The first time I read of the body as hardware and the mind as software analogy was while reading Lying by Sam Harris
I do not remember what I thought about lying before I took “The Ethical Analyst,” but the course accomplished as close to a firmware upgrade of my brain as I have ever experienced. I came away convinced that lying, even about the smallest matters, needlessly damages personal relationships and public trust.
It’s a very thought-provoking, quick book that I recommend you read, but the concept of the ‘firmware upgrade of my brain’ stuck with me long after I finished the book.
The concept of a ‘firmware upgrade of my brain’ was solidified after hearing Eric Thomas speak in this video:
There are those of you with phones and every new phone that comes out you get it. Every upgrade you get it. Every piece of software you get it. You are upgrading your technology and you have not upgraded yourself. You got the same operating system you had since 1995. You don’t think any different you don’t speak any different. You’re the exact same person you were in 2010.”
Software Upgrade – Becoming a lifelong learner
About two years ago I discovered Farnam Street, a brilliant blog by Shane Parrish about books he’s read and what he gets out of them. I thought it was so good I tweeted about it:
Been reading @farnamstreet ‘s site all day, which says a lot about its quality considering Sundays I usually do nothing but watch football.
— David Shapiro (@daveshap) October 27, 2013
That started me on a path of reading more books, which has probably had more of an impact on my life in the past 1.5 years than anything else.
I picked up books on a wide range of topics and adopted the mental models approach to learning advocated by Charlie Munger.
I started to acquire new skills, experiences, and ways of looking at things based on some advice from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, who found success by combining many mediocre talents as told in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:
I’m a perfect example of the power of leveraging multiple mediocre skills. I’m a rich and famous cartoonist who doesn’t draw well. At social gatherings I’m usually not the funniest person in the room. My writing skills are good, not great. But what I have that most artists and cartoonists do not have is years of corporate business experience plus an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
In the early years of Dilbert my business experience served as the fodder for the comic. Eventually I discovered that my business skills were essential in navigating Dilbert from a cult hit to a household name.
My combined mediocre skills are worth far more than the sum of the parts. If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.
Learning that Warren Buffett was a learning machine only made me want to learn more and learn faster.
Warren is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles who outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you. Warren was lucky that he could still learn effectively and build his skills, even after he reached retirement age. Warren’s investing skills have markedly increased since he turned 65.
Reading about Emerson Spartz, the 28 year old entrepreneur responsible for many successful websites, recently further drove home the point that constantly learning and upgrading your operating system were some of the most important things you can do:
“It would be a waste of time to learn all this stuff and not be able to remember it or apply it in relevant situations. Being able to learn provides an exponential return on the investment,” he says. It’s like “wishing for more wishes.”
Why Not Now?
There has never been a better time to be interested in learning than today. There are free online courses available that will teach you whatever it is you want to know. Ebooks will allow you to start reading about whatever you’re interested in right now. This was not the case ten years ago. There are no more excuses.
Learn something, think different, and upgrade your operating system!