If you want to master anything, it helps to first learn principles. When you go deep enough, everything in this world has principles, which underlie specific methods you might use. Once you understand that, you will realise, almost nothing is new.

“As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Learn principles first
Learn principles before methods

Few things really change

I speak with business owners and advertising professionals every day, who believe everything is new. Indeed audiences are becoming fragmented and the world of media has changed. Social media has changed the landscape, however, what has not changed as much is human behaviour.

People are just people

People have limited attention spans. Nothing has changed there. People still react to external stimuli, like ringing phones, alarm clocks, notification sounds and message alerts. In fact, one of the founders of Facebook has claimed Mark Zuckerberg designed Facebook to exploit human weaknesses. Social media itself is built around principles of human behaviour.

English language principles

I remember learning basic language principles in school. We learned principles about grammar and punctuation. Specific rules which we could apply to everything written in the English language. One such rule, I recall, was “I before E, except after C”. Instead of recalling every word in the language and whether or not a rule applies, I simply compared the word in question to that basic principle.

Spanish language principles

In high school, I read a great book called ‘Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century‘. In the chapter, Mastering a Foreign Language, Rose and Nichol explain similarities between English and Spanish.

Rose and Nichol developed 26 fundamental principles, which allow any English speaker to immediately understand thousands of Spanish words. For example ‘beber‘ is similar to ‘beverage‘, however, ‘b‘s’ are often used in exchange for ‘v‘s’ in European Languages. So, you don’t need to know the specific method for every word. Just the principle.

Time management principles

These days I teach time management and productivity. You guessed it! The methods I teach are based on a handful of time tested principles. Very recently I wrote about The 80 20 Principle, which I apply to almost everything I do.

Learn principles, then methods

Everything has principles. Cooking does. Gardening does (my family might pull me up on that one -I don’t exactly have a green thumb). Business does.

Before you concern yourself with latest trends and specific methods, first concern yourself with basic principles. Remember, everything you learn has basic principles, which evolve slowly, if at all. Learn the few laws that apply to your discipline, then you can select your own methods.