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TET #001: Why Accountability Is Essential To Learning New Skills

Aug 06, 2022

In today's issue, I am going to share how you make accountability part of your professional life.

I often find myself thinking I can learn a new skill by merely reading a book. Like in The Matrix, I just download all of the information and can apply it immediately. Like Kung Fu.

Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Accumulating more knowledge is rarely what moves the needle. It is the application of what we have learned that builds the skill and helps us achieve the things we aim for. And to apply, we need accountability.

You Will Not Reach Your Goals Without Accountability.

When wanting to acquire a new skill to finally reach that goal, people often find themselves confronted with the following traps:

  • They are scared of doing something new and/or different.
  • They avoid action because they think they still lack knowledge.
  • They expand their knowledge further without ever applying it.
  • They do not have guidance.

I’m going to share how you can steer clear of these traps and discuss how we can focus on accountability.

Let's dive in.

Take Imperfect Action.

Knowledge without action is wasted.

We choose a skill that we want to learn. So we buy a book and we read. This already feels like we have taken action towards a goal. If you want to train for a marathon, then picking up a book about running feels like a first great step - but people often avoid doing the actual work, applying the skill. I think this is mostly because we don't like the feeling of sucking at something new and assuming gaining more knowledge helps. I am guilty of this, too. But there is no way around just doing it, taking imperfect action.

We have to start somewhere. And after we have done it, accountability is what keeps us on track.

Define Your Stakes.

Accountability comes in many flavors. You need to know which flavor you like best to get you into action or (hard truth ahead) you might never get there.

For some people, it is enough to commit to donating money to a good (or bad) cause if they don't take action on a certain goal. For others, a simple reminder in their calendar works perfectly fine.

This can be observed technically (i.e. have an app to make sure you are in the gym once per day). Or it relies on other humans. I've tried both approaches. Working with other humans is the only approach that works for me. Because my personal reputation, is of higher importance to me than financial commitments - but your experience may be different. So choose your stakes.

And then let's see what the human approach looks like:

Seek Guidance and Share Your Goals.

Talking about your goals with others, and applying that new skill with somebody or something that holds you accountable works like magic. Here are a few examples, of how I approach accountability.


For me, coaches provide the highest accountability. I meet with an executive coach for a 1:1 every other week. We drill down into my daily operations. We establish goals and keep track of them.

I also work with a personal trainer between two and three times per week. I also have a gym membership which I rarely use. But having a personal trainer is a game changer. Not just because it provides specific and individual guidance on what I should be working on. But because I know that my trainer is dedicating time to me multiple times per week. He is coming to his gym, just for me. I appreciate other people taking time for me and I just don't want to let them down. So I never skip a session.


While coaches come with a price tag, the next best thing is friends. I meet with a close friend every Monday morning on Zoom. We keep a shared Miro board where we keep track of our weekly, quarterly and annual goals so we don't lose track.

We go over them in turns, keeping each other accountable for what we want to achieve. This works best if you can find someone who not only keeps you accountable but for who you can do the same.


Last but not least there are (online) courses. Not just any courses, but cohort-based courses.

I have joined plenty of courses by now. The great ones focus on a strong community. Because knowledge is a commodity - you can always get all of it for free elsewhere. But great course facilitators bring together a bunch of like-minded people and focus on community and interaction. People get to know each other and are encouraged to foster accountability.

This is how you apply knowledge with accountability, my favorite approach to learning something new.

Now get out there and have fun applying what you have learned!

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