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The Learning Process

Learning Process

All of us have heard this powerful message at some point- “There is no learning in the comfort zone and no comfort in the learning zone”.

The very process of learning something is uncomfortable. I love Indian Classical music and had this desire to learn the art. Unfortunately through the years, I have had 3 failed attempts . When I was 12-13 years, my parents put me up to learn the Mridangam- a percussion instrument. I pursued that for about 6 months and gave up. I later tried to learn the Veena from my sister an accomplished master in this art. 6 months later, I had given up. Just about 10 years back, I started learning Classical Vocal. I pursued that for 6 months and gave up.

Here’s the interesting point. In the same period of the last 10 years, both my kids have become reasonably accomplished musicians. How is it that they have succeeded while I  failed?

I got a glimpse of this after reading an amazing book by Angela Duckworth – Grit .

Grit is that alchemy of passion and persistence that enables someone attain proficiency and deliver great results in any pursuit.

In this book Angela postulates a simple equation that goes like this.

Talent X Effort = Skill

Skill X Effort= Achievement

Being a left brained logical thinker this simple equation opened my mind to the amazing science of Grit- that “never give up” quality that enables someone to undertake some activity and attain proficiency or results, come what may.

  • All of us have some modicum of talent for anything we may want to pursue. Talent is the innate capacity any of us has, to develop a skill by putting in some effort. When I hone my skill through consistent effort , I start experiencing achievement.
  • Talent is useless unless it is converted into some sort of Skill by putting in the hard hours of effort. Whenever I would see someone very accomplished be it a public speaker or a writer or a musician or an entrepreneur, there was always this view that they had an inborn flair- another word for talent. After seeing this equation , it became very clear, talent of any sort is meaningless if the effort is not there. Angela says without effort , talent is nothing more than unmet potential.

The book describes Grit as that mindset where I care so much about something that I am willing to do whatever is required to stay loyal to that cause.

I now understand why I have failed at learning music while my kids have succeeded.

I and my wife had full control over our kids routines when it came to the hard practice required. They had consequences for not following the routine. No eating out, no pocket money, no movies etc, if they did not do what they were supposed to do. They really had no choice. Whether they liked it or not- it did not matter. They had to practice their craft every day. As Malcolm Gladwell mentions in the book Outliers, they ended up unwittingly putting in the 10K hours necessary to learn the art.

When it came to me, none of this applied. I thought I had passion to learn music. Alas, It was just enthusiasm and worse I had the enthusiasm but not the endurance.

While I give the example of music, this process holds true for everything that requires a learning process. You want to start a business, become good at public speaking, improve your networking skills, start a blog, learn music, create a digital brand for yourself, scale a mountain, become more confident- whatever it is that you are looking to become better at- There is only one factor that separates those who experience success and those who don’t. The capacity to commit to consistent effort.

I am wiser today. While the desire to learn music is still strong, I know I am not ready to commit to effort required. I hope to pick this up soon enough as I do not want to end up with a regret of not doing something even when I knew how to do it- By putting in that effort consistently to convert whatever little talent I have into a skill.

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