Ada Barlatt on the Relationship Between Learning and Business

Ada Barlatt

You’ve probably heard about the 10,000-hour rule (you may have even heard me talking about it). Malcolm Gladwell discusses it in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. While he didn’t invent the idea, he does explain it well.

The concept is simple: if you spend 10,000 hours practicing and studying your craft, then you’re an expert. Ta da!

I doubt that there is anything magical about 10,000 hours. But I do agree with the idea that time spent practicing and studying consistently over time can lead to expertise. Also, I doubt anyone would disagree that the path to becoming an expert starts with knowledge and learning.

I discussed this topic (among others) during an interview with Dr. Ada Barlatt for my Own Your Expertise series. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, you don’t want to miss it! And our conversation sparked some “ah-ha” moments for me.

As I listened to Ada describe her path to becoming a launch expert, I was struck by how so much of what she does in her business goes back to always being in a learning mode. Maybe it’s the former professor in her—Ada was an engineering professor before starting her business OperationsAlly—but whatever the reason, learning plays a huge role.

It makes perfect sense to me. I’ve had the thought many times that my natural curiosity and hunger for learning has helped me in my business. When I talk to a prospect or client, I’m automatically in learning mode. 

This means:

  • I listen well. 
  • I almost always know what questions to ask to get the information I need. 
  • I am prepared to meet clients where they’re at and bring them to where I want them at any point during the process.
  • I know almost instantly whether the person I’m talking to is a good fit to work with me.

Ada has had a similar experience. She believes everyone can use technology, automation, and data to meet their business goals, as long as it’s presented in a “format that works for them and helps them make decisions.” Figuring out how to present data for each individual client is Ada’s way of translating her expertise for others. It’s truly an invaluable tool as a business owner.

Beyond being in learning mode, I believe the reason 10,000 hours is a good benchmark for expertise is because of the confidence factor. If you practice anything for 10,000 hours, you’re going to gain a level of confidence you didn’t have in hour 5.

The Paradox of Knowledge

But there is also an interesting paradox here that seems to be related to the “curse of knowledge.”

The Paradox of Knowledge: There can be fear built into the process of gaining the confidence that comes with knowledge, i.e., the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know.

You actually can feel more secure in your knowledge before you “round the corner” and realize the enormity of all that you have left to learn. This fear (maybe also related to imposter syndrome) can be soul crushing and it can absolutely hold you back.

What? How can practice and experience over time bring us to a place of both confidence and fear?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out. But I do think the cure for this kind of fear is looking back on how far we’ve come, celebrating those wins, and focusing on what we need to get done in the present moment.

All we can do is put one foot in front of the other. After all, what would have happened if at hour 5, instead of celebrating those hours of lessons learned, we had looked up to see the 9,995 more hours left on our journey? 

If we’re lucky, the path to becoming an expert never really ends. It just branches off in directions we could have never predicted. Personally, I’ll be taking Ada’s advice and staying in learning mode as much as possible.

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