This is the second post in my Polymath MBA series, where I will share with you the planned curriculum of the DIY MBA.
To quickly recap, I’ve decided to quit all contracts (previously I worked as a marketing consultant for a number of companies) to focus for the next year on the self-education project I’ve called the Polymath MBA.
The Polymath MBA doesn’t follow the “become a specialist 10,000-hour rule” to success. Instead, using the principles of skill stacking, multiplier skills, and accelerated learning to make becoming a successful knowledge entrepreneur inevitable.
The goal of which is to build an online knowledge business that breaks the trading time for money paradigm and create a scalable productized income stream that will give me time, location and lifestyle freedom.
In another article will share with you the logic behind how I chose what to learn, however, in this piece I will share with you the core principles of the MBA and it’s “curriculum”.
The Polymath MBA: Core Principles
At the core of the Polymath MBA there will be three principles: skill stacking, accelerated learning and first principles thinking.
“Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds Of Success” – Scott Adams
First proposed by Scott Adam’s the creator of the hugely successful Dilbert cartoon series, Scott attributes much of his success to the concept of skill stacking and proposes that:
If you want something extraordinary in life, you have two paths:
1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.
The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.
Simply put, Scott argues that each skill you add to your repertoire the more unique and rare your overall skill set becomes in your particular niche.
And if your overall skill, knowledge and experience portfolio is both rare and effective in that environment then it can give you a distinct edge over everyone else.
“It is possible to become world-class, enter the top 5% of performers in the world, in almost any subject within 6-12 months, or even 6-12 weeks.” ― Tim Ferriss
Popularised by the likes of Tim Ferriss, Joshua Waitzkin and Josh Kaufman, accelerated learning systemises and replicates the learning processes of the world’s best learners so you can become a top 5% performer in almost any skill in 6 months.
By breaking down skills/theories into their component parts, identifying the highest ROI components and sequencing these parts correctly in the learning process you can massively accelerate your rate of learning.
This META Learning process, or DiSSS as Tim Ferriss calls it, has four parts:
“Deconstruction – “What are the minimal learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should starting with?”
Selection – “Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?”
Sequencing – “In what order should I learn the blocks?”
Stakes – “How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”
Being able to apply the principles of accelerated learning will be a foundational part of the MBA. It will be a multiplier skill, enabling me to achieve a high level of competency in new skills very quickly.
First Principles Thinking
“A first principle is a foundational statement assumed to be true, that can’t be deduced from any other within that system.” – Elon Musk
Originating from the field of physics, “reasoning from first principles” advocates thinking about problems from the fundamental truths of the domain, or first principles, not reasoning by analogy.
Wildly popularised by Elon Musk, first principle thinking enables you to break automatic thinking patterns that normally severely filter the diversity of our thinking and approach problems in new and contrarian ways.
“First principles is a really good way to see if something that really makes sense or if it’s just what everybody else is doing. It’s hard to think this way, and you can’t think that way about everything. But if you’re trying to do something new, it’s the best way to think. It’s really a powerful method!”
As true thought leadership is fundamentally about proposing new ideas that go challenge the status quo, developing the ability to reason from first principles is the most valuable skill for any aspiring thought leader.
As a result, a core part of the MBA will be: 1) to develop these first principle reasoning skills, and 2) expanding the number of mental models I have to understand the world. The more fundamental mental models you possess the more potential unique viewpoints you can have on a problem within your niche.
The Polymath MBA: Curriculum
A central principle of selecting which skills and knowledge to develop has been thinking of skill-building as an investment portfolio. Where the central question is:
What skills and knowledge can I develop which will increase the odds of my overall success?
Every skill or theoretical concept you learn is an investment that requires time, money and resources to develop and has an associated opportunity cost.
I will break down this methodology in detail in another article, but in general, the strategy can be broken down into two parts: longterm returns and risk mitigation.
With the Polymath MBA, my plan is to structure this skill stacking around three key areas:
- Core Thought Leadership Skills
- Toolbox of First Principle Lenses
- Multiplier Skills
As successful thought leadership is most often dependent on your ability to create a new category in a thought niche, developing these three types of skills is the most effective means of increasing your odds of success.
MBA Core: Thought Leadership Skills
As the goal of this Polymath MBA is to develop the skills, knowledge and audience to build an online knowledge business, developing very strong thought leadership skills will be the central pillar of the MBA.
Thought Leadership Skill #1: Generating New Ideas
At the core of being a thought leader, not a thought follower, is the ability to develop new ideas, perspectives and solutions that improve our understanding of the world and resonate with an audience.
Understanding the characteristics of highly impactful ideas, why some ideas gain wide adoption and why others dwell in obscurity will be key to consistently creating a successful knowledge business.
As a result, the focus will be on studying how and why the ideas of some thought leaders spread like wildfire, while others never caught on, and systematic ways for generating new ideas.
Thought Leadership Skill #2: Viral Content & Audience Growth
Being a thought leader is useless if you can’t grab peoples attention and get your ideas in front of your target audience. That is why learning how to effectively package and communicate your ideas is crucial for being a successful thought leader.
The focus will be on studying the characteristics of viral ideas/content and how they can be packaged to maximise their organic reach and resonance with your target audience.
Thought Leadership Skill #3: Audience Retention & Conversion
Ultimately, the goal of any thought leadership strategy is to build a strong audience for your ideas and capture some of the some you have created either directly or indirectly. As a result, once my content strategy has started to consistently generate new readers and followers a major focus will be placed on audience engagement and product development.
The focus will be on: marketing/copywriting strategies, audience research, product development and launch strategies.
Toolbox of First Principle Lenses
Becoming a thought leader is ultimately a game of investing your time and resources into producing content for a winner takes all market. No matter the niche, a few thought leaders will reap the vast majority of the rewards.
To maximise your chances of creating new ideas that have a big impact on a niche the most effective strategy is to break free from conventional thinking and view the market and the problems facing its participants differently.
The best way of achieving this is by reasoning from first principles instead of analogy, and learning from the outliers share alternate ways to view the world or who have achieved huge success against all odds. Studying the strategies used at these extremes often yield more insights into high impact strategies than studying the commonplace strategies as they stretch your understanding of the world. Here there will be four main points of focus:
Lens Toolbox #1: Fundamental Mental Models & Contrarian Ideas
The fastest and most effective way to expand your worldview, improve your thinking and increase your ability to generate unique insights is to develop a toolbox of mental models that explain the fundamental principles at play in the world combined with ideas that challenge the status quo.
A primary goal during the MBA will be to build this toolbox of abstracted mental models and contrarian ideas. These ideas will act as lenses to stretch my understanding of reality and create new ways of viewing the world.
Key areas of focus will be: Charlie Munger’s toolbox of mental models, human psychology, systems thinking, complex systems, etc.
Lens Toolbox #2: Winner Takes All Strategies
As today’s thought leaders increasingly have to compete on a global winner takes all market, where a small number of thought leaders will inevitably come to dominate the conversation of every topic. It is vital that thought leaders understand winner takes all dynamics and how they can become the dominant winner in their niche.
As a result, I will devote a considerable part of my time studying the dynamics of winner takes all markets and the strategies of the world’s best winner take all market competitors: venture capitalists, startups, film/music industry, military strategists, etc.
Lens Toolbox #3: Investor Thinking
Whether we think we are not, we are all investors. Every day we make thousands of decisions that decide how we invest our time, attention, money, willpower, etc. that determine whether we achieve our goals and desires.
By understanding and leveraging these investing principles in our everyday decision making we can maximise our results and stack the odds of our overall success in our favour.
Key areas of focus will be: investing principles & valuation, asymmetries, risk/reward, market dynamics, probabilistic thinking, stochastic events, etc.
Multiplier skills are skills that once developed multiple the effectiveness of your other skills or lead to the emergence of a completely new skill. The elusive: 1 + 1 = 3.
During the MBA I will devote a significant amount of time to the development of multiplier skills that will increase the effectiveness of my overall skill stack. With the main focus being:
Multiplier Skills #1: Accelerated Learning
As mentioned above, developing the ability to learn new skills and knowledge at an accelerated pace is a hugely powerful ability as it dramatically increases your ability to acquire new abilities. By strategically combining skill stacking with the principles of accelerated learning, I will be able to dramatically increase the value and effectiveness of my overall skillset in 1 year.
Multiplier Skills #2: Software Development via Python
Learning to code is the closest thing to a superpower a human can have. It is the ability to teach a machine with “practically” infinite processing power to complete tasks that would require hundreds of humans to do manually. Giving you the ability to achieve extreme leverage.
Not only that, it enables you to create proprietary internal tools and customer products that can give you extremely scalable income streams.
The focus will be on: web scraping, data processing, marketing automation, etc.
Multiplier Skills #3: Basic Data Science & Modelling
With a rudimentary data processing & manipulation skills I was able to develop the Buffett Keyword Strategy that exploited a market inefficiency in the content market that allowed me to grow numerous blog from virtually zero to tens if not hundreds of thousands of organic visitors per month.
Having the ability to build custom tools that automate the collection and processing of large amounts of data would give you a huge informational and execution edge in the market. Enabling you to learn from the experiments of others develop new insights on a scale that most other people wouldn’t be able to match.
The focus will be on: data processing, analysis and predictive modelling.
Ready to learn and be part of the journey?
Over the next few months, I will be giving a behind the scenes look at this the Polymath MBA process, how I’m building a knowledge business and the exact content strategies I will use build an audience of true fans.
I will be sharing articles about my:
- Skill Selection Process: How I identified the most valuable skills and mental models to focus on.
- Risk Mitigation Strategy: How I plan to apply the principles of investing and risk mitigation to reduce the overall risk of the project and guarantee a positive ROI from the MBA.
- Environment Hacking: How I plan to engineer my environments to make your success inevitable.
- Skill Development Breakdowns: Detailed breakdowns at how I am applying the principles of accelerated learning to the skills I’m developing – programming, data science, investor thinking, etc.
I will also give you a behind the scenes look at the exact content and marketing strategies I plan to use to build an engaged audience for my business, and monthly transparent updates on:
- All of my stats
- My content promotion strategies
- My failures and successes along the way
UPDATE: To build this business I will be using the Unicorn Model to build an audience from zero to 100,000 visitors in 90 days (December 31st). Where the focus will be to:
- Invest heavily in producing a select few unicorn articles that are capable of being home runs for you.
- Create content that is 10 times better than your competitors by being so different that it creates an entirely new content category in your niche.
- Focus your content on the blue ocean. Content that challenges the status quo and gives readers a new way to view the world.
- Exploit the laws of leverage to expand the reach and virality of your ideas.
- Stack the odds of success in your favour by compounding your asymmetrical advantages overtime with consistent unicorn content.