6 Greg Brockman Secrets on How to Learn Anything – blog




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Greg Brockman is the co-founder and President of OpenAI, and one of the visionaries behind ChatGPT.

For the first three years of his OpenAI career, Brockman wasn’t a machine learning expert despite being heavily involved in development (and despite wanting to learn). Then in 2018, he set his mind to mastering machine learning and did so in nine months. He wrote about his journey in a blog titled: “How I became a machine learning practitioner”.

Here are 6 ways that Greg Brockman used to learn machine learning quickly, which you can employ in your own life – especially if you are trying to learn something late in your career.

Before we start: Who is Greg Brockman?

Greg Brockman is the President of OpenAI and a former CTO of Stripe. An MIT dropout, he co-founded OpenAI in 2015 along with Sam Altman, Elon Musk and other big names in AI. He has led key projects like OpenAI Gym and OpenAI Five, and of course ChatGPT.

1. Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset: The Mental Barrier to Learning Anything New

“There are many online courses to self-study the technical side, and what turned out to be my biggest blocker was a mental barrier — getting OK with being a beginner again.

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

This sentiment resonates with many of us, whether we’re diving into a new programming language, picking up a musical instrument, or venturing into the world of entrepreneurship. The mental hurdle of accepting our beginner status (especially if we’ve already crossed 30 or 40) often overshadows the technical challenges we face.

So, how can we overcome this mental barrier and truly learn anything we set our minds to?

The Power of the Beginner’s Mind

In Zen Buddhism, there’s a concept called “Shoshin,” or “Beginner’s Mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions, much like a beginner or a child encountering a subject for the first time. When we adopt a beginner’s mind, we free ourselves from the shackles of our own expertise and ego. We become more receptive to learning, unburdened by the fear of failure or judgment.

Here are some books we suggest to learn more about this concept:

Book TitleAuthorConcise Description
Mindset: The New Psychology Of SuccessCarol DweckThis book explores the concept of a growth mindset, emphasizing that our abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
Novice to Expert: 6 Steps to Learn Anything, Increase Your Knowledge, and Master New SkillsS.J. ScottOffering a practical approach, this book presents six steps to progress from a beginner to an expert in any field by focusing on deliberate practice and continuous learning.
Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong LearningTom VanderbiltAddressing the fear and stigma associated with being a beginner, this book celebrates the process of lifelong learning and highlights the transformative power it holds.

2. The Power of Purpose-Driven Learning: Building What You Love

“I learn best when I have something specific in mind to build. I decided to try building a chatbot.”

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

This nugget of wisdom is more than just a personal preference; it’s a universal key to unlocking the joy and effectiveness of the learning process. Let’s delve into why learning with a specific goal in mind—especially one that aligns with your interests—can be a game-changer.

The Pitfall of Disconnected Learning

Imagine you’re passionate about football and you want to learn programming. You enroll in a course that focuses on financial analysis examples. While the coding skills are transferable, the subject matter feels like a chore. You’re not excited about stock trends or balance sheets; you’re excited about player stats and game strategies. The disconnection between what you’re learning and what you’re passionate about can lead to dwindling interest, reduced motivation, and eventually, giving up.

The Magic of Aligned Interests

But what if you loved football and you were building a football data analysis program? Every line of code you write brings you closer to understanding your favorite sport on a deeper level. You’re not just learning; you’re creating something that excites you. This alignment between your learning project and your interests can be the fuel that drives you through challenges and complexities. You’re not just studying to pass a test; you’re studying to build something meaningful to you.

Actionable Steps to Align Your Learning with Your Interests

  1. Identify Your Passion: Before diving into a new learning journey, take a moment to identify what truly excites you. It could be anything from cooking to astronomy.
  2. Find the Intersection: Look for the overlap between your chosen field of study and your interests. If you’re into gaming and want to learn math, why not focus on game theory?
  3. Set a Specific Goal: Like Greg Brockman building a chatbot, have a concrete project in mind. This will give your learning journey direction and purpose.
  4. Break It Down: Divide your project into smaller tasks. Each task you complete will not only bring you closer to your end goal but also provide a sense of accomplishment.
  5. Seek Relevant Resources: Choose courses, books, or tutorials that align with your project. Customized learning materials will keep you engaged.

Here are some books (aside from Robert Greene’s infamous Mastery) we suggest to help you develop and stick to your passion:

Book TitleAuthorDescription
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes EverythingSir Ken RobinsonThis book explores the concept of finding your true passion and how it can transform your life. It provides practical advice and inspiring stories to help readers discover their own passion and live a fulfilling life.
Grit: The Power of Passion and PerseveranceAngela DuckworthIn this book, Angela Duckworth emphasizes the importance of perseverance and resilience in achieving long-term goals. It offers insights on how to cultivate passion and develop the grit needed to overcome obstacles and stay committed to your passions.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative BattlesSteven PressfieldThis book delves into the challenges faced by creatives and provides strategies to overcome self-doubt, procrastination, and resistance. It offers valuable insights and practical techniques to help individuals pursue their passions with confidence and consistency.

The “secret” Sam Altman blog post that will change your life

In 2019, Sam Altman – the visionary CEO steering OpenAI, penned a blog post that slipped under many people’s radars (and is still flying under the radar – we would argue).

The blog post, fittingly titled “How to be successful”, is an absolute treasure trove of wisdom for anyone on a mission to make waves in their personal or professional journey. Read our summary here.

3. The Drive to See the Whole Picture: Overcoming Self-Doubt in Learning

I honestly wasn’t confident that I would ever become good at machine learning. But I kept pushing because… well, honestly because I didn’t want to be constrained to only understanding one part of my projects. I wanted to see the whole picture clearly.

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

The key lesson here is the importance of having a broader vision that fuels your perseverance, even when you’re plagued by self-doubt.

The Struggle with Self-Doubt

We’ve all been there—staring at a textbook or a blank screen, wondering if we’ll ever grasp the subject matter. Self-doubt is a common companion on any learning journey. It whispers in your ear, telling you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to master the new skill or subject you’re tackling.

The Importance of a Broader Vision

Greg Brockman’s motivator was his broader vision: he didn’t want to be a specialist trapped in a silo; he wanted to be a polymath with a panoramic view. When you aim to see the “whole picture clearly,” each piece of knowledge becomes a part of a larger, more meaningful puzzle.

Actionable Steps to Overcome Self-Doubt Through Vision

  1. Define Your ‘Whole Picture’: What is the broader context or project that makes your learning goal meaningful? Identify that, and write it down as a constant reminder.
  2. Break Down the Vision: Divide your broader vision into smaller, more manageable learning objectives. This makes the journey less overwhelming and more achievable.
  3. Track Your Progress: Keep a journal or a log where you note down what you’ve learned and how it contributes to your broader vision. This can be a great morale booster.
  4. Seek Inspiration: Whenever self-doubt creeps in, look for stories or talk to people who have successfully navigated similar challenges. Their journey can serve as a roadmap and inspiration for your own.
  5. Revisit Your Vision: Periodically return to your broader vision to see how far you’ve come and what more you need to learn. This can reignite your passion and drive.

Here are some books we suggest to help you understand these dynamics:

Book TitleAuthorConcise Description
“The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt”Russ HarrisThis self-help guide, based on acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness practices, provides insights and techniques for managing self-doubt and building confidence.
“The Gifts of Imperfection”Brené BrownIn this book, Brené Brown explores the concept of embracing imperfections and cultivating self-compassion to overcome self-doubt and lead a wholehearted life.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome LifeJen SinceroJen Sincero offers practical advice and exercises to help readers overcome self-doubt, tap into their inner power, and live a life they love.

4. The Power of Support: How an Accountability Buddy Can Transform Your Learning Journey

couple in love

My personal life was also an important factor in keeping me going. I’d begun a relationship with someone who made me feel it was OK if I failed. I spent our first holiday season together beating my head against the machine learning wall, but she was there with me no matter how many planned activities it meant skipping.

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

The key lesson here is the transformative power of having a supportive figure in your life—an accountability buddy—when you’re on a challenging learning journey. Not everyone can rely on a figure in a romantic relationship, but all of us have the capacity to link up with someone to act as an accountability buddy.

The Emotional Toll of Learning

Learning something new is not just a cognitive challenge; it’s an emotional one as well. The fear of failure, self-doubt, and the sheer frustration of not “getting it” can be draining. At times like these, having someone who supports you emotionally can make all the difference. They don’t have to understand the intricacies of machine learning or whatever you’re studying; they just have to understand you.

The Role of an Accountability Buddy

An accountability buddy is more than just a cheerleader. This person helps you stay on track, providing both emotional support and a gentle nudge when you’re slacking off. They celebrate your wins, however small, and help you navigate through your failures without losing self-esteem.

In Greg Brockman’s case, his significant other played this role, making him feel that it was okay to fail, thereby freeing him from one of the most paralyzing fears learners face.

Actionable Steps to Find and Utilize an Accountability Buddy

  1. Identify the Right Person: Your accountability buddy should be someone you trust and feel comfortable being vulnerable with. It could be a friend, family member, or even a colleague.
  2. Set Clear Goals: Share your learning objectives with your accountability buddy. The more specific you are, the better they can hold you accountable.
  3. Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular times to update your buddy on your progress. This keeps you accountable and provides opportunities for constructive feedback.
  4. Be Open to Feedback: Your accountability buddy is there to offer support, but also to provide honest feedback. Be open to hearing what they have to say.
  5. Celebrate Together: Every milestone reached or obstacle overcome is a reason to celebrate. Share these moments with your accountability buddy to reinforce positive behavior.
  6. Reciprocate: Accountability is a two-way street. Offer to be your buddy’s accountability partner in their endeavors, creating a cycle of mutual growth and support.

Here are some books we suggest to help you:

Book TitleAuthorDescription
“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”James ClearJames Clear explores the power of small habits and incremental changes in achieving personal growth and success. This book can help you understand how to utilize support systems, including accountability buddies, to transform your learning journey.
“The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)”Gretchen RubinIn this book, Gretchen Rubin introduces her framework of the “Four Tendencies” to understand how individuals respond to expectations. By identifying your tendency, you can harness the power of accountability and support to better navigate your learning journey.
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”Carol S. DweckCarol S. Dweck explores the concept of growth mindset versus fixed mindset and how it impacts our ability to learn and grow. This book provides insights on how to cultivate a supportive mindset and leverage accountability to transform your learning journey.

Looking to find your BIG money idea like Greg? Click here to view the largest collection of “how to make money with ChatGPT” articles on the internet.

There are ideas for every niche, and it’s free: click here.

5. The Superpower of Asking “Dumb” Questions: Accelerating Your Learning Curve

“Being willing to ask dumb questions is a superpower. Often by far the fastest way to get oriented in a new domain, and though perhaps counterintuitive, experts tend to love it when people genuinely want to learn about their passion area.”

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

The key takeaway here is that the willingness to ask questions, even those that may seem “dumb,” is not a sign of weakness but a powerful tool for accelerated learning.

The Fear of Asking Questions

Let’s face it, nobody wants to look uninformed or naive, especially when entering a new domain. This fear often holds us back from asking questions that could clarify our understanding. We’d rather struggle in silence than risk appearing ignorant. But this hesitation can slow down our learning process and even lead to misunderstandings that could have been easily avoided.

The Benefits of Asking “Dumb” Questions

As Greg Brockman points out, asking questions is often the fastest way to get oriented in a new field. It cuts through the ambiguity and gets you the specific information you need. Moreover, experts usually appreciate genuine curiosity. When you ask questions, you’re not just gaining new insights; you’re also building relationships with people who can guide you further in your learning journey.

The secrets behind the success of Mira Murati – blog – finally revealed

Mira Murati, the 34-year-old CTO of OpenAI, is relatively secretive.

So, it was a somewhat surprise when she opened up about her life during a podcast with Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott recently.

In this revealing conversation, Mira dived into the defining moments and driving forces behind her meteoric rise, from her time at Tesla to becoming the CTO of the company that’s making waves in the tech world.

We’ve collected the best takeaways from her interview here for your inspiration.

6. The Wisdom of Knowing When to Step Back

AI is not for every software engineer. I’ve seen about a 50-50 success rate of engineers entering this field. The most important determiner is a specific flavor of technical humility. Many dearly-held intuitions from other domains will not apply to ML. The engineers who make the leap successfully are happy to be wrong (since it means they learned something), aren’t afraid not to know something…

Greg Brockman, President & Co-Founder of OpenAI

This statement packs a powerful lesson: sometimes what you’re trying to learn—or implement in the case of companies—may not be the right fit, and that’s okay.

The Importance of Self-Awareness and Alignment

The engineers who succeed in making the leap to AI, according to Brockman, are those who are “happy to be wrong” and “aren’t afraid not to know something.” This speaks volumes about the importance of aligning your learning journey with your innate qualities and interests. If you find that you’re forcing yourself to adapt to a field that doesn’t resonate with you, it might be time to reconsider.

The Illusion of Universal Applicability

With the buzz around AI reaching a fever pitch, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s the magic bullet for every problem or the must-learn skill for every engineer. Companies are scrambling to integrate AI into their operations, often without a clear understanding of its relevance or applicability to their specific industry. Similarly, engineers and professionals are diving headfirst into learning AI, sometimes without the passion or the “technical humility” that Brockman mentions.

Actionable Steps to Assess Fit and Alignment

  1. Conduct a Self-Assessment: Before diving into a new field like AI, take time to assess your interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Are you genuinely passionate about it, or are you following a trend?
  2. Research Industry Needs: If you’re a company considering AI integration, conduct a thorough analysis to determine if AI can genuinely solve a problem or add value to your business.
  3. Consult with Experts: Whether you’re an individual or a company, seek advice from those who have successfully navigated the complexities of AI. Their insights can be invaluable.
  4. Pilot and Evaluate: Before fully committing, consider running a small pilot project. The outcomes can offer a reality check on whether you should proceed or pivot.
  5. Be Open to Change: If you find that AI—or any other field—isn’t aligning with your goals or adding value to your company, be willing to change course.
  6. Reflect on Failures: If things don’t work out, instead of viewing it as a failure, see it as a learning opportunity that brings you one step closer to finding what truly resonates with you.

Here are some books we suggest to help you remain true to you

Book TitleAuthorDescription
“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”Brené BrownBrené Brown explores the importance of embracing imperfections, cultivating self-compassion, and aligning your life with your authentic self.
“Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life”Bill Burnett, Dave EvansThis book offers a framework for designing a life aligned with your values, interests, and strengths, helping you make informed decisions about your learning journey.
“The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose”Oprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey shares insights from various thought leaders, guiding readers to explore their passions and align their lives with their true purpose and self-awareness.

Here’s how you can leverage ChatGPT to update your resume and cover letter to pursue your dream job 📖

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