Today I want to talk to you about learning curves and ultimately how I can help you navigate the learning curves of your life with ease and elegance instead of blood and guts. Now, to start this off, I want to read a section of a story that you’re probably familiar with, it’s the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’m not going to read it all, but this is what it says.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Goldilocks, she went for a walk in the forest. Pretty soon she came upon a house she knocked and when no one answered, she walked right in. At the table in the kitchen were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. This porridge is too hot, she exclaimed. So she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. This porridge is too cold, she said. So she tasted the last bowl of porridge. Ah, this porridge is just right, she said happily, and she ate it all up.
Now, the reason I’m sharing this to you and as it relates to learning curves is from one of my all time favorite books, Atomic Habits, I was introduced to the Goldilocks Rule. The Goldilocks Rule, if you look this up online and search it on Google, what you’re going to find in sometimes it’s called the effect or the principle is the premise that people are inclined to seek just the right amount of something. And so if you think about Goldilocks, she wanted the porridge that was just right, not too hot, not too cold. Now, in James Claire’s book, he talks about the Goldilocks Rule as the state where humans experience peak motivation is when they work on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy. Just right. When I see people take on the journey of a new skill or a new habit, I typically see it in one of two ways. One is extreme behavior. And extreme behavior is not a great learning curve, it is a learning wall. So you’ve got to learn how to climb a wall. So almost like 90 degrees, and we have a visual down below, you can check out. And I hear this all the time from people who maybe they don’t exercise, they don’t eat, right, but all of a sudden, they’re going to do 75 hard and work for 75 days, they’re going to work out twice a day and eat perfectly. And there are a few that complete that and yet the vast majority fail because you’re asking such an extreme of yourself, you’re making it too hard to ultimately come out on the other side with a healthy lifestyle, which is why I think a lot of people do that or mental toughness. Now on the other side of this are gimmicks right? And I call these learning sidewalks. So gimmicks are where you try to flatten the learning curve, you try to hack the system. If we were talking about a video game, you’re like applying a cheat code. This stuff doesn’t work either. I mean, cellulite cream doesn’t work. And remember back in like the 1980s and 90s, when diet pills were the rave and how many people took that stuff, and it ended up damaging them. A lot of them ended up with heart issues and that type of thing. So I’ve never in my life found a viable shortcut for applying a new skill or a habit. So what we want to do is create a learning curve that just as the Goldilocks Rule states, it’s just hard enough, but it’s also easy enough that you can continue to do it. So the other thing that I want you to understand, as it relates to navigating a learning curve, is this idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. This came from another book that I think should be required reading of every single person who is a leader, especially if you are a parent, I cannot encourage you enough to read this book if you are a parent because Carol Dweck, who wrote the book, introduces these two concepts of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Understanding the two of them is pretty simple. A person who has a growth mindset believes that their traits are not fixed, that they have the ability to learn and grow and get better. They seek out challenges. They like the process of testing themselves and ultimately getting better over time. Whereas the fixed mindset is a person who looks at their skills and capabilities as very fixed, meaning this is the type of person I am. And if something comes natural to me, then that’s something I’m meant to do. If something is hard or doesn’t come natural, then I’m just not meant to do that. So as you can probably tell just from the names of both of these mindsets growth and fix that if you’re going to navigate a learning curve, you want to have a growth mindset.
I’ll never forget when I first started as a coach, and you know, I think a lot of people start in the coaching industry thinking that they’re much better at it than they actually are. When my expectation of my skill clashed with the reality of what was needed, it produced a lot of frustration in me. And yet, I have a growth mindset. I am not a person who believes that, that I was born this way, it can’t continue to get better and better and better. And so the thing that would ultimately pull me through is I would think about the process of getting better. And I would say things to myself, like, I wonder how good I’ll be after I’ve done 5000 calls, 10,000 calls now, I think I’m up to like 14,000 calls. And so I relied on that process to make myself better. I gave myself faith by focusing on the fact that someday, I will be really, really good at this if I just don’t quit. That helped me navigate the learning curve. But understand, navigating a learning curve is something that requires a process, there is no pill. So if you’re constantly seeking change, change being the installation of skills and habits or looking to uninstall something from yourself, then just get this the Goldilocks Rule is one really fantastic way to do it. When you couple the Goldilocks Rule with a growth mindset, you can take on practically anything.
Take this, apply it to your life, stop with the growth walls, stop with the growth sidewalks or I should say the warning walls and the learning sidewalks, get on a learning curve that you can maintain and coach yourself to understand that one day, one day this will be easy.