University vs. Studying Online and How to Get Around Smart People

Lukas emailed me asking a few questions. I replied back with some answers and then he dug deeper. He thought about what I said and then wanted to know more.

I replied back to him with some of my thoughts which I tidied up a bit and put below. The headings are the topics Lukas was curious about. This post doesn’t have all the context but I think you’ll find some value out of it.

Hey Lukas,

I’ll answer these how I did the last ones and break them apart a bit.

1. “University/school teaches some stuff that you don’t really need or want”

This is true. But also true of all learning. Whatever resource you choose, you’ll never use all of it. Some knowledge will come from elsewhere, some will vanish into nothing.

The reason learning online is valuable is it gives you the chance to narrow down on what it is you want immediately. University and school take a ‘boil the ocean’ solution because that’s the only valid one for what they offer. Individualised learning hasn’t made its way into traditional education services. I found I learn best when I follow what I’m interested in so I take the approach of learning the most important thing when it’s required. What's most important? It will depend on the project you’re working on.

Whilst this is an ideal approach for me. It’s important to always reflect on practicality. If I’m building a business and all I want to do is follow what I’m interested in, will that always line up with what customers/the market want? Maybe. Maybe not.

Lately, I’ve been taking the concept of time splitting and applying it to most of what I do. A 70/20/10 split I stole from Google.

In essence, 70% on core product/techniques (improving and innovating on existing knowledge), 20% on new ventures (still tied to core product) and 10% on moonshots (things that might not work).

In the case of my core product, it’s learning health and machine learning skills that can be applied immediately. I distil these in a work project/online creation I share with others.

For new ventures, it’s taking the core product skills and then expanding them on things I haven’t yet done, learning a new technique, working on a new project. But still tied to the core pillars of health and technology.

For moonshots, it’s going, ‘where will the world be in 5-10 years and how can I start working on those things now.’ These don’t necessarily have to relate to the core product but mine kind of still are (since the crossover of health, technology and art interests me most). For this, I’ve been playing around with the idea of an augmented reality (AR) coach/doctor. If AR glasses are going to be a thing, how could I build a health coach service which lives in the AR realm and is summoned/ever present to give insights into different aspects of your health? All of this would be of course personalised to the individual.

If you're still on the fence between university and learning on your own. One thing you may want to look into is the ‘2-year self apprenticeship’. I wrote an article about this which will shed some more light. Especially at 20, this would be something I’d highly recommend (I already have to my brothers, who are your age).

Remember, there's no rush. You've got plenty of time. Work hard and enjoy it.

2. “Why math at university versus on your own?”

I mentioned I was thinking of going to university to study mathematics rather than online. Here's why.

I learned Chinese and Japanese throughout 2016. The most helpful thing was being able to practice speaking with other people face to face.

I stopped after a year and have lost most of what I learned.

Why?

Because I don’t use it and don’t need to use it every day. English is 99.999% enough for conversations in Australia and the work I do.

Math is also a language. The language of nature. Being able to speak it and work on it with other people is a great way to accelerate your knowledge.

That isn’t to say you couldn’t do the same online. But put it this way, I would never try to learn another language without practising conversing from day 1.

If you want to learn French, move to France. If you want to learn math, take math classes with other people who speak math.

3. “How do you get physically around smart people?”

Aside from working with a great team or going to university and having a great cohort. Meetups are the number 1 thing for this.

They are weird and awkward and beautiful.

I always feel like a fish out of water there because everyone seems like a genius.

Events related to your field are priceless. They don’t have to be too often either. I’m finding once a month or so as a sound check to be enough.

4. “Which platform was best for opportunities?”

For content partnerships and online business opportunities: YouTube & LinkedIn (I've been approached or partnered with Coursera, A Cloud Guru, DataCamp, educative.io and more).

For career progression: LinkedIn. If I was looking for a job or more business opportunities, I’d be posting and interacting here daily.

For reaching an audience: Medium. Words are powerful. Writing every day is the best habit I have (aside from daily movement and staying healthy).

A tip for creating.

People are interested in two things when they look at content. Being educated and/or being entertained. Bonus points if you can do both but you don’t need to do both. One is suffice.

Especially if you’re doing a 2-year self apprenticeship or some kind of solo learning journey, share your work from day 1. Share what you’re learning and teach others if you can.

Do not expect it to go viral. Do not expect everyone to love it. These aren’t required.

What’s required is for you to continue improving your skills and to continue improving how to communicate said skills.

Over the long term, those two things are what matter.

Let me know if there’s any follow ups.

Great questions.

Best,

Daniel Bourke