Learning Isn’t Supposed To Be Fun; It Should Make You Uncomfortable

Are you willing to suffer? Before I make a decision, I ask myself this question when I approach a new challenge I’m thinking about.

I’ve heard many people tell me they love learning. Often it’s just a spur of the moment thing where they have to say something because they can’t keep quiet. Most simply read stuff. Yes, reading is a way to learn. But the best learning happens when you do something; most people don’t approach learning this way.

Why? Because you have to get out of your comfort zone in a few ways:

  • you know you will make mistakes;
  • you will have to meet new people who don’t think and act like you.

The last point is key because one way to learn more intensely is to change who you surround yourself with. For example, I seek out people who are obsessive about what they do because it means they’ll never be satisfied until they master something; they obsesss about details most people would never think about.

Most people would never approach learning this way because obsessive people are intense and seek out discomfort naturally. For obsessive people making new mistakes is a sign of progress, it’s a sign of personal growth. Putting themselves through pain and anguish is part of the process of mastery; it’s not something that discourages them from moving forward.

They are willing to suffer for what they want. And this is what it takes because growth only happens when you stretch yourself.

When I decided to co-produce a movie and produce a Cirque Du Soleil type show a few years ago, I was aware I didn’t know what I was doing. But I wanted to do it because I like storytelling, and actually doing it is the best way to learn; not just reading about how others do it.

I wasn’t afraid to fail. I was looking forward to making the mistakes, because they would be my mistakes, and I’d have to learn from them and use them to get better at storytelling. Also, doing something you’ve never done is intense. Your level of focus and attention to detail goes up because you’re taking on something, and your brain is shocked and awed with new stuff. You have to change your habits and routines, you have to rely on other people not just on yourself.

This is how you get better at learning.

As Peter Bregman says, anyone can get better at anything. But, only if you:

  1. want to;
  2. are willing to feel the discomfort of doing things differently.

Yes, being a learner requires work. Embrace it for real.

Bottom line: Seeking and embracing discomfort is the fastest path to personal growth. Learning anything new means you will have to get uncomfortable; there’s no way around it.