Learning Curve

One of the greatest challenges these days is keeping up with the rate and pace of change. So how do you keep up? One of the hacks I’ve used was to work out my motivation for learning something new before starting. When you face a steep learning curve, your motivation will keep you going. The other part is working out the techniques that work best for your personal learning style. Your ability to learn will stop you from becoming a human robot.

Back in 1999; I recall I had a situation where I was confronted with a steep learning curve. At the time, many of us were moving from windsurfing to kitesurfing. Kitesurfing is such an amazing and exhilarating sport, but there was a very steep learning curve in 1999. There weren’t too many instructors and a lot of us were jumping into this new sport (a different way of sailing on the water), partly because it was providing access to new wind ranges that we didn’t have before and because it was new. In lighter winds you could be out on the water having fun, with or without any waves. 

I had a conversation with one of the windsurfers who was ten years younger than me and an awesome water sportsman. I asked him, “why don’t you try kitesurfing?” and he responded with, “I don’t want to start again. It’s too hard.” I enquired more about his reason. He answered, “well, there’s so much to learn, you’ve got to start at the beginning, and I am already really good at windsurfing, so I like staying where I am.” 

That conversation and the words he used stuck with me for many, many years, and will often churn around in my head. The other day when I was trying to get my head around some new AI systems and tools from Microsoft Azure (which is a wonderful platform), I was struggling with it. I stopped, took a step back and asked myself, “what’s my motivation here? What am I trying to achieve?” Once I had my motivation, I was able to persevere with the learning curve. I had so much reading to do, and there weren’t many articles that were suitable for my needs. I had to suffer through it, but what kept me going was my motivation to get to the outcome. 

When you start to learn something new, you’ve got to do a little bit of a step back and say, “what’s the benefit of the information I’m going to get here? What’s my motivation for doing this?” In all fairness, everyone has different styles of learning. You may be aware of VAK or the Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic learning modalities proposed by Walter Burke Barbe and colleagues. While there are other models this is a great starting point for understanding how to accelerate your learning speed. Spending time discovering which one works best for you is a great investment of your time. 

I look at what our modern society is about, and I don’t think giving up is an option, to be honest. If you’re going to give up now and you’re just starting your career or a new business, you’ve got a problem. If you’ve been in your chosen profession or industry for a while and you think it’s going to be a cruisy time into retirement, you may be right, but recent events with COVID have shown the value for learning and adapting. 

The bottom line is this; find your motivation. When I was kitesurfing, I went through much physical and mental pain trying to work out how to kitesurf. Getting dragged backwards up the beach by the kite is not fun and very dangerous. Once I broke through that, the rewards were astronomical. If you’ve ever kitesurfed you’ll also know that exhilaration and freedom. 

Back then, there weren’t many instructors but there was a video made by Robbie Nash and that was the Bible. We’d go out and get “skull dragged” up the beach, or have an accident or crash, and then start again. Go back, watch the video and go out again and again. The motivation was high because we got glimpses of improvement each time we stuck our toes in the water, literally. Eventually, we broke through that barrier and we got good at it,  we were already in the mindset of learning. The rest of the skills were built quickly, such as jumps, flips, back flips, donkey kicks and other wonderful tricks, although my primary motivation was always wave riding. 

I could see the potential, and I was riding waves that I could never ride on a windsurfer. So the motivation was relatively high. So how do we turn this into something practical? I think the first step is to think of your motivation and then also get in touch with some experts in their fields. Read their blogs, and get an idea of what they’ve done. These activities will inspire you and fuel your motivation to see beyond your current knowledge. Then once you’ve got that, you find your best way of learning. This will help you scale the learning curve with ease. 

There will be challenges, but that’s when you go to mentors, coaches and teachers and get help. They can point you in the right direction and reduce the learning curve. One thing I do see is that learning new things is exciting as well as frustrating. I have a little mantra that I say “There is nothing you cannot learn, and there is nothing you cannot master”. I say that to myself repeatedly, when I’m dealing with challenging situations or concepts that are foreign to me. 

Even with motivations you will hit roadblocks, don’t stop, find another way or a different route. Imagine what can be learnt in the next twenty years. What will the future hold? We don’t know. It could be a massively fantastic utopian future, or it could be harsh and apocalyptical. If you can learn to respond and adapt, you can stay ahead of the curve.

If you’re interested in the learning curve or if you’re struggling with your business and you want to learn how to accelerate it, come and have a chat with me.