulated, and inapplicable things during school past the fifth grade. That’s a completely separate topic I’d rather not get into right now. smile emoticon

What you learn in school and even college mostly teaches you head knowledge. It explains theories and hypotheticals and forces you to cram it all for the next grade that you quickly forget right after the exam. I know people who have marketing degrees who don’t know a thing about marketing that applies to the real world today. Unless you’re a doctor, lawyer, and perhaps engineer (there’s others I know I’m leaving out), then most of college doesn’t teach you very much to apply to life or to get ahead in your profession especially for the entrepreneurs out there. I created the curriculum for an applied learning course at Baylor, the 2nd ranked entrepreneurship program in the US, and it was the highest rated course ever from our very first semester. Most students said they learned more from that one course than their entire degree combined. And I’m not surprised. I got the privilege to keynote in front of 200 of the world’s leading entrepreneurship program about this a few years back.

I was never your “ideal” student in school. I hardly studied in school and it came really easy because I focused on the principles they were teaching, not the repetitiveness of it. I only bought 3 textbooks throughout the 4 years of college. In one of my hardest classes in Chemistry 2 with the hardest teacher, I scored a 108% in the final exam that I never went to class to. How? I worked smarter, not harder – one my life mantra’s. Instead of going to class, I created a study group of a dream team of students from the class that consisted of the girl who would take meticulous notes of class lectures, the guy who read the textbook religiously, a couple of people who aced their first exam, the best teacher’s assistant who would come to group to sometimes teach us but mostly learn from us, and myself, who would coordinate the group and provide all the back tests that I got from older students in the class. Before each exam, we would go through the back tests question by question and we would come up with the solution as a group and make sure we understand the underlying principle of the answer. Then we would actually take one of the back tests as a practice test individually to time ourselves to make sure we can answer them. That final exam, 8 students received over 100% on the exam, and all 7 in our group made it on that list.

Now, back to experiential learning. On it’s own is too risky in my opinion. If you learned trial by fire only, especially in business, some of those business mistakes can be too costly. Some things you can just learn by doing but most things I would say needs the 1-2 punch of cognitive and experiential. This is the most effective and quickest way usually to excel the fastest. First off, you need to read the books or ask the smart questions on subjects that you can apply to your life or business right now. If you’re struggling with marketing and want to implement a plan, then get into that. If you are having a tough time finding true love, then that’s what you should be getting into. They say that you only need to read 3 books to all of a sudden become an “expert” on the subject. To me, you need to read 3 of the “right” books to do that. Most of the books I read come from already subject matter experts or mentors who have read dozens or hundreds of books on the subject. They would recommend that 2 or 3 books for me to read. When reading, you need to come with the mentality that you don’t know better. Kill your ego always. Then take diligent notes on search for the principles or golden nuggets. Treat those like doctrine. Then immediately teach someone what you just learned. This is important because if you can digest it and spit it back out not only does it forces you to understand it, it forces you to articulate it and then by teaching it, it helps you memorize it. That’s been my trick for most of my life.

Next, apply it to your life, to your business, and start learning what you just learned cognitively and now practice it by doing. That’s when the magic truly happens. Pay attention to the results. Not everything will work how you imagine all the time, but most times, it will. Repeat and rinse and keep testing and practicing and soon enough you have mastered what you wanted to learn. Then keep doing it on the next subject. Soon enough you will also learn what you love to do (affinity), what you are genuinely skilled out (ability) and then you will create the life you dreamed of (opportunity) and now you’ve hit your sweet spot in your life. smile emoticon

Bonus: If you are in alignment with your life’s purpose and with the Universe, you’ll know it because everything will start to flow much easier and happen much faster.