Learning feels like a slow, progressive process. It feels like everyone is stuck in the same morass and will end up in the same place.
The reality is that small differences in the pace of learning can make huge differences down the line. Even more important than the pace is the daily quantity of learning. Two hours a day vs one hour a day of focused intense learning and practice over the course of years results in knowledge and skills many times higher, not just double.
Selection of what to learn is critically important. Many kids are pushed by their parents to develop very high levels of skills in areas that will not benefit them in life. Football, ballet, violin, and skills like that may have a place in life, but in my opinion are not nearly as important as skills to survive and thrive like entrepreneurship, farming, and using tools. Most superb football players without other skills spend most of their lives in low end jobs, often ending up careworn and unhealthy due to no free time. Most superb entrepreneurs spend most of their lives doing anything they wish after having some business success and are healthy and happy.
As a little kid, I was a decent learner, but nothing special. I remember kids who knew more than me and could pick up new skills and concepts faster than me. I was middle of the road early on until I developed a true love of reading. My parents didn’t have a TV, so I spent many hours every day reading all sorts of fiction… By the time high school came around, my reading comprehension was higher than my peers. I still had poor grades till my senior year because I did all my homework in class as I considered my home time sacred.
My friend Justin, son of a roofing entrepreneur, got me to start a landscaping business with him at 17. It only lasted three months, but it was a firehose of learning for me and I never forgot it. College was mostly a waste as I became a heavy alcoholic. I had a couple of good classes at UW though… Microeconomics, intro to law, intro to business accounting. And I learned a lot about people, first in the dorms then in a fraternity (basically a wolfpack).
My learning got back on track around the age of 24, a year before I started my own business. I signed up for a programming course, then worked through a couple of programming books. At this point, I was similar to many of my peers from a learning standpoint. A few, like Levi and maybe Nick, were far ahead of me.
When I started my own business, Coalition Technologies, I began learning at a very fast rate and at a very high volume. I spent 7 days a week, 12 hours a day either working or learning, often both. Most of my peers at this point were focused more on having fun or starting families (and families are more important than business success btw). I am not the smartest or quickest guy, but I am the most persistent. By 27 years old, learning at this pace had brought me neck and neck with my most knowledgeable and skilled peers like Levi.
I continued that pace until I was 32 when my wife became pregnant and we bought our first house and I joined a country club and became obsessed with golf for a year. Most of my peers had spent those years not as focused on learning as I had, whereas I had built up a massive advantage by reading probably a hundred business autobiographies and how tos, programming three massive business toolsets for my company, and spending thousands of hours learning and doing business skills like recruiting, training, HR management, accounting, finance, legal, etc.
Knowledge and skills deteriorate when not used. The last seven years since I was 32 have seen my business skills lose their brilliant cutting edge. I have worked 3-6 hours a day during this period (mostly emails so not nearly as intense or valuable) so the skills are there, but not growing like they did except in a couple areas like high finance and maybe a bit of senior leadership.
I still love to learn and have developed whole new skills in this period: golf (useless frustrating waste of time), construction, heavy equipment operation, mechanical things, finance programming.
The reason I share this story is to illustrate that learning has massively compounding returns if done in the right areas.
I now spend a significant portion of my time and effort trying to help my kids learn. Their learning time has a far higher payoff than my own time. I think they learn at least 100x faster than I do as they are so young. I am trying to help them have fun and gain as much of a life advantage as possible in this time of fast learning.
Here is a rough guess at learning speed by age:
My grandpa is 87… Let’s call him capable of learning 1 new unit a day. Of course he has 87 years of knowledge and experience, which is a massive advantage unto itself.
I am 39, I think my brain is capable of learning 10x the speed of my grandfather.
My learning at the age of 25 was probably 5x what I can do now, so 50x my 87 year old grandfather.
My brother Josh at 16 years old I think was a 4x faster learner than me at 25… So maybe 200x an 87 year old brain.
My 3 year olds learn maybe 10x faster than a 16 year old… But since they are starting from near zero knowledge it seems slow. So 2000x an 87 year old brain
And my 10 month old baby learns massive new amounts daily, but it is all super basic things like standing and toddling. He might be 10x beyond the 3 year olds, so 20,000x an 87 year old brain.
My kids are going to live their own lives and have their own interests, but my hope is to instill a lifelong love of learning and to make sure they learn skills for surviving and thriving before adulthood. I am leaning towards homeschooling so they can learn at their own pace, not the pace of the slowest and least advanced kid in the classroom. My concern here would be socialization, but I think this is overrated possibly. I will maybe send them for part days at school for recess and sports.
I want my kids to learn to love reading, to learn entrepreneurship, finance, legal, farming, tool usage, programming, and building things. They will also need to learn how to get along with others, and how to deal with bullies and bad actors.