What is it to teach and learn?

Abhishek Lahoti
3 min readFeb 9, 2023

Confession: this is not a 4am, eyes-full-of-sleep piece. By the grace of something incredible, my little one has learned to sleep 8 hours in a row. I’m not sure how long it will last, and therefore am not counting on it being permanent. But, for the last few weeks, I’ve slept nearly-full nights regularly. The same can’t be said for my partner, but that’s a topic for another day.

Did we teach her how to do this? Certainly not on purpose. For the first 10 weeks of her life all she knew was a 3-hour sleep stretch. Perhaps she picked something up from our environment, or her natural circadian rhythm got started. Maybe this is all a fluke and in a month I’ll be writing you at 4am again. This is joyfully perplexing, to say the least.

This all got me thinking about learning. About how we learn, and more importantly how we’re taught. This idea struck again as I sat in on some start-up pitches at a MeetFounders event last week. I saw a few CEOs get up and present their rehearsed 5min pitches and realised that they were trying to teach the investors in the room about their problem and solution.

But they were making a classic mistake that I have made countless times: they assumed we knew (close to) as much as they did. They spent every working moment in the world of their product, but we were hearing about it for the first time. I thought of how often they got frustrated with people like me “just not getting it”.

I used to view teaching like moulding clay. I haven’t had to teach my daughter much, but from other experiences, I found it mildly difficult with all the pushbacks and tangents. Only then did I realise it’s more like chiselling stone. You’re trying to shape something, but rather than a malleable substance that takes your input easily, you have a stubborn slab that needs more effort and care.

I wondered how many great ideas failed not because of their merit but because people struggled to teach them correctly. And I realised, as we sit here busy with emails and meetings and pitches, that we forget how often we are in teaching mode. That sometimes we need to stop and remember our audience might need more help in understanding the idea we’re excited to share with them.

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How my daughter has learned to sleep may remain a mystery to me. But how kids learn anything is often through experience. They aren’t told to speak certain words, but they hear sounds and see reactions and adapt from there. She’s learned a lot this way: how to smile when we sing to her, how to curl into a ball when on the changing table, and how to discern which teat she prefers. Who knows, maybe she’ll be ready for her first pitch deck soon enough.

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Abhishek Lahoti

Head of Platform @ Highland Europe, advisor of startups, new father, and perpetual confused person trying to make sense of life