The Key To Speed-Learning Anything

The Key To Speed-Learning Anything It’s all in who you think you are

Andrew is a likable enough guy as long as you stay on his good side.  He does his work; he takes care of other people. 

You wouldn’t know it to talk to him, because he probably couldn’t put it into words but he sees himself as a comer and an arriver, a comer in that he’s got great prospects, an arriver in that it’s nearly inevitable that he’ll reach happily ever after. His life purpose is to land on the sweet flat plateau of success ASAP.  

The way he sees it is how lots of us see it:  Life is hard on the way to the top but when you get there it’s easy, smooth grooving.  Life is a game that can actually be won.  Once you’ve created your magnum opus whatever it is, your reputation will precede you.  The world becomes your oyster.  You can do no wrong. 

It’ll be like living on that yacht in the liquor ad, or getting into heaven or reaching enlightenment, or getting that diploma, or writing that best seller, or making so much money that your money gets up every morning and goes to work instead of you, money enough that if you lost half of it you wouldn’t even feel it, a buffer that deep, a plateau that bedrocked.

Andrew thinks rich to grow rich. He knows that he’s destined for great things and is vigilant about signs of progress toward his lofty inevitable destination. He takes complements and criticisms to heart, not their content but their indication of altitude.  If your feedback on anything implies that he’s further from the plateau than he thought, he dismisses it by any means possible.  It’s going to take his full momentum to get to the top and he can’t be distracted by the least doubt. 

That’s what I mean about staying on his good side.  You have to watch your language around Andrew.  He’s very sensitive.  Say that he’s picky and he’ll take up the next ten minutes telling you why he could never be picky since picky is bad and he can’t be bad. Voice even the subtlest discouraging word and he swats at it feverishly as it flits around too close to his vulnerable head.  It’s easy to mess with his head, even entertaining, but ultimately tedious so you choose you words carefully.  Say he’s discerning, not picky and he’s fine with it.  Just don’t ever imply he’s done anything wrong.

Bill is a likeable guy too but you don’t have to pick your words as carefully with him.  Like Andrew he’s ambitious, but Bill doesn’t really believe in the plateau.  He sees himself not as climbing to a destination but as a lifelong climber, a permanent work in progress, forever evolving, tuning and retuning his intuitions, refining but not toward perfection.  Though he strives for perfection, he doesn’t believe in it. To him it’s just that figment of ultimate satisfaction, that all of us have to get over. Compliments don’t go to his head. With every success he says, “Nice. What’s next?”

Bill takes feedback to heart differently, since he sees his heart differently.  What is he? Not some undiscovered gem to keep unmarred at all costs but as clay forever sculpted and re-sculpted, never kiln-hardened, never complete.  

For Andrew feedback is only a sign of whether he’s just about landed. His depends on feeling always like he’s just about there, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Nothing would crush Andrew’s spirits as much as discovering that he is not a comer destined for greatness but doomed to the hell of continuing education. He’s like a Calvinist, a member of that peculiar faith that believes we are all predestined for heaven or hell, all of them confident that they’re destined for heaven and wary of all signs they might not be.

That’s why you can never tell Andrew anything and why he’s a very slow learner.  He wouldn’t know how to stand corrected, standing with his dignity intact while admitting a mistake and correcting it. Bill stands corrected easily, because the Bill who stands corrected is not striving to get to where he never again needs correcting.

The ability to stand corrected, apologizing and learning swiftly with dignity intact, requires a different sense of your true self, yours self a work forever in progress, a living and learning intuition-tuning being.  Critical feedback on your behavior is no threat to that identity; it’s the guidance upon which that identity thrives.


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