Be a Sponge – Soak up knowledge and compound your learning

I recently received an email from one of my mentors from the Edson Initiative commenting on Steve Jobs’ life. It mentioned something that I found to be especially important- that Jobs “was a sponge” and learned something from everything he came into contact with- and that, I think, is one of the main factors in personal and professional success for any person.

The ability to learn from everything that one comes into contact with may not seem like that hard of a task. We inevitably learn some type of lesson when we experience a challenge or get lucky and succeed.

However the real value lies in learning from each and every experience – good or bad- and then compounding the knowledge you learned in the past with what you learn with each new experience.

With money, compounding interest means that when interest is added to the principle, from that time on, the interest that has been added can then also gain interest itself. When repeated over a long period of time the results of compounding can be astonishing.

For example if you were to ask a child whether they would prefer to receive $10,000 per day for 30 days OR one penny per day, that doubles in value every day, for 30 days, what do you think they would choose? 

A child would most likely jump at the $10,000 per day, however, one who understands compounding interest would choose the doubling penny. The reason being the $10,000 a day would end up being $300,000 at the end of the month while the doubling penny ends at

$ 5,000,000.

Compounded learning works in the same way. You take what you’ve learned from each new experience and add it to your principle knowledge, thus building on the new, more intelligent foundation every day and with every new experience. The results of compounded learning can be quite astonishing as well.

Every job, homework assignment, new acquaintance, business meeting, boring class, etc., presents an opportunity to learn something new.

The secret is . . . actually caring enough to realize the lessons you are learning. Then adding them to the principle, and building upon the whole thing.

It’s a simple concept that -like most simple things in life- is complicated and difficult to put into practice.

Steve Jobs had it figured out, and I’d say compounded learning served him well. I think it’s a concept we should all try and put into practice.



Tell me about experiences you’ve had that you have been able to learn something from, and even continue building on after learning it. Do you think compounded learning is good description of how we can learn from everyday and experiences? If not, whats a better way to describe it?



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