A Strategy for Learning Strategy (or anything)

Welcome to the world of strategy. As a member of The Science of Strategy Institute, you have at your fingertips the most powerful methods in the world for learning and applying strategy to your life. I have taken the strategies of Sun Tzu and applied them to learning strategy itself. Of course, you could replace the word "strategy" in this article with any other subject and it would still apply.

WHY do you want to learn the art of strategy? This is the most important question of this article. Having solid reasons for your learning will sustain you on the sometimes difficult road ahead.

You are where you are in terms of your knowledge of strategy and must therefore start from where you are. The distance you have to travel to master strategy may be small or large, easy or difficult. You may approach the subject with an open mind or you can be narrow-minded. Either way, you must know WHERE you are when you begin this journey. You must also know WHERE you are going in order to map out a course of study.

You will be challenged at every step in this journey. You will find your emotions change between excited and indifferent, frustrated and relieved. There are TIMES when your emotions prevent you from learning and TIMES when they enhance your ability to learn. You must know the difference and study when the TIME is right and leave it when the TIMING doesn’t support you.

These three things, WHERE you are in terms of your knowledge, WHEN to learn based on your changing emotions, and WHY you want to learn are the secrets to providing the focus you require to succeed. These three together establish your learning environment and the FOCUS required for success.

With each new understanding, WHERE you are in terms of how much of your subject you have mastered will change. Moment by moment your emotions, or how you feel about learning your subject, will change. You are in total control of WHERE you are but not WHEN your emotions support you. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly monitor them, know them, and act on them. The only stability is WHY you learn. If you do not have strong convictions, you will eventually quit.

Embarking on a journey of knowledge is not simple. You will have to be organized in your approach. You need studying METHODS that you can count on. You’ll need a system that tells you WHEN to study, you must be organized to know WHERE you are lacking in knowledge. You must look to WHY you are learning strategy to find the STANDARDS by which you hold yourself accountable. Only YOU can create these METHODS based on your reasons WHY it’s important to you. When you do this, you will have attained the IDENTITY that sustains you.

How strong are YOU? Your own LEADERSHIP in this endeavor determines your victory. Whether you master this material or not is decided right now, not later. In order to learn the material you have to be SMART. You have to LISTEN or read the material and LEARN it. With every new piece of information you master, you shift WHERE you are closer and closer to WHERE you wish to be. It will take COURAGE to face the unknown and your vacillating feelings, emotions, and attitude toward learning. In order to fit this learning into your life you will have to say no to something else. You must create a schedule of study as part of your METHODS and be STRICT in following it. If you lack the self-discipline to follow through your failure is assured. However, if you are too STRICT with yourself, you will rebel against your own leadership. You also must really CARE about what you will achieve and the people it will affect. It goes back to WHY you’re learning. Is the reason strong enough to drive you? Last of all, can you really TRUST yourself to make it work?

Here are four skills that will help you along the way. First, consider what you know right now. LISTEN to yourself and honestly assess your current knowledge. Then, ENVISION how you will have to change in order to learn something new that alters your behavior. TIME your study habits with your own emotions and feelings. Next, take action, STUDY, and learn the material. But don’t stop until you can CLAIM that new knowledge as your own.

You should know that figuring out what you need to learn and putting in the effort to learn it will cost you. It costs you time, and time is money. Your only defense against this loss of time is to make sure that what you learn is applied. Unless you change WHERE you are then all you have done waste your time and cost yourself. The TIME spent studying strategy cannot be used for anything else. The EFFORT spent studying cannot be applied to any other endeavor. Therefore, you must make certain that your ability to apply strategy to everyday decisions is achieved in order to have a net gain.

BEWARE: there are enemies lurking in your mind and in your environment that will try to stop you. YOU are your own worst enemy. When you are trying to LISTEN and LEARN, the unexpected will happen and will SURPRISE you and disrupt WHERE you are making it difficult to stay on track. Even worse, you will DECEIVE yourself into thinking you know things when you really don’t. While you are attempting to put in the effort to memorize and learn the material, outside forces will BATTLE for your time and energy. Last of all, when you have nearly mastered some material, issues will arise in your life that lay SIEGE on your knowledge and set you back. You must be alert to these attacks on your learning.

There are seven questions you must continuously ask yourself and answer honestly while on your journey to master strategy:
1.What is the real purpose for my study of strategy?
2.Do I have the needed learning skills?
3.When and where are my best opportunities for learning?
4.Which studying techniques work best for me?
5.Where can I get the support I need?
6.Which leaders and sources can I learn from?
7.What rewards will make learning strategy worth cost and time it takes?

As you learn more and more about applying strategy in your life, you breadth and depth of knowledge will increase. Each time you learn something, you advance your knowledge and must ask and answer these questions again.

If all of this seems like common sense, it is. It has also laid out the entire first chapter of the “The Art of War.” As you progress through this program you will find every aspect of this story has come to life. You see, Sun Tzu’s strategy is for everyday use. Good luck on your journey.