Learning and vulnerability.

Hi there!

Let’s chat further about learning as adults.

As professionals we have expert knowledge for which we are respected and paid money for. Knowledge is a fence behind which the knowledge workers feel confident.

Therefore, the idea of being bad at something new for weeks or months can be scary (and the most people are not even conscious about this fear).

Being knowledgeable is a big part of identity of knowledge workers, so asking “I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about” questions, needing help and guidance is tough.

The ‘secret’ is to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to accept the beginner status.

This helps to acquire new skills and knowledge faster, which is crucial in todays world.

What is vulnerability

I wanted to learn more about vulnerability and was recommended to look at the work of Brené Brown. She is a researcher who spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.

I started by watching her famous TED talk about “The power of vulnerability” (13 million views just on YouTube) and realized that I had seen it several years ago. But it seemed so much more powerful this time around and I really recommend it.

I would like to connect couple points from this talk to our discussion.

Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear - but it is also the origin of joy, creativity and belonging.

In order to be a successful lifelong learner it is essential to embrace vulnerability, to accept being imperfect and to be kind to yourself.

Authenticity makes learning more relaxed and intentional, because we are more honest with ourselves about:

  • what we do and do not know

  • what we want to know

  • why we need to know it

In recent interview with Jimmy Fallon Brené Brown also discusses how during the COVID so many professionals have to do things for the first time (remote work, working with kids at home, homeschooling, video conferencing etc.) and really struggle with it:

Most adults get to a place in our lives where we don't want to do anything that we're not already good at doing, because we don't want to be that vulnerable and we don't want to suck.

However, experience of learning new things and acting outside of the comfort zone are essential for growth:

that muscle that we use when we do first things is the life blood. It's the juice. It's the secret sauce to life.

Accepting novice status when learning

I have to admit that it does sound as a great advice: be vulnerable and accept the beginner state in order to become a better learner.

Maybe it is ‘better’ to start as a fool, but how to do it?

It is easier said than done.

So I decided to ask my network if they had any tricks how to handle being novice when starting something new. I wondered what they did in order not to feel foolish and to get into more relaxed, learning mindset.

Jen Kuo and Daniel Vinci spoke about following curiosity:

What backs up this approach is that curiosity is also a source of energy. If you follow your curiosity you are more likely to completely immerse into learning, get into flow state and be powered by the process of learning. This blocks self-consciousness and prevents self-criticism.

Celz spoke about consistency and importance of quick, small wins at the beginning of the learning journey. I like that idea a lot. Anything that can boost the motivation at the beginning of ‘clueless curve’ is a great trick.

Dan spoke about practicing a lot and speeding up the learning process in order to reduce time being a novice.

And Zoran emphasized the importance of focusing on long term benefits of learning, which is definitely a solid strategy for practical professionals. He suggests that having a big picture in mind of why you are learning something new - makes short term pain irrelevant.

In order to take more advantage of this approach it would be beneficial to record your small wins while aligning them to your overall long-term learning goal.

That’s all for this week! If today’s newsletter resonated with you or you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Just hit reply!