Terminal Value

Take Learning to the Next Level with Brandon Hakim

Doug Utberg

Business Growth Authority | Technology Strategy & Resourcing | Cost Optimization Expert | Business Process Architect | Financial Strategist | Founder - Terminal Value Podcast

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We have Brandon Hakim with us today InsiderSchool.com. And Brandon actually has a unique story, but before I start going into his Marvel Hero backstory, the topic of our conversation today is going to be learning to the next level. And the reason why that’s kind of an interesting topic of conversation is because when Brandon was in College, he actually went into his Dean’s office and then he told them that he felt like he was getting an outdated education. And that actually started him on a journey of personally reading over 1000 books and then helping over 400,000 people learn how to read faster and more efficiently. And so what he does now is he really helps people to absorb information from books because at least speaking from my perspective, I think books are really unique in that if you think about it, you’re basically taking about five to ten years of somebody’s life and you’re getting to absorb it over the course of about two to 4 hours, depending on the length of the book. And so if you do that a few hundred times, you learn quite a bit. So, Brandon, don’t let me talk too much. Please introduce yourself and let’s get the show going.

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Like you said, for me, all of this started when I was in College and I was in that first class and just sitting there and I was wondering when would I ever use this information? And then when I went to the Dean and she said, we’re working on it. So I was like, okay, if she’s kind of agreeing with what I’m saying, then I should believe her. And that’s when I started reading books. And like you said, one turned to two turned into four turned into over 1000 books.

I don’t want to get us off on a tangent, but I’ll burn a little 30 seconds under. So what is your thought on reading new books versus rereading books that you’ve already covered? The reason why I ask is because I am an avid re-reader of certain books. There are certain books that I’ve read 5 10. I don’t know if I’ve cracked 20 on too many copies, but there are a lot of books that I read over and over and over again over the course of a number of months. And what I found is that there’s always something pretty significant that I missed the first time through. So if it’s a really in depth business book, I’ll usually have to go through it four or five times before I really absorb all the Nuggets. As somebody who’s read so many books. I’m interested to know your perspective there.

That’s such a good question. And really the thing about any book, people think that the goal of a book is to read a book. Kind of like the goal of an assignment in school is to do the assignment. But in reality, the goal of a book is for whatever is in that book to become a part of who you are. Right. That’s what real learning is.

Real learning, unlike what they tell us in school, is not memorizing facts. It’s not collecting information. It’s about changing your neurology. It’s about taking something and having it become a part of who you are.

So if that’s the case, then those books that really resonate with you, you do want to read them again and again and again. And I think that’s how you decide how often to read a book is A how deeply have I already ingrained it? And B, how deeply do I want to ingrain? And if there’s a big gap between those two things, then it’s one of those books you want to read again and again.

I was going to say, because the context I was talking about was in nonfiction. But my favorite fiction book, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Duma, I’ve probably read that about five or six times. And every time I get a little something different out of it because of course, right. The first time you read it, it’s about, okay, it’s the journey of Edmund Dantes and getting revenge. And then you read it again, you’re like, okay, well, this is actually really the loss and redemption that everybody goes through at one point or another in their life. And then you read it again and you get to where you’re like, okay, no, there’s actually a maturation of edmodante’s character where he switches from cold hearted revenge to actually having empathy for the people who had wronged him earlier in his life. And then you read it again and you start to see some of the deeper metaphors in terms of how a number of characters kind of manifest within the lifetime of an individual person and throughout history and kind of the circular nature of how what happens in one domain finds its way into another domain. I may just be overanalyzing, but that’s just one of the things that I keep thinking.

I like that. Yeah, of course. I was speaking specifically about nonfiction books. Sure. I was just taking this off on attention, back on topic. Keep going. No, I think that’s exactly it. I think in terms of those books that most resonate with you, the goal, in my opinion, should be that if someone were to see you walking down the street or someone that knows you, they could think to themselves, say, you know what? This person is a walking, living, breathing example of that book. So I like to think of it that way as well.

Well, tell us a little bit about some of the work that you’ve done. You said you’ve helped 400,000 people read faster and more efficiently, help us unpack that a little bit because I’ve tried speed reading, I’ve never really been able to be very good at it. I find that I can read fast, but my retention tends to not be as good. And so my actual rate of reading for retention is pretty slow. And so that’s actually one of the things that I have a little bit of an ulterior motive here, because I would love to learn how to be able to retain information more rapidly.

Yes. And I think the goal for me is never just to like, finish a book as quickly as possible. Of course, like you said, the goal is retention. And the truth is that some books, in my opinion, should be read very slowly. You drink it in like a nice cup of tea. And other books, like many personal development books or things like that. It’s the complete opposite. Let me get through it as quickly as possible. And of course, there are different approaches. I think that the biggest mistake anybody could make when it comes to reading is just having a one size fits all approach.

Yeah. So I would say yes. And I was also thinking I want to make sure that we don’t dive too far off topic, because to me, the real topic of what we’re exploring here is the idea of self directed development through reading books, because particularly if you have access to a library which most people listen to, this podcast will that. And if you have an Amazon account which makes books just disturbingly cheap, is that there is literally infinite amount of information that’s available to absorb if you want to. And so I think the question is going to be how do you decide what information you want to go see, can find? And then how do you make sure that you retain as much of what you really want to hold on to as you can?

Yeah, I think in terms of what information to go after. Naval Robin, I think, said it best. He said, follow your intellectual curiosity. He said, read what you love until you love what you read. So I think for me, it always comes down to, of course, in theory, it should be okay. What will best help me accomplish my goals. That’s what I should read or learn. But I think in practice, it’s way more useful to say, what am I genuinely most curious about right now? And to follow that and then just watch the rabbit hole that takes you down, you go down that, and then that opens up something else. You know what? Now I want to explore this, and now I want to explore this other thing, and it makes the journey so much more fun. And then in terms of retention, of course, this is also a deep topic, but very high level. I like to talk about Cicero, the Roman order statesman from around 2000 years ago. And you said that we have two types of memory. We have memory for words and memory for concepts. And our memory for words is absolutely horrible. But our memory for concepts is pretty good. The thing is that most of us never take the author’s words and turn them into our own concepts. You just take the words, you try to regurgitate them, you underline them, whatever. And then it’s called the curse of knowledge. You believe you’ve actually learned it. But if someone were to ask you a week later, two weeks later, tell me about that book, you’d be able to tell maybe a paragraph worth of the 250 pages you read. So one of the most powerful things we can do is to take the words and turn them into concepts. So often you pause the audiobook, you close the actual book and you say, okay, what did I just learn? And not repeating it in the author’s words, but repeating it in your own words, your own concepts, and preferably doing it out loud. And I think the more you do that, the more you lock in what you’ve learned. And it’s very helpful to do it. Let’s say you just read a paragraph that really hit you. You stop saying, hey, great, what was that paragraph about? And then at the end of the chapter, you say, what did I learn this chapter? And then at the end of your reading session that day, what did I learn today during my reading session? And then when you finished the book, okay, what did I learn inside of this book? And I think when you use that concept of turning it into your own concepts, number one, and number two, layering the process when you’re doing it at different intervals, it really helps with retention significantly.

That’s excellent, because the thing that I keep kind of thinking about is as solicitors to this podcast, right. They’ll either be your principally are either going to be founder entrepreneurs or executive decision makers. I think in both cases there is a significant need for continued personal development. And now in some cases that will be structured, but in a lot of cases it’s self directed. And I think self directed development at least can be tricky because there’s not necessarily somebody there really telling you what to do. Because one of the things that I think about when I reflect kind of backward on my own career, I keep thinking I’m like, okay, well, if I could transplant what I knew now about, say, self development, networking into a 25 year old version of myself, I keep thinking I go, well, I go, yeah, if I did that, boy, my career could have risen so much faster than it did. But then I think, okay, yeah, but if I did that, then I probably would say, well, what do I need a corporate career for? I’ll just go out and do it on my own. But yeah, I’m actually not even sure where I was going with that. But just thinking about the importance of kind of really valuable self directed development just for both executives and entrepreneurs. And so I just like to see what are some of the things that you’ve seen kind of in that domain. What’s been the most effective?

In which domain? Executive.

Let’s just say just self directed development for decision makers.

Got it.

People running businesses.

Yeah. I think that the thing that really keep in mind is that you can become an expert in almost any topic. I talked about this in my course, but Elon Musk, everybody talks about Elon Musk, but he didn’t get a degree in automotive engineering or rocket science yet. Those are the two primary domains of his Tesla and SpaceX. And I remember Jim Cantrella, who was a founding member of SpaceX, said that Elon taught himself, he read textbooks, all these things. And when someone asked him, how did you learn these things? He said that same way anybody goes about learning something. I read books and I talk to people. And I think that’s really what it comes down to. Number one, realizing that you can become an expert in almost anything. And when you realize that that opens up a world for you, that before you have that realization, you don’t even take the actions necessary, you don’t really pursue it. I think having that awareness of, wow, wherever I am in my career as an executive or decision maker, there is no limit to where I can go.

It’s not limited by what I learned in school or by what I’m learning in my current job opportunity. The limit is to the degree that I commit myself to my development. I think that realization is really the first step. And then beyond that, there are a lot of practical things that we can do.

Well, okay, so let’s kind of take this metaphor to the next level. Then let’s say that you get to transplant your brain into a 26, 23 year old version of yourself where you have no money, no connections. Only thing you know is the only thing you have is your current knowledge base and desire to learn about stuff. What do you do?

Yeah, I think there’s two things. I didn’t even realize the connection till I just said it, but I think it really goes back to what I just shared about Elon Musk reading books and talking to people. And let’s start with the talking to people part. I think that if you read, have you read the book Shoe Doug by Phil Knight?

That one is on my list, actually. Well, in fact, it’s on my kids reading list. And so what I was planning on doing was pinching it from their shelf as soon as they finished reading it for school.

I like that it’s a fantastic read. But you see that in the development of Nike that, yes, he was the creator of Nike, so to speak, but that it took a tribe to build that company. It really took a tribe of people who were so committed and lived and breathed. Even the name Nike didn’t come from him. It came from their first employee. And I think

we don’t realize the degree that any goal that we want to achieve relies on other people.

Literally any goal doesn’t matter if it’s getting in shape or losing weight or becoming more flexible in the personal domain. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you want to take a relationship to the next level or get married or whatever it is in that domain. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your career and you want to make more money. It relies on other people. So I think the first thing that I would do at that stage, 22, 23, is the same thing that I’m doing now, asking myself, who do I need to get involved in this process? And I’ll even give you an example, one of my goals for a long time was to get more flexible, and you have a goal like that and you think, okay, what I need to do is stretch. So I’ve done all sorts of things. I went to a yoga class an hour a day, hot yoga for 200 days in a row. My flexibility improved very slightly. I’ve done just stretching on my own every day, again, very slightly. I’m like, okay, who do I need to get involved? And I found two people who one person has a very specific stretching technique, which is very intense, and someone else does body work and just do those two people. The movement on that goal has been significantly more than all of those efforts of working in the wrong thing. So step one, who do I need to get involved? Who else do I need to get involved? And then who else do I need to get involved? The second thing is learning is setting a plan for developing skills. And I think it’s very important when it comes to learning. Yes, learning widely, learning very broadly, learning as many things as you want you’re curious about, but also asking yourself, okay, what are the skills that I want to develop? Is it sales, is it being an executive, whatever it is, and spending time on a very regular basis up leveling those skills, whether it’s through books, whether it’s through online courses, whatever it is, but on an almost daily basis, if not daily, up leveling those skills so that you look back in one year, three years, five years, like, wow, I’m much more valuable person to the marketplace than I was one, three, five years before.

Well, and I think there’s something you said that there was a thoughts and apps that occurred to me when you were talking about that, and that I think when you are up leveling your skills and you think about your value to the marketplace, that usually will correlate with your compensation, but not always, because one of the things, at least that I found in my corporate career was that as you would ascend you would over time get paid more and more and more for a narrower and narrower and narrower skill set. And so what will happen is a lot of times as you are expanding your breadth of knowledge on topics that may not directly correlate to being paid more this year or next year. But what I think it will do is it will strengthen the interconnections within your mind and also strengthen your ability to either create new ideas, adapt new situations, or any number of other things. Because one of the things you read about a lot of times is whenever there’s a down economy and companies go through downsizing, there’s a lot of people who have been saying in one career track for 30 years who just really struggled to adapt to the new world because they’ve developed a very narrow domain of expertise. And so I think that you’re just kind of well, for me, I’m an intellectually curious person, so I just want to learn about everything I possibly can. But even if you’re just thinking from a kind of career continuity perspective, I think that

continually expanding your Horizons of knowledge and cross connections is really important because it will help you to continue creating value in your current career path and will also make it much easier for you to cross over your current domain of expertise to another domain or another company or another industry if that becomes necessary.

Is this something you’ve seen with your clients?

Absolutely. I think like you said, it’s not always if X, then Y type of thing. But I think the important thing because also you could continue up leveling your skills, but it still requires you to maybe have a difficult conversation or make a difficult decision to make a leap to something else that you’re not comfortable doing. It’s not as simple as, okay, just have the skills. And then now you automatically everyone recognizes that you have the skills. You still have to take some sort or make some changes to be able to then apply those skills in the world.

Got you. All right. Well, Brandon, can you give us a few extra thoughts or one or two thoughts to kind of finish us off with last few Nuggets of wisdom and then let everybody know where they can learn more?

Yeah. I guess one thing that this last topic kind of sparked for me that you just brought up is supposedly Warren Buffett has a lot of quotable things that he said. But one thing that he said was that it’s not as important how hard you row as what boat you’re in. And he was talking about how he went to school with someone who is an executive at a steel company and doing okay, whereas Warren was worth one of the richest people today and his point was that that person as the executive Wasn’t necessarily working a lot Or Warren wasn’t working necessarily much harder than that person more. So he was in the right boat. He was in a boat where he didn’t have to row as hard but was able to get more results. And I think it’s always very important to ask ourselves we’re always so close to the problem of what we’re working on that we don’t often take a step back and ask ourselves, am I in the right boat in the first place? Am I pursuing the right opportunity? Am I in the right career? Am I in the right company? And I think going back to having the right skills, you can develop the skills. But it’s so important to ask yourself what boat am I in and what boat should I be in? So that’s just one thought that came to mind.

That’s really good. That’s definitely one to chew on for a little bit. Where can people find out some more? Do you have a website you’d like to give out?

Yeah, I think that the best place to go is insiderschool.com. At the very least, join my I have an email newsletter every single day I send out a little bit of wisdom from a book or something taken from thousands of pages of reading. It’s just a quick two minute email so make sure you join that newsletter and that would probably be the best place. I also post on Instagram occasionally so my Instagram handle is @brandonhakim.

Outstanding @BrandonHakim. All right, Brandon, we appreciate your time today.

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

All right, well, everybody have a wonderful rest of your day And I will talk to you next episode.

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