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How I Learn New Things

Blog video by Sam Ovens

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The greatest skill I have is the skill of learning. 

Most people haven't learned how to learn. They learned a specific skill, language or subject, but they never learned how to learn. 

Learning how to learn is the most powerful thing you can know, because you can learn anything and do anything once you have it. 

In today's video I break down my process for learning new things and show you how you can take it and use it for yourself immediately.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below?

Here's what we cover: 

1. Why learning how to learn is the most powerful skill you can have (because you can learn anything with it). 

2. Why everything begins with the end goal and why you must define this clearly before doing anything else. 

3. Why you need to think of the actions that need to take place in order to achieve that goal, and then what knowledge you need to acquire in order to take that action. (this is what you should learn).

4. How to find the best information on a topic by seeing who is achieving the goal at the highest level. 

5. Beware of false positives and false negatives: Don't look at who has the most cars, or followers, or degrees, look at the person who's doing it the best! 

6. A personal example of how I used this process recently to learn how to hire and manage talented people. 

7. Why the smartest people have "conceptual integrity" and a method, belief system and philosophy behind their actions and work. (powerful stuff). 

8. How to find what books to read, what courses to do, what people to listen to, and what actions to take, with devastating accuracy. 

9. Why all the individual things you learn are like lego blocks and how they become more than the sum of their parts when combined together.

Resources mentioned in this video:

1. Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord -- Get it on Amazon here.

2. Netflix Culture Deck (the slides they created to hire/manage top talent) -- Get the free pdf here.

To Your Success!

Sam Ovens & the team at


Hey, everyone. Sam Ovens here. In today's video, I want to tell you and show you how I learn new things. The reason I want to do this video is because a lot of people have written in and asked, and also commented on videos, and said, "Sam, how do you learn new things?" Learning things is a real skill. If you think about it, you really have to learn how to learn, which is a different dimension that most people haven't thought about. Most people want to know, what should I learn, and how should I learn? If you think about it, what they're really trying to do is learn how to learn. Once you've learned how to learn, then you can pretty much acquire any skill that you want because that's the one most important thing. It's like a cheat or a hack because once you learn how to learn, then you can learn anything. What I've noticed is that most people don't know how to learn. They've treated learning as this thing that happened when they were at school, or at college, or whatever, and now they're not learning any more. Let me tell you what my process is. I'll just make it real simple because this process I didn't have at the beginning. I didn't just think, "Okay, I'm going to make this process, and then follow this." I learn through trial and error and making a lot of mistakes. Over time, this process emerged out of what I was doing, and I've honed it and refined it since. This process should be able to help you right away. Learning takes a lot of time, and I takes a lot of energy. You want to be careful what you put into your brain and what you learn because you don't want to learn something totally useless. The first thing I do is I think what am I trying to achieve? This is the number one question. This is where all of it begins. What am I trying to achieve? What is the end goal? I have to think out into the future, what do I want to achieve? I get that clear, crystalize it, define it, and then I come back to now. I think, "Okay. What do I need to know in order to achieve that goal?" Quite often, it's I need to learn how to do this thing in order to achieve this goal because the goal is going to require action in order to achieve it, but the action is going to require some sort of knowledge, and strategy, and process, and tactics in order to implement it properly to achieve the goal. This is pretty much what I do in my brain. I just think about the goal, then what actions need to take place, and then what knowledge do I need in order to take those actions in order to get that goal? That's pretty much the process. Then very quickly, I've gotten specific about what it is that I need to learn. Now let me give you an example of this. I'll tell you one recent because it will be easier for me to remember because I've been dealing with it right now. This year and last year, a huge focus of mine has been hiring great talent and also managing great talent, like really smart people. What I want to have, what's the goal, It's a team of really smart, talented people working hard and doing great work. There's the goal. Now how do I do that? I need to hire them, and then I need to manage them, and make sure they're doing good work. Now of these actions, which one is like a prerequisite to the others? There's no point in learning how to manage great talent and make great talent productive unless you have them. The clear, obvious one is hiring. That comes first. Okay, now we've got a prioritization. Now how do you hire great talent? Now this becomes very, very specific. I need to hire great talent. That's the action I need to do, but how? Now I need some knowledge because that library of information isn't in my mind. I know I need to take that action. If I take that action, I should get that goal, but I don't know how. This is how I typically arrive at something. Then I would think, "All right, who?" This is the best thing to do. You don't go try finding the most popular books on it. You don't go try find the fanciest guru on it with the most cars. What you do is you think, "What company is actually doing it?" I always think about it this way. The person who's best equipped to teach you how to ride a bike is not somebody with a bunch of cars, and a fancy Instagram, and a bunch of followers who claims they know how to teach you how to ride a bike. It's not the person with seven PhDs from Stanford on bicycle riding who says that they can teach you the theory of riding a bicycle. It's the person who you see riding the damn bike. That's the person. What I do is if I want to learn how to hire great talent, then I look at what companies have great talent. Then I make a list of them. Then what I do is I want to find what people within that company are responsible for the hiring of the great talent. Then I find those people. Then I research those people, and I dig into it. Quite often, really talented people, they have recommended books, or they have philosophies, but what makes someone really good at taking actions is ... People who are highly skilled, they have something called like conceptual integrity. What this is is they will have their own philosophies, beliefs and principles. It's like a belief system that they hold in their mind, and all of their actions and behavior are in alignment to this belief system. This is how really talented people do things. Not so talented people just do a whole bunch of different things, and there's no conceptual integrity between these. They're constantly changing. These people are chaos to learn from because they themself are chaos. In their mind is chaos. You don't want anything from that library, it's corrupt. You look for the people that are within good companies, responsible for the thing that is actually being achieved. Then we try to pick apart their philosophy. What are the principles? What are the heuristics? Given this situation, would they do x, or y, and what are the parameters for these different decisions? Then we want to trace back the nodes in the map where these people learned because in order for this person within this company who is talented at hiring people who wears this belief system, which seems to be very good at taking actions that relate to hiring good people, how did they get that belief system? People aren't just born with some belief system. People don't just wake up one morning and be like, "Shit, I now have a new philosophy of hiring talented people." It doesn't happen like that. They have to go out and get it. They have to consume information, and they have to be influenced by different people, and different things throughout their life in order to learn this philosophy. I want to learn where they learned that from. Quite often, these people, they leave a lot of clues and quite often on purpose because really talented people like to share information, and they'll often say. A lot of them even have books. You can go and find their sources, and then that is how I'll find my way to the information. This is pretty complicated, but it's pretty simple at the same time because before I read a book, I want to make sure that my logic to arriving at that book is sound. I don't want to go on and ask some dude on Facebook, or go into a Facebook group and say, "Hey, what's the best book on this?" It's not a good idea. You don't want to just ask your friend who has a shitty e-commerce business making $20 bucks a month with no talent other than himself who isn't even really talented, so really, nothing, like how do you hire good talent? Then, "Dude, you got to read this book." No, don't do that either. You have to find these sources of information by going through the correct path. I'll just say it again, so it's crystal clear for you. Define the goal, then break it down into the actions you need to take to achieve that goal. Then the knowledge that you need to have in order to take that action, in order to achieve that goal. Then once you know what knowledge you need to know, then what company is taking that action and achieving that goal really well? Then who within that company is taking that action and achieving that goal really well? Then what is that person's belief system and philosophy? Really understand that, write it down. Then how did they acquire that belief system and philosophy? We want to find their source materials, and then we want to read those things. Then after we've read these different things, say, these four, five different books, then we're able to really understand in-depth how this person built their belief system. Then we're able to build our own kind of belief system on the subject of hiring great talent, and make it our own, and tweak it a little bit because we don't just want to copy theirs verbatim not because of any reason like you shouldn't copy people. If you could just copy them, and it worked, I would just say, "Do that." I would do that, but the thing is is it doesn't work because every different person has their own unique style. There's a lot of similarities in things, but it's never just a carbon copy. A company that carbon copies someone else's thing, it never works the same. You have to borrow some things, but add in your own unique twist and make it your own. Then with reading all of this information from these different books, or articles, or whatever and studying this person who's really successful, and maybe a couple other persons who are successful, and their different libraries, we'll pulling all of that information together, synthesizing it and forming our own believe system. Then once we have the belief system that's built with solid foundations from these good sources of information, then we now have a philosophy and a point of view, and principles. Now we also have some strategies and some tactics. Now we can actually start applying those in practice. That is when we switch from the theory to the practice. That's the action. Then let's say in this rolling example that I've got going here, the talent one. I'll just make this very real for you by telling you the actual kind of path I went through. With hiring great talent, I looked at a company that has pretty decent talent, and Netflix, Google, Amazon, but I pretty much said Google is number one in that. Netflix is pretty good. Then when I looked at Netflix, I noticed that they had ... There was this woman who worked at Netflix who was head of people. Or chief people officer, or something like that, or chief talent officer. It was one of those ones. I've actually forgotten her name. I'm really bad at remembering names, but she's written a book called Powerful, and it's really good. You should read it if you want to find, if what you want to do is hire and manage great talent. Then this is a good piece of information. Then I bought that book, I read it. Then I found Netflix's culture deck. They've actually got this thing called a culture deck. It's a slideshow presentation. You can get it online, it's a PDF. Actually, I'll put it beneath this video in the resources section to download as well as a link to that book. This culture deck is what they found that they had to create to hire top talent. They were having issues with hiring the wrong people and with also people behaving in different ways, shapes, and forms. What they quickly realized is that they had no conceptual integrity at Netflix for hiring people and for also managing people and what their standards were. It's a big problem. As soon as you start hiring people, conceptual integrity and talent becomes the number thing. It's the number one thing on my mind these days and for the past year. It's pretty much what I spend most of my time thinking about and doing, is managing talented people, hiring talented people, and thinking of ways to do that at a higher degree. I found those two sources of information, which are really good. I also looked at Google, and I found a great book there too. I looked at Google's principles and their mission statement. I looked at their culture and things, and I looked at a bunch of companies' different strategies, then the people within those companies and what they did, and then their culture, and then also books that they had written, or books that they had read. Then I understood their belief systems and everything. I created a hybrid. I researched about five different people, and all of their source materials, and belief systems. Then I took those five, and I collapsed them and refined them into my own. Then once I had my own one, I started implementing it in practice by taking actions and trying to hire talented people. This is where we go into stage two. Stage one is like the theoretical side of things. You're not actually taking action in terms of trying to hire talented people. You're trying to learn how to hire talented people, which is kind of the same thing, but it's a little bit different. I've noticed people miss this step a lot. A lot of people, they try to jump straight into the action. You have to start with a little bit of theory, seriously, because the theory guides everything. It shows you why you're doing what you're doing, and it's just not ... Then you know you're not just taking mindless action or going around in circles. You've got some kind of theory and hypothesis behind the action that you're taking. That's stage one, is really finding those talented people, looking at their source information, understanding all of that. Stage two is implementing it in practice. Then as you're actually executing it day to day, you'll notice that little things that off, and you have to tweak things. This is tweaking your belief system, your principles, and your philosophy. Then you start tweaking this in practice. You're going back and forth a bit between the theory and the practice. Then it gets really sharp, and then you find a groove, and it gets very effective. For me, it took me about, I would say, I was working through the theory stage of how to hire and manage talented people for about a month, honestly. I read a lot of books. I studied a lot of people. I was just devouring information for about a month in theory. I got the belief system together, and then I've been taking action for six, seven months on this. Honestly, I didn't get to a spot where I was actually good at it and where we actually started succeeding with it until about six months, and I was implementing this stuff every day. That shows you there. That's like end to end how I learn things. That's a universal framework or concept that you can take and use to learn anything. I'll just run through it real quickly again. First of all, define what you're trying to achieve. What is the end goal? Then what actions do you need to take to achieve that end goal? Then what do you need to know in order to take those actions to achieve that end goal? Then once you find out what you need to know, if there's multiple pieces, which pieces must go first, prioritization. Then with that one piece that must go first, who or what company is actively doing this in reality? Not someone who's got a New York Times bestselling book on talent, no. Not someone who's got a lot of Facebook followers on talent, no. Not someone who just says this. You want to look at a company that actually has talented damn people. Then they must know what they're doing just like the guy riding that bicycle. He knows how to ride a bicycle because he is riding it. Just find those people. Then who within the company has that information? Then what is their belief system, and philosophy on it, and principles? Where did they acquire those raw materials to build that? Go learn those raw materials. Sometimes those raw materials will lead you to other raw materials and other people. Go study those ones too. Then look at a few different people, and then collapse all that information together. Form your own. That's stage one, which we're working in the theory. Stage two then, we're going into the practice. Then we're going to be making changes to our belief system and going back and forth between these until we arrive at a point where it works really well. That's what you've got something that's a proof of concept. Now you have a theory that when applied in practice works. When you have those two things, you have something very powerful because no theory ... I think theory is useless unless you can apply it in practice, and it works as intended pretty much every time. That's what you're aiming to get, not things that you do and work but you don't know why, and not theories that sound great, but when applied don't work. You must have both, a theory that when applied in practice works. When you have both of those things, you have successfully learned something. At no point before that have you actually learned anything because you could go read some books on something. It doesn't mean you've learned it. You could go get a degree in something, it doesn't mean you've learned it. You could get famous for something, it doesn't mean you've learned it. You've only learned it when you have a theory, and you apply it in practice, and it works. That is the definition of something that is learned. Then you're never done either. It's always continuously you have to get better, better, better, better, better, better. Plus, the environment and the world we live in changes, so we have to adapt and move with time as well. Just because you've learned something, and it's working, never make the mistake of thinking that this is now completely done. You'll probably be able to get a good life out of that, but then it will need tweaks and maintenance along the way to keep its edge and keep its sharpness over time. You want to be aware of those. When things are getting a big tired and not working as they used to, you need to update that library of information in your mind, update your theory, make some tweaks, and then get back to that level of performance, and then it's good again. Really what you're trying to do in business is you're trying to collect a lattice work of these theories and concepts in your mind, so that you can handle anything, so when it comes to accounting and tax, when it comes to hiring, management, when it comes to your organizational structure, how you structure your teams and how you structure the workflows, and how you partition tasks, and everything, and load balance them within your network of people. Then also, how you do your marketing, how you do everything. You want to have these concepts and these theories about how to do everything. They should work and actually get the intended result when implemented in practice. When you start to get a collection of these things that's when you start to make leaps and bounds in business because when you arrive at these different situations day to day you're no longer guessing. You're no longer having to just go and read books all the time before you can do anything. You start to get into a zone where all of these things that you've learned, they start to come together, and you're able to apply them to all these different areas in life and business. That's when things get powerful. I know early on when I was an entrepreneur, I'd learn these different things. I'd learn sales, I'd learn accounting, I'd learn tax. I would learn marketing funnels, landing pages, Facebook ads, Google Ad Words, SEO, websites, copywriting. I'd learn all sorts of different things. Quite a lot of the time it felt pointless. I was like, "Why am I learning this thing? Man, it's taking so long to learn this thing." In hindsight, all of this stuff, they were building blocks, like little Legos. Each one didn't seem that important, and I wondered, is this really going to be that important? Once I started to get a collection of these little Lego blocks together, they became more than the sum of their parts. If we look at five blocks, there's just five blocks. When we look at all the possible combinations of five blocks, there is meaning. That's what you don't see when you're learning the things. You just see them as the individual parts, but when you combine them together over time, they become a lot more than the sum of their parts. It grows exponentially. The moves, and strategies, and things you can deploy gets limitless. That's the point where I don't think most entrepreneurs hang on until. They might learn a little piece here, a little piece there, but they don't keep going. They don't keep building up their little Lego blocks. My advice to you is to use this process I just shared with you to learn things. It works real well, and it's a good no nonsense way to do it. You're not looking at what's popular. You're not looking at some idiot's recommendation who shouldn't be giving a recommendation, which is what a lot of people like to do. A lot of people like to give recommendations. It doesn't mean you should listen to them. Also, it's not about what's famous, or what's popular, or trendy, or anything like that. It's just about grounding it in reality. If somebody is actually doing it in practice, then we want to learn what they're doing, what their philosophy is behind that doing, and the building blocks on which they built their belief system of how to do the thing they're doing successfully. We're just tracing it through. Then when we know that we're grounding everything we learn in solid evidence because in the modern day there's too much information. There's too much shit to learn. It's not about learning in the modern day. It's about learning how to learn and learning what to learn. The what and the how is so important because anyone can learn something, but knowing what to learn and how to learn it, those are the key pieces. Hopefully, with this strategy I shared in this video you're able to go out and use it, and learn things, and improve yourself, your life, and your business a lot faster. If you liked this video, just click that like button and also click subscribe. I release a video like this once every week as well as customer interviews, live streaming Q&As and other things like that. Thanks for watching. I look forward to seeing you in the next one soon.