Beat the Learning Curve in Two Simple Steps

Danger! Steep curves!

I never thought of a learning curve as down! gotta be careful both ways! – photo by Joe Shlabotnik

There’s a reason that we don’t want to learn anything.

That dreaded, inevitable learning curve. The steeper it is, the more bodies are littered by the side of the road. The last time I started up one of those educational hills, I could swear there was an old guy with a long scraggly beard and a wooden sign:

“The End of the World is Nigh!”

 

I probably should have believed him.

In the time it takes to learn something new and remotely complicated, you have to wade through embarrassment, frustration and all kinds of other emotions. Even worse, you are battling against your mind’s version of how long it should take and what it should look like. News flash – even with a guide, you don’t know until you’ve done it.

So why would you do it? Your Life Skills have gotten you this far. Isn’t that enough?

Most often, it becomes so essential for your survival that it must be done. Have you ever noticed that the things that absolutely must get done, do get done? But that’s just baseline – and living on the baseline lacks real soul satisfaction.

Things we think we need often don’t make the final cut. Our drive for improvement isn’t strong enough to wade through the required mental, emotional and physical labor. Look at all those abandoned new year’s resolutions (two weeks later?). Ever noticed how few people are at the top? So many books lie unwritten and so many great ideas go to the grave.

I’m not saying this to discourage you. The world needs your passion, your idea, your vision. Hell, if you’re in the learning curve, you’re farther than all those people too afraid to take the first step. Thank you!

I’m here to keep you going through the last mile.

Because once you get into it, and run into all the hard stuff – the life-changing stuff – you’ll want to give up. Most people do. And it’s particularly difficult when you can’t see the finish line – or even know what it looks like.

Giving up is actually the key to finishing, but not in the way you think. (click to tweet)

So there you are, hot on the tail of your dream. It’s hard, but you’re going for it. The rest of life is threatening to overwhelm you. You don’t know how to do it, even with the guidelines you’re following from that one website. You’re angry and tired and ready to kill someone. And dammit! You wanted this done today! Yesterday! Maybe, just maybe, tossing your computer through a very high window would help.

Pivotal moment number one: Give up.

Throw in the towel. I’m totally serious. Go take a shower. Watch a movie. Eat, for goodness sake!

Your mind, as often as it gets in the way, actually loves this learning stuff. It’s lazy as hell, sure enough, and trying it’s damnedest to get you to stop. But in the BACK of your mind, the factory is churning. And it just needs a little production time to get the problem solved. Get out of its way!

That meal and shower and taking the rest of the evening off is ripe with inspirational and creative juices. The movie you watch will be full of insights. There’s a reason people tell you to sleep on it.

My advice in this phase? Keep a pen handy. I actually have a waterproof pad and pencil in my shower, for when the dam breaks.

The Giving Up Phase could last from a few minutes to hours to days. If it goes longer, it might need a jump start (rickety old cars. Geez!).

Pivotal moment number two: Start again.

Gorgeous curve

Learning curves can be deceptively pretty! Thank goodness – we’d never do anything otherwise. – photo by Rick Harrison

Failing the Start Again Phase is where the bodies on the road come from. They just never got back up, and that idea starved to death.

We are hedonists, and we don’t like starving.

Sometimes, that inspiration you found in phase one will get you flying immediately. Woo hoo!

Other times, you’ll need to force yourself back to the project. This is the jump start mentioned in phase one.

Show up, even if you don’t know where it’s going. (click to tweet) I sit down and start writing. If that doesn’t work, I get an art pad (I have several sizes) and some colored pens. I scrawl words and plans, then rush back to the computer when inspiration hits.

If I get stuck again, I’ll get up and walk around. Or exercise. Let my mind stay on the project but flow again. Then circle back and try again.

If I get frustrated, I get back to phase one and give up again. I can’t think nearly as well when I’m angry. In fact, it’s almost essential to take that break. You lose time and maybe friends when you get that frustrated. This can mean working on something else too.

By the way, getting up and walking around works miracles for me. It’s like a moment of detachment from the difficult act of translating something from idea to physical form. I’m literally moving through the frustration and into inspiration. Sometimes, it’s just a walk around the house. Other times, longer walks outside. I have my phone with me to write down the ideas that often strike.

This has worked for me for all kinds of things – writing, drawing, learning to build a website, understanding my wife.

At the end of some days, I’m ready to tear my hair out. I’m annoyed that I have to eat. I just want to get it done! I’ve forgotten the learning curve process. The next morning, fresh from sleep and back at it, some little piece opens up. I suddenly comprehend it in a new way. And I forge forward until I have to give up again, and give my mind time to grok the next problem I’ve posed.

Finishing something big is very rare. I want you to make it. I really really do. And you’ll have to fight for it. You may even have to abandon it for a long time – do some little things or medium-sized things to practice. Get your feet wet so you can better save the world. Johnny B. Truant is a great example of this – from real estate to business development to published fiction writer and seeker of the Legendary. From what I’ve read, he always wanted to write fiction, but gave it up for awhile along the way. Sometimes, you need to do that to get your biggest dreams.

The bigger the project, the more monumental it is in your life. Keep going! You are reforming your habits and yourself. That’s huge!

How’s that for end of the world, old man with a sign? Why don’t you just use that for a cane and come with me?

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"You made my day yesterday. I'm still encapsulated in sunny-yellow, powerful warmth."  -Denise Lewis Premschak