• James Walton

How I Learn Quickly

In my role as consultant, I've worked with community service nonprofits, educational institutions, automotive mechanics, construction outfits, IT service providers, Fortune 500 tech companies, and high growth ecommerce startups, among others.

Each time I was brought in to help people who were already experts in their field figure how to do their job more effectively.

It's probably obvious to you, but it bears repeating: I have never worked in any of these industries.

Apart from regular battles with imposter syndrome, I was left with a knowledge and competency gap I had to quickly fill in order to be useful to the people who had hired me.

Here's what I've learning about learning quickly that may help you as well:

Consume Lots of Content

Learning is my drug of choice, and I recognize not everyone is predisposed in a similar way. But being in the habit of inputting quality insights into your life makes learning the next thing easier. This process will shape your identity as "someone who can learn new things" so when the next new thing comes along, you'll be predisposed to see it as an enjoyable game, rather than a deflating burden.

Each book, whitepaper, webinar, YouTube tutorial, podcast, or audiobook is like a seed that will bear fruit at some point in the future. Numerous times in engagement with clients, they'll bring up a problem whose solution I'm aware of because I made it a point to consume lots of content ahead of time.

Capture and Index what You Learn

It matters little if you read 50 books a year if you can't retain or recall that information in a timely way. As an antidote to consuming much and retaining little, I started writing my own book summaries in a Google doc that's now grown to over 150 pages. It's like a personal CliffNotes of my entire library, and is written in sufficient detail that I can quickly search for the title in question and have meaningful insights in moments. Rather than picking up the book again, I just open my Google Doc.

Make Friends with Smart People

Everyone you know is smarter than you in a certain area. Selfish as it sounds, try to identify the folks in your life whose expertise can benefit you. Prior to engagement with clients in industries I know little about, I will call people who do have that industry experience and ask them a series of questions. What I'm looking for in those encounters is how they think and industry benchmarks and best practices. Again, capture and index what you gather from those conversations to refer later.

Your enduring competitive advantage as a professional is tied to your ability to be a life-long learner. Hopefully these simple ideas aid you in the process.


At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos.

If you feel overwhelmed and need a proven system to focus on the next best thing, we can help. Companies who work with us see revenues go up, anxiety go down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people.

Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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