The Learning Trap, and how to reverse it

One of the big shifts students have to make when they graduate, is to switch from being a learning sponge to being a “producing” human being. They have to switch from taking to giving.

During their studies, they discover how much there is to learn, and how much they don’t know. And then, they “enter the market”, and get to learn in a different way: through “hands-on” experience. They discover that they know more than they thought, and that they have much more to offer than what they imagined. They see that their senior colleagues are not always performing as well as they could or as they should.

They witness living examples of the Peter principle, where an employee rises to their highest level of incompetence.

The funny part is that before a student applies for an internship, they are not quite sure what they have to offer, nor what their skills and talents are, nor why any company would want to hire them in the first place.

Well you see, students are not the only ones who have to make that switch. Most of us are like that too. I know a lot of coaches who are constantly learning, getting dozens of certifications in dozens of different tools and methodologies. They have this belief that they always need to know more and learn more. Part of it comes from a healthy place of constant growth, and cultivating the joy of constant learning, and being a “lifelong student.”

But part of it comes from a place of forgetting.

Forgetting all that they already have; Forgetting that they have so much to offer ; Forgetting that they are here to serve. Forgetting that all the tools they have already developed and used over the last decade of their practice, can be useful to someone Today !

The other day, I was coaching the board members of a non-profit based in the U.S., and one board member shared how he was struggling to keep up the pace, as he is a board member of three different organizations. I shared with him one tool that I have been using for about a decade now: the Eisenhower Matrix. This tool is really powerful to help you gain instant mental clarity by organizing your priorities in a few minutes. When I feel I have too much on my to-do list, and feel confused about where to start, I take 10 minutes to use the Eisenhower matrix. I come out of these 10 minutes with a clear action plan, and most importantly, amazing mental clarity.

You can learn more about this tool here, and download a template here.

The learning trap is a limiting belief, that has you think that:

“I need to learn X before I can work on Y.”

“I need to learn W before I can do Z.”

It doesn’t have to stay that way. You can actually reverse it.

Simply switch to the following belief:

“I need to start doing Z, and then I’ll know exactly what I need to learn in order to work on it/improve it.”

This switch shifts you to a more agile entrepreneurial mindset, that learns through trial and error.

The learning trap can also be called the readiness trap.

One day, I was taking a break during a day of work at ESSEC Business School. One of my good friends who also teaches there met me in the hallway, and we had tea together. I told him how I had this project (I think it was about going to San Francisco to study), but how I really needed to be ready before I went. I would have to do this, and that…

And my friend told me a story:

It’s the story of two guys at the top of a building. They both want to parachute their way down to the street.

The first guy starts to measure the distance to the ground, to unpack his parachute, and check that he has all of the equipment he needs for the descent. He starts to build a whole plan on how he will glide, and which currents to take, etc.

The second man nonchalantly picks-up his parachute bag and swings it on his right shoulder, takes a few strides towards the side of the building, and jumps. As he starts falling, he starts to think:

“Woops, I’d better get this parachute open.”

So he starts to ties the strings together, and does what he needs to do.

The parachute opens, and the guy swiftly lands on the ground, with a big smile.

As he looks up, he sees his friend up there, still counting the number of steps he will need to take before he takes off.

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Here are a few words from Steve Harvey:

Now, in these COVID times, I find it wise to know how to do both. Jumping too quickly into something might not always lead to the best outcomes, and a lot of us are revising our priorities, and might bee a little less risk-averse than before this whole pandemic started.

Here are a few other elements to take in consideration, to know which approach would fit best:

I have discovered the joy of the longer journey. When taking walks in the beautiful landscapes of Catalonia, surrounding Barcelona where I currently live, I take the time to take breaks and admire the view. I used to enjoy to walk from point A to point B, but never stop to take a break! I learned how to enjoy both the journey and the destination, and the breaks in-between. Sitting down relaxing, being here and now, and having nowhere else to go. Being content. That is something older people understand really well.

How do you know which approach is most adequate?

Ask yourself these questions:

For taking the slow and prepared approach:

How will I know when I am prepared enough?

Is there a good reason why I am staying where I am (at the top of the building)?

If I were to jump right now, what would I miss that is at the top of this building?

Conversely, for taking the more direct approach:

By jumping right now, what am I trying to avoid from the situation of staying on top of the building?

What am I searching that is at the street-level, that I think I can’t have right now at the top of the building?

For both:

What would my most evolved Self do?

In 10 years, what decision would give me the most regrets?

And the truth is: you don’t have to choose.

You can do both. You can prepare well, as much as you can/want, and then, when it feels like it is the right time, jump right off that building !

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How about you, what are the tools you have that can help somebody today?

Make a list.

What are the skills you have that can help somebody today?

Make a list.

Who is one person who you would like to check-in with, and see whether you can help them?

Call them, today.

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