A Key to Getting Ahead in Life

Posted by Donald Latumahina

Do you want to get ahead in life? If so, then there is one key you should have: a knowledge advantage.

I learned about this from Mark Cuban through his book How to Win at the Sport of Business. Mark Cuban is the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of the ‘sharks’ on the hit TV series Shark Tank. In the book, he wrote about how he started his business. One thing he emphasized is the importance of having a knowledge advantage.

Before starting his business, Cuban had a job selling computer software. There was a problem though: he didn’t know anything about computer software (it was in the early ‘80s). So what did he do? He spent hours a day reading software manuals. As it turned out, not many people read those manuals, so he gained a knowledge advantage that brought him success.

He continued this habit when building his own business. He said that he spent three hours a day reading books and magazines. Plus, he didn’t hesitate spending money on them because – in his opinion – one good idea from a book or magazine will pay back the cost many times over. As a result, he had the knowledge advantage to build a successful business and eventually became a billionaire.

Warren Buffett is another example. He estimated that he spent 80 percent of his working day just reading and thinking. Charlie Munger – Buffett’s partner – commented, “You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours.” The result, of course, is that they have a knowledge advantage in investing.

While you don’t have to spend 80 percent of your working day reading, the principle stays the same: if you want to get ahead in life, you need to have a knowledge advantage.

How to Have a Knowledge Advantage

Let’s now see how we can have a knowledge advantage. Here are some tips:

1. Have the Motivation

Having the motivation is essential. In fact, the problem with most people is not a lack of resources but a lack of motivation.

To have the motivation, internalize the benefit I described above: you will get ahead in life. Are you serious about getting ahead in life? Then be serious in building your knowledge.

2. Be Curious

In exploring the land of knowledge, curiosity is essential. As I wrote in How to Educate Yourself Online, curiosity is like fuel in the land of knowledge. The more you have it, the further you will go.

If you aren’t curious, you will only consume things that are familiar to you. If you are curious, however, you will go out there, you will go to unfamiliar fields. Often it’s there that you will get fresh ideas.

Bill Gates is a great example here. He reads books from various fields. Just look at this list. No wonder he is so productive.

In my case, I’m interested in various things. I’m interested in the fields of technology, business, and science, among others. That’s why I spend a lot of time on Wikipedia, reading one article after another.

3. Invest

If building knowledge is important to you, you will be willing to invest in it.

The fact is, many of the best resources aren’t free. Take books, for instance. Sure, you can borrow books from the library, but if you want to get the most out of the books by highlighting them (which I always do), you will have to buy them.

As Mark Cuban said, one good idea will pay for the cost many times over. So don’t hesitate. If you aren’t willing to invest, it simply means that building knowledge is not a priority to you.

There is a relevant quote here from Benjamin Franklin: “If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

4. Use Your Spare Time

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on building your knowledge. In fact, a good way to do it is by using your spare time.

In The Magic of Well-Used Spare Time, I told the story of a limo driver. In his job, he had a lot of spare time while waiting for his clients. So what did he do? He read books. He brought a lot of books with him in his car.

The result? He eventually built a successful online business. He didn’t have the background to do so, but he learned everything he needed from those books.

Similarly, you can use your spare time for learning. Waiting in a line? Read a book on your smartphone. At home with nothing else to do at night? Watch some tutorials. Doing these seemingly small things will give you a significant knowledge advantage over time.

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If you are serious about getting ahead in life, be serious in building your knowledge. It will open many doors of opportunities for you.

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Categories: Learning, Working

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