One question I get often is how to best go about acquiring knowledge. My answer is relatively simple. Go read books on what you want to learn. However, this is more easier said than done, especially for those who don’t regularly read books.
I have a new answer however. Go read 5 books on what you want to learn. But not just any 5 books, you have to read books that will gradually challenge you. This is how I picture it.
- Start with the most popular & best selling book on the topic.
- Next, a popular, but slightly more technical book on the topic.
- Third, a semi-technical book that builds on the ideas of the first two books.
- Follow it up with a hard book that brings in problems & opinions from experts.
- Last, a book that talks about the future of the topic.
For example, if you wanted to learn more about being a technical product manager, you might start with the following books in this order:
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
- INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love
- Game Thinking: Innovate smarter & drive deep engagement with design techniques from hit games
- EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
Another example, if you wanted to learn more about leadership, you might start with the following books in this order:
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t
- Principles: Life and Work
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
These examples mostly use popular books, but you get the point. This is where you’ll have to do more research to understand the origins of the ideas. Most books will include references to other books, articles, and research.
You can also apply this to learning a new skill like programming. For example if you wanted to learn about Python.
- Python Crash Course, 2nd Edition: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
- Learning Python
- Automate the Boring Stuff with Python, 2nd Edition: Practical Programming for Total Beginners
- Fluent Python: Clear, Concise, and Effective Programming
- Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques to Build Intelligent Systems
Think of your progression as the following:
- I’m a little familiar
- I’m a bit more excited
- I’m seeing the big picture
- I’m understanding the main ideas & opinions
- I’m getting an idea of where the future is headed.
Needless to say, I think if you read enough books about a topic, you’ll come to a similar conclusion. This is a technique I like to use to be a bit more deliberate in what I learn. I hope that this helps you as much as it helps me.