This is the best way to learn strategy, but most ignore it

If you want to learn a skill like strategy, there are lots of resources to help you do it:

  • Books
  • Courses
  • Videos
  • Newsletters
  • Frameworks
  • Podcasts
  • Etc.

These are all great, and I’d recommend anything you can get your hands on (especially if they’re by me *cough*).

But there’s one problem with all that stuff.

It’s not yours.

All the knowledge that’s been captured and codified by people who went before you may be supremely true and valuable, but it’s also generic.  It’s become part of the canon, accessible to anyone, and so in that respect it has the effect of commodifying the people who consume it, rather than giving them an edge.

You see this particularly with any massively popular education concept – such as The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, or Alex Hormozi’s stuff.

Their insights and ideas are incredible – and their articulation of them is even better – however they were far more effective for them than they will be for you, because while they were refining the ideas they owned them, and were among the only people practicing them.

But once they become public knowledge?

Every loser with a laptop’s at it.

(As you can see for example with the deluge of Hormozi-lite social media ads that you see every day now).

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consume this stuff.  Far from it.  But it does mean these kinds of resources should just be part of your learning journey, not the sum of it.

So what’s the other part?

How else can we learn other than by deferring to authority?

In the most simple and obvious way that everyone seems to miss:

Using our own eyes.

Forming our own theories.
Arriving at our own conclusions.
Conducting our own analyses.

The way you do this is simply by looking at companies you admire, and asking yourself “what is going on here?  What are they doing that works?”.

Don’t research it.
Don’t seek out the case study.
Don’t look at what the CEO says.

Answer the question yourself.

I’m a bit biased here because this is how I learned 80%+ of the stuff I know about strategy.  I never had a boss or line manager in the field to teach me about it.  I never worked in a company that practiced it consciously as a discipline.  I only read one or two books on it.  I did maybe one course way back in the day.

Frankly I did barely anything to learn the game except direct, real world observation.

Cultivating this habit confers huge advantages:

  1. It gets you thinking strategically on the highest level, without actually needing to work for these organisations.  You may never get hired by Apple, but you sure as hell can unpack what they’re doing for yourself, which is a pretty good simulation.
  2. It lets you see stuff that even these companies themselves are unaware of.  I reckon at least 50% of strategic advantage is unintentional, so if you only read the “official narrative” about what a brand’s trying to do you’ll only get half the strategic juice from it.  The other half you have to figure out for yourself.
  3. It will give you a unique angle which nobody else has.

Believe me, loads of my best schtick I didn’t (knowingly) learn from any particular source.  I just post-rationalised it.  This is part of what gives me an edge.

And you can do it too.

For free.
With no permission required.

So my challenge to you in 2024 is this:

Stop seeing the world only through others’ eyes.  Stop seeing it only through the eyes of authority and expertise.  Start to see it through your eyes too.

Because honestly, it’s all just opinion at the end of the day, and yours is as valid as mine or anyone else’s.

The only difference is that it’s yours.

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