Learning Matters More When You are Engaged in Something That Matters a Lot

I still remember that day.

It was early 1994

Kavitha and I were at a Mall in Petaling Jaya in Malaysia.

Newly married.

New to the country.

New role – I was managing a tiny startup under a group that had seven other companies.

Everything was new.

A really unassuming (but brilliant salesperson) engaged us in a conversation. In a matter of minutes, he convinced us to buy a 2-year subscription to Fortune Magazine.

He went ahead and sweetened the deal.

He offered to gift a business book as a signup gift. I could pick the book from about a dozen books out there.

I picked a book called “Reengineering the Corporation” by Michael Hammer and James Champy.

I started reading it over the weekend and could not put it down.

The book resonated with me a lot.


Because without knowing the term for it, we at the company were heading in the direction of reengineering age-old processes.

The timing was perfect.

The book taught me a lot.

But, that is not the point.

I learned something else.

Something even more powerful.

The lesson that I will use even today.

The lesson that I have benefited tremendously over the years.

The lesson from which I am benefiting even today.

Here is the lesson:

Learning Matters More When You are Engaged in Something That Matters a Lot

Think about it.

Learning in any form (via books, videos, audio and conversations) provides you insights. At this point, it’s mostly information as it’s at an abstract level.

Now, imagine this.

You are working on a high-stakes project that requires you to think, reflect, analyze, interpret and synthesize to transform the abstract insights to applicable knowledge relevant to the project.

That is where the magic lies.

Taking something abstract and convert into applicable and relevant knowledge.

Need bonus points?

Apply that knowledge, watch for the results and create new knowledge – now infused with your experience.

What can you do?

Whenever I share this concept in my talks, more often than not, I get asked “What if I am currently not involved in a high-stakes project?”

The real question they are asking is “how do I learn more effectively if I don’t have a platform with a potential application for what I am learning?”


There is no way ANY single person can have access to several platforms where potential for applying everything he or she learns.

You may not be an exception.


You don’t have to limited by the platforms that you directly have influence on. You have a network and your key connections are working on high-stakes projects. I am sure they would appreciate ideas to help them move the needle.

What if every time you learn something, you do a quick mental scan of the high-stakes projects that your connections are involved in to see the applicability of current learning to those projects?

Try it.

You will be amazed as THIS exercise will be the fastest way to boost your intellect.

Having taught at Founder Institute for close to five years now, I have had the unique opportunity to watch hundreds of startups being incubated in an up close and a personal way.

It has also allowed me to apply and test what I am learning via the startups.

Honestly, it has been a perfect win-win situation.

I am increasing my own odds of winning a game by getting better at helping others win their games.

Over to you.