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Shift Disturbing Part Four: Learn Ugly

“What one man can do, another man can do.” – Pop Cardetti, Swingtime (1936)


For the record, the first time I ever heard that line was in the movie The Edge, which my friend Anyk reminded me of when we were up at my cabin earlier this spring. I wrote a blog about our trip to the cabin that you can read about here.

Whenever I come home from the ski hill, Ella (9) will ask me if I fell. “Nope. I tried to though,” is what I tell her every time and it’s the truth, although she thinks I’m kidding. I go to the hill and try to fall the entire time I’m there. The fact is you can take all the lessons you want and you can watch all the YouTube videos on technique you can find, but if you really want to learn and get good, you have to fall. Lots.

Falling is the best lesson on a ski hill. If you are not falling, then not only are you not learning, you are technically getting worse. This applies to all aspects of life. The status quo leads to rot.

Our brains are built to learn the best when we’re operating on the edge of our abilities outside of our comfort zones, which is when and where we make a lot of mistakes. Where the magic really happens for me on the ski hill is on those runs that are just within – or just outside – my comfort zone, on the runs where I know I could break something. When I am fearful, I am alive and I can literally feel the focus.

Understanding that we can improve our abilities, shifting to a growth mindset (next blog), is the key to learning. The most successful people in the world have this figured out. They are master learners.

Most of us struggle with learning because of our fear of failure – affectionately referred to among our tribe as The Lizard. We are afraid of looking bad, or losing reputation or status. This feeling of resistance is so powerful because it comes from the inside; it’s a part of us.

The Lizard Brain is the brain of a wild animal, hardwired for safety, programmed to avoid risks and to fit in. This kind of thinking protected us when we were cavemen but now it keeps us from learning as much as we could.

The Lizard can’t be killed, only tamed. You can learn to get comfortable with it. You can learn to embrace it and use it as a compass to show you the path. Here are a few rules to consider.

  1. Believe you can learn. Your brain is a learning machine. It has the capacity to learn and get good at just about anything. If it’s something that you can be better at, it’s a skill. If it’s a skill, then it’s something that you can learn if you do the work. Period. Believing that you can learn is step one and it’s the essence of the growth mindset.
  2. Learning isn’t pretty, it’s ugly. We are built to learn from struggle, challenges and mistakes. Watch the following video for one minute. (HEADS UP: there are two “f-bombs” coming your way, the first one hits at 42 seconds, the second at 50, but at the 1:06 mark, the magic happens. See for yourself.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone. This is where the magic happens. The more time we spend in this zone, the more you’ll grow. You have to recognize the relationship of the three elements. #1 and #2 are happening between your ears; they help you prepare for #3. But if #1 or #2 are missing, then #3 won’t happen very often and without #3, you are not really getting anywhere.



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