Getting good at anything takes a long time

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Getting good at anything takes a long time and it’s usually a pretty arduous process

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you look at what you’ve created and think your work totally sucks? When you’re learning a new skill, you need to realize that giving yourself permission to be terrible—for a while—will eventually foster better learning.

Building something from nothing and sharing it with the world, requires a lot of bravery. That apprehension about whether or not our work is any good can stop us from learning new skills that can challenge us and help us grow as people.

As it turns out, getting comfortable with the concept of productive failure—or giving yourself “permission to be terrible”—isn’t just healthy; it can help you learn, too.

Why we always think our work sucks at first

Ira Glass has the definitive quote about that, I’m-never-going-to-get-this-right feeling that often accompanies when trying something new. The answer to why this feeling hurts so much is—we’ve great taste! The downside is that our newly-forming abilities haven’t had time to catch up with our superior taste.

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Give yourself permission to be terrible initially

How do you combat this? You could stick to just the things that come easy. You’ll be good at them, for sure, but you’ll miss the thrill of overcoming huge obstacles and improving yourself so much that you barely recognize the point where you started.

A better method is giving yourself permission to be terrible at new things, with the knowledge that this is the necessary first step to stop being terrible. And even though this state of mind, could last a while, keep going and practice truly does makes things perfect.

Figuring things out the hard way can lead to deeper understanding

Manu Kapur, head of the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore has pioneered the counterintuitive idea of productive failure. To learn this way, students are presented with unfamiliar concepts and asked to work through them right away, without being taught the method or solution. Research has shown that this method could be surprisingly good —and even help learn faster and leads students to significantly outperform those who learn through traditional instruction and problem-solving.

This approach leads students to dig deep and discover what they know, the limits of what they know, and what they don’t know actually activates parts of the brain that trigger deeper learning. So while this may not be fun and most of the students feel less confident after the exercise, but it can be super productive.

Developing a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains the difference between the two mindsets using students as an example:

In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.

In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.
Much of their success hinges on whether they believe that their abilities can be developed versus believing that they’re fixed.

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Those with a growth mindset can focus on their ability to change and grow—as opposed to those with a fixed mindset—they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and think on a time when they will see improvement.

In a nutshell, the amount of progress that we make is directly proportional to the number of hard conversations that we’re willing to have.


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