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Why do I keep enrolling in CBCs?

Posted on:September 14, 2021 at 10:54 PM (4 min read)

I’m addicted to cohort-based courses. There, I said it.

I discovered them in late 2019. I’ve been on a learning spree since then, enrolling in 6 CBCs so far: Startup School by Y Combinator, Entrepreneur First, UI/UX design, Stoa School, Brand Experience design, and now Write of Passage.

Tweet by Tiago Forte

Yeah, I’m one of those cohort junkies. This is intentional. I think of CBCs as slipstreaming in life. Remember Need for Speed racing games? A fast-moving car creates a partial vacuum behind it, where you can position your car to get a nice assist. That’s what I’ve been doing.

I pick experts in the domain I want to upskill in. Then I simply slipstream behind them. For business skills, I have slipstreamed behind the teams of Y Combinator, Entrepreneur First, and Stoa School. To learn design, I look up to Abhinav and Sneha - the team behind the UX and BX cohorts. And now I’m slipstreaming behind David Perell to improve my writing skills. CBCs are modern-day apprenticeships. Accelerated learning at its best. You get to learn 80% of things in 20% of the time.

Ah, time. That’s our most precious resource, isn’t it? Note that investing time is a level playing field. Everyone has the same amount of time to spend. The course fee gives you skin in the game, yes, but I see it as my investment portfolio of time and energy. And I take bets. I have a couple of other cohorts in my mind already for next year.

Once you get into this investment mindset, you start detaching yourself from the individual outcomes. You get objective about it. You give it your best shot without worrying about the end goal. You start enjoying the process. If it leads to something better, great! If not, that’s okay as well because you’re looking at it from a long-term investor perspective. Last weekend, I spent 15 hours on CBCs and still missed an assignment deadline. The anxiety got to me. I reminded myself of this mindset to calm down. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have signed up for multiple CBCs running in parallel. I’ll pace myself better from now on.

A follow-up question I get is: What makes a good CBC? I strongly believe the secret sauce is having fast feedback loops. Deadlines keep you accountable to do deep work. You also get to meet a bunch of highly motivated and diverse folks. But both of these are cherries on top of the cake. The future of online education is creating fast feedback loops. That’s what is missing from books. Content is everywhere; getting good feedback is as rare as sighting a purple cow.

My experience has been phenomenal so far. Does that mean it’ll work for you as well? No. Like books, CBCs need to come to you at the right time. Also, you get what you put in. The overall structure is designed to reduce friction but you need to show up. You need to put in the work. Every single week. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. CBCs are not magic pills. I know the FOMO is very real but don’t join CBCs simply because of it.

With time, I’ve realized another thing. Whenever I enroll in a new CBC, I feel as if I’m buying into their network. Just like an investment. As their network grows, you get to reap the benefits too as their future cohorts will attract more like-minded people. I’ve found 3 potential co-founders, hired 2 folks, and made more than a dozen close friends from the network. Since I’ve received good returns so far, I see myself continuing on this path as long as I’m having fun. That’s what really matters anyway.

I want to be the very best,
Like no one ever was.
To be a lifelong learner is my real test,
To solve problems is my cause.
CBCs! Gotta catch ‘em all!