Lessons from Learning

Adam Callender
3 min readNov 15, 2021
Photo credit: Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash

Having always felt a sense of achievement in learning. Both in being a student and as a teacher.

Developing as a person and a professional. There is a sense of delight in overcoming fear of something and learning something new.

‘The greatest teacher, failure is.’ Master Yoda — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Failing well. It can be tough to work out that it is a great source of learning despite the potential for political carnage in organisations.

I cackled in reading part of a Seth Goden book, where he discusses Steve Blank’s insights on Microsoft post Bill Gates (I can’t fully explain why I delight in it). Steve Ballmer was appointed and ‘promptly began a multiyear cycle to destroy the company’. It is said that he missed the boat on the the 5 key trends heading into the new millennium.

1. Search engines,

2. Smartphones,

3. Mobile Operating Systems,

4. Media and

5. The Cloud.

Yep, through an intensive focus on his understanding of the core competencies of the business. They lost each and every one of these five. To be fair, this is what the prevailing wisdom in business gurus were writing about, getting away from conglomerates. But I suspect that Microsoft was built on a greater aspiration.

Learning by doing. My father was proficient at servicing and maintaining cars. I believe that he learnt by pulling them apart and using manuals to help him put them back together. There are many stories of his exploits. However, the disassembly of a Mini engine on the loungeroom floor was up there. He learnt by doing.

Learning to do something for the first time. I never took on this mechanical confidence. However, with videos on YouTube, you kind of get a Top Gear feeling of ‘how hard can it be?’ I have been assisting our son in tearing down mountain bikes and fixing them after they have achieved the desired aerobatic brilliance in the local forests.

Considering cause and effect relationships. Through the journey of learning it highlights to us that if we do something, it could impact other things. A bit like dropping what we are holding in order to catch something that was knocked off the table. The mug of coffee at the expense of the phone screen.

Doing things by the book. I suspect CEO Ballmer did things by the book. After the boom in overpriced acquisitions and failed investments during the tech boom at the end of the last century. He would have wanted to stop the rot. As a cautionary, failure can be considered necessary.

Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove talked our the wrangle of Intel’s direction from RAM to Microprocessors. If memory serves me rightly, the lessons were that those closer to the problem were taking action while the leadership tried to stay the course. The successful shift created Intel’s massively successful second core business and moved it away from the one that created it in the first place.




Adam Callender

Sydney based, Adam coaches and mentors career professionals, leaders and business owners. He is fascinated by humans, motorsport, mountain bikes and technology.