Dynamic Programming: From Novice to Advanced - The 20% Rule for Thriving Careers

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Dec 10, 2023

4 min read


Dynamic Programming: From Novice to Advanced - The 20% Rule for Thriving Careers

Dynamic Programming is an algorithmic technique that utilizes a recurrent formula and starting states to construct sub-solutions for a problem. It offers a faster running time compared to other techniques like backtracking and brute-force. One example of using dynamic programming is finding the minimum number of coins that sum up to a given total.

Now, let's shift our focus to the 20% Rule, a concept followed by renowned individuals such as Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, and even Navy SEALs. This rule emphasizes the importance of dedicating a certain percentage of our time to deliberate learning and experimentation in order to maintain our economic health and have a thriving career.

Just as we have recommended dosages for physical health, we need to be equally diligent about the minimum dose of deliberate learning to maintain our intellectual well-being. Not dedicating at least 5 hours per week to learning can have long-term effects similar to the consequences of not exercising or sleeping enough. In fact, not learning enough has been compared to the smoking habit of the 21st century.

While the minimum dose is crucial, it's also essential to consider the optimal dose of weekly learning, especially in a time of extreme time acceleration. Many successful organizations, including Google, Genentech, and 3M, follow the 20% Rule, spending a significant portion of their time on experiments and skill-building. Engineers and scientists in these companies are encouraged to pursue their own projects and look for unexpected opportunities.

Even Navy SEALs recognize the importance of ongoing learning and training. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink advocates for spending 20% of the week (equivalent to 1 day) on training to improve skills. He highlights that certain professions require continuous learning, and the 20% Rule can be particularly applicable to high-skill knowledge workers engaged in non-routine activities.

Genentech, one of the largest companies globally, encourages its scientists and engineers to dedicate 20% of their workweek to pursuing pet projects. This commitment to personal projects allows for breakthrough innovations and keeps employees engaged and motivated.

Surprisingly, a survey revealed that 95% of respondents believed that implementing the 20% Rule would increase their productivity. The idea of a 4-day workweek combined with a 1-day learning week resonated with many, as they recognized the potential benefits of increased learning time.

We can look to successful individuals like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as examples of the power of continuous learning. Gates has dedicated an hour a day to learning throughout his career, while Buffett has spent 80% of his time reading and thinking. Both have achieved remarkable success through their commitment to ongoing education.

Thomas Edison famously followed the 10,000 Experiment Rule, demonstrating his dedication to learning and experimentation. Elon Musk, although not publicly stating the percentage of his time spent reading, is widely regarded as one of the best applied learners in history.

Based on extensive research, it becomes clear that increasing our learning time can have a significant impact on our personal and professional growth. Finding 10 or more learning hours per week may seem challenging, but with the implementation of adaptive learning, it becomes easier than we think.

Adaptive learning is an approach that helps us identify and utilize pockets of time throughout our day for learning. By optimizing our daily routines and making conscious choices, we can carve out valuable hours for self-improvement.

In conclusion, dynamic programming and the 20% Rule both emphasize the importance of continuous learning and growth. By incorporating these principles into our lives, we can enhance our problem-solving abilities, stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, and ultimately thrive in our careers. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to implement:

  • 1. Start small: Begin by dedicating a minimum of 5 hours per week to deliberate learning. This can be done by allocating specific time slots for reading, taking online courses, or engaging in skill-building activities.
  • 2. Embrace the 20% Rule: Experiment with dedicating 20% of your workweek to learning and experimentation. This can involve pursuing personal projects, engaging in self-directed learning, or seeking out unexpected opportunities within your field.
  • 3. Practice adaptive learning: Look for pockets of time throughout your day that can be utilized for learning. Optimize your daily routines, eliminate time-wasting activities, and prioritize self-improvement.

By implementing these strategies, you can unlock your full potential, stay ahead in your career, and lead a fulfilling and intellectually stimulating life. Remember, growth is a continuous journey, and by embracing dynamic programming and the 20% Rule, you can navigate the ever-changing landscape of the 21st century.

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