I was the VP of marketing for a mobile app startup that failed.
I then interviewed at many companies in Silicon Valley to get another job in tech.
Four of these companies had around twenty people on their team.
Each of these four would become billion-dollar companies.
This list included companies like Marketo and Grammarly.
None of them hired me.
Without much luck, I ran out of savings and moved in with my Dad.
Having zero job prospects, I picked up the habits of reading and writing every day.
For two simple reasons:
Over the next year, I read one-hundred-and-twenty books on business, psychology, and threw in a couple of fiction novels as well.
I wanted to believe I was smarter.
But I didn't feel my brain cells firing.
It wasn't until years later when I'd use much of what I'd learned.
It finally became relevant.
I read war stories about CEOs and founders.
I read about how you should lead a team to greatness.
I read about how to get investors to like your startup pitch.
Yet, I wasn't a CEO, founder, leading a team, or even in the startup world.
I was an unemployed writer living with his parents.
Moreover, an unemployed writer preparing for when my dream came true rather than executing to get there. Big mistake.
What did help me?
All the grammar books I read during that time.
I could apply them right away.
I didn't see the benefit correlation until I heard about just-in-time learning.
To boil it down, it means learning when you need it the most.
In other words, when you have the problem.
I came across this last week when I took a plane to speak at a conference.
At 45,00 feet in the air, I read the book, Good to Great, by author Jim Collins.
When I came back to the office a couple of days later, I took a few actions based on the book. This included changing how we hire by making culture fit a more important piece when critiquing candidates.
What I realized is this time the learnings were actionable.
The book, Good to Great, is all about how to become a better CEO.
And I'm currently a CEO so it gave me exactly what I needed.
That's what I call "just-in-time reading."
It's reading when it's relevant to you.
Most of us don't do this because we like to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more.
But that doesn't get us anywhere.
What we need to do is get to the problem, then find the solution.
But as humans, we're wired to stay away from hard work.
We rather plan for it.
Delay the pain as long as possible.
The issue with this is the challenges we think we'll face often don't come to fruition.
Most of the time, they're completely different than what we expect.
Even in obstacle course racing. When I ran a Toughest Mudder (25 miles with 50+ obstacles), I asked fellow racers how they prepare.
All the top racers said the same thing -
"The best way is to participate in the shorter races."
They didn't say run, climb stairs, or jump rope. They told me to do shorter versions of the same race. I thought they were crazy because it sounded painful. Yet, they were right.
Because in order to achieve a goal, it takes execution first.
Then figuring out how to get better afterward.
That's why today, I apply "just-in-time reading."
Because it's easy to prepare for the big, bad wolf. But sometimes that wolf doesn't come out of the cave. Instead, it's a friendly dog rolling on its back for attention.
So if you want to read like successful people do -
Get to the problem first.
Then pick up the book.