The worst vice is advice, but I can’t kick the habit. I had an epiphany today, though, that I think is worth sharing. Whether you are learning gourmet cooking, sculpture, carpentry, metal working, or anything else, there is one common piece of advice I would offer. There might otherwise be commonalities, I don’t know. But for sure this one bit is good for anything you might try.

My advice is: minimize your loss, given that you are going to try whatever you are going to try. For example, if you are learning to cook, don’t go for the most complex recipes or the finest ingredients straight away. You need to accept that you are going to screw up, perhaps grandly, and given that you need to minimize the cost of screwing up.

Take investing. If you have never invested for your own account before, but have decided to do so, the best thing you can do is learn to invest on a simulator. That makes the loss $0. Well, you are out the time you spent learning, but one would argue that the time spent learning is an investment as well!

An example from my own life is carpentry. I’ve just started building furniture. Do you think I’m buying oak and maple to make my work tables? No way! I use 2×4 studs and common boards for everything! If (when) I butcher a cut or split a board, I’m out $2-$3, not $5/linear foot.

The best way to learn is by doing, but mistakes can be costly. So to make sure your learning curve doesn’t get interrupted by a loss of funds, minimize that loss function!