Learning Is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable

A man learns to skate by staggering about making a fool of himself; indeed, he progresses in all things by making a fool of himself. (1)

From Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman discusses how being a learner is hard. Peter is one of my favorite experts in this area. He did a terrific TedxTalk Living With Your Hands Off Your Ears in which he talks about how we learn. In this article, he talks about how hard learning is. He writes:

Here’s the thing: While the act of learning is primarily intellectual, behavioral, or methodological, the experience of learning is primarily emotionalAnd it’s the emotional experience of learning — of being a beginner and making mistakes, often publicly — that often keeps people from even trying to learn.

Because while learning may not be that hard, being a learner — a beginner at something — can be very hard. Especially in a group. And especially when we see ourselves, and want to be seen by others, as skilled and confident.

In fact, being a beginner — being awkward, uncoordinated, inept — can even feel shameful. But it’s not. It’s just a stage we have to go through in order to become graceful and coordinated and competent. And our unwillingness to experience this stage can hinder our future growth. This is especially true of areas where you’re already an expert.

First, know that it’s brave to be a beginner. Understand that it takes courage and vulnerability to expose your weaknesses and try new things.

Then look for learning situations where the stakes are low — maybe a class where you’re not expected to be an expert or you don’t know anyone else. Admit, out loud, to the rest of the workshop if it makes you feel better, that you are going to take some risks to approach something in a new way. Be the first to raise your hand and try something, letting others know that you may flub it.

And feel everything. That’s what I call emotional courage. If you are willing to feel everything — embarrassment, shame, failure, awkwardness — then you can do anything.

And whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Go to workshops. Push yourself, especially in the areas where you are already accomplished, so you can get even better. Keep thinking of yourself as a learner. Take risks to try new things.

Read the full article at Learning Is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable


  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

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