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Why We Struggle With Learning New Skills

There are two ways to learn something
You learn it. OR you unlearn and then learn.
As you’d have worked out, the second way is a lot harder.

To learn means to have little or no fear
To unlearn means to erase the fear, and then put in confidence. This requires twice the effort and builds twice the pressure. And pressure doesn’t teach you much at all. In fact, pressure tears you down.

People say: “Oh pressure is great to get things done”

And they’re right. It’s great to get things done. But only things you already know how to do. Not things that you don’t know at all. Because if you didn’t know how to ride a horse, and I put pressure on you to ride, then we’re more than likely to see you in a ‘spot of trouble’.

If this horse is one you find in a rodeo then the pressure is even greater.  And learning is not done under pressure.

Learning is done under conditions of diligence
There’s a difference between pressure and diligence.  Diligence is when you take a specific topic and break it down into component parts. So if you took article writing and broke it down into parts, you’d get connectors, disconnectors, sandwiching, headlines and a whole other bunch of elements.

If you took copywriting and did the chop-chop bit, you’d get similar, yet different elements.

And then every element has to be taken and learned
Which is not what’s done on most courses. It’s not what you can quickly absorb from most books. And certainly not something you can magically replicate with some ‘instant’ system. On most courses, what you have is this factor of pressure. You are introduced to one element e.g. headlines, and then you’re moved along.

You’re barely getting started, and you’re moved from element to element like as if you’re on a tour from hell. And that’s not the way most people learn at all.

People don’t learn by getting pushed along madly
People learn by taking one element and then getting it wrong. Yes, they get it wrong. Then they are helped to fix it. They get it wrong again. Then they’re helped to fix it. The process is arduous, but it’s a process not of getting things right. It’s a progression of ‘wrongs’. Learning isn’t about getting things ‘correct’ the first time.

That’s just a ‘fluke’. Learning is about getting things wrong and having someone be around to help ‘you’ fix it. Or of course you learn how to fix it yourself, but as you know that process of learning, takes time.

That’s because you don’t know what the heck you’re doing wrong in the first place. So there you are merrily chugging ahead—or hitting your head against the wall, as the case may be—and all you know is that you’re struggling like crazy. You have no clue why you’re struggling to do something like ‘write a sales page for instance’.

And the reason you’re struggling is because you:
1) Don’t know what you’re doing wrong.
2) If you do know what you’re doing wrong, you aren’t sure how to fix it.
3) If you know how to fix it, you don’t know if it’s a makeshift fix or a permanent one.

And so you plod miserably ahead
But the plodding stops if you have a teacher, a system, and discipline. The first two are tough enough to find. Great teachers are rare. Greater systems are rarer still. But discipline? Heck we’ve gone down that road before, haven’t we? We know what we should be doing, but we can’t be disciplined.

Can’t? No we can
You see the reason we give up isn’t because we can’t achieve something. Or because we aren’t disciplined. It’s just that exhaustion sets in. We run into so many obstacles that it’s like fighting a sandstorm for months on end. One day, we can handle. Two days, five days, even a week or two—we’ll take the crap. But then it gets to a state of madness. And we give up.

And this is where the teacher and system come into play
The system is just as important as the teacher. A well-designed system creates a factor that I like to call the roller coaster. This means that a student does something easy, then hard, then easy, then hard. Up, down, up, down. And a lot of flat lines to just relax as well. This system needs to take every one of those elements and break it down. And then the student works on it. For the whole week.

So when we teach the Article Writing Course for instance, it’s about taking one concept, e.g. connectors. And we spend the whole week on one thing. Over and over again. Learning how to get it wrong, then right. Then wrong, then right.

And we work in a group. At which point the learning becomes exponential. You can only make seven mistakes a week. A group can make seventy. There are now seventy ways ‘not’ to do something. So the learning speed up a lot, as you can imagine.

Then there’s the teacher…
The teacher needs to know how to manage the students, manage the course, manage half a dozen things. This isn’t about the teacher being smart, and the students being underlings. As Thomas Carruthers once said: “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”

That’s the role of the teacher. Because when the exhaustion sets in, diligence leaves the building with Elvis. This is when the teacher has to push, pull and get the student to move ahead.

Learning isn’t something you just pick up in a book

You can’t make mistakes by reading a book. You can only make mistakes by making mistakes. And you have to make a ton of mistakes before you learn something well. Learning is about mistake making, and fixing those mistakes.

Pyschotactics Courses are called the toughest in the world. There’s a reason why
It’s a mistake-making course. Mistake after mistake is made and eliminated. And it’s exhausting to make mistakes. So the system must be robust. It can’t be just an information dump. Hah, you learn nothing‚ well almost nothing from an information dump. It has to be one element at a time. One. Just one. Then the other. Then the other.

And for this you need a good teacher. A good one will do. A great one is even better, but a good one does the job as well.

And then we finally get to pressure
Once you know that one element e.g. connectors, and you have made about seven mistakes (and learned from seventy) then you are ready to put that element to the test. You’re ready to get on the pressure rodeo.

And heck yeah you’re going to be thrown off. That’s what pressure does. It throws you off. But instead of being a clown at the rodeo, you’re the person that stays longest on the horse.

But what if you’ve been thrown off that horse before?
Now there’s fear as well. You remember the fractures and the broken arm. You remember the despondency in your brain. Now to get on that horse requires a good teacher, a good system and a ton of mistake making (and fixing).

And you need a bit of pressure as well.
And that’s how you learn.

That’s how we all learn
It’s just that when we want to learn how to do copywriting or article writing for instance, we want to learn that skill in three months. We could learn it well in three years, for sure. People fly planes and do complex surgery after three years of training.

But three months? That requires a lot more diligence. A lot more mistakes. And someone to guide you, watch over you and make sure you don’t just read or listen.

But actually learn
And be able to implement under pressure.

That’s what will get you ahead. Now all you have to do is find the right teacher, the right system and then diligence becomes part of who you are.

Happy searching :)

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4 Comments
  1. Alexis Garnaut-Miller says

    Sean great content … one of the best blogs entries I’ve read in a long time. It’s true that most people put themselves under so much pressure, that we easily forget to relax and enjoy the natural rollercoaster ride of learning. What a potent and energising comparison …. thanks for the inspiration to learn with understanding and compassion towards self 🙂

  2. Ron says

    Learning is a lifetime process. Everyday we are learning something new. I f you don’t want to learn then you are afraid of discovering things that you could have. I guess this post made me realize how essential learning is all about.

  3. Jack says

    The biggest misconception about learning is that we learn in straight linear lines.

    We learn in plateaus. There’s also a difference between learning in a class room and learning in real life situations. The later being the more valuable since they are more applicable.

  4. Robert says

    I never thought I was going to learn the ways on earning money online. I find them very complicated, and I thought I would have a hard time. I had a lot of mentors. They gave me access to video tutorials. Learning new things can really be a pressure, they advised me to learn one step at a the time. After many lessons, it was time to apply them. They told me to just go for it…do everything, make mistakes and correct them afterwards. So they thought me that it was normal to commit mistakes, what is important is to learn from them.