Do the Work of Learning

Do the Work of Learning

I started working with a business coach a couple months ago, and I feel like my mind is exploding. As a result, I’m learning a lot about learning. Being “in the know” is popular, not being “in the know” is uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, isn’t it? But I’m learning that that very feeling of discomfort is vital to the learning process.

Let me explain. Think about something you’re really, really good at, something that’s an area of expertise for you. Maybe the first time you tried baking, or picked up a calligraphy pen, the first time you used an SLR camera, or began learning a new language. Do you remember how it made you feel, that discomfort, that clumsiness, that strong sense of “I have no idea what I’m doing?”

There’s a natural process to learning, a discomfort that comes with doing something new, because it takes time to become proficient at something. We all love KNOWING things, love the power and confidence that it gives us, and we HATE the discomfort of not knowing. So much so that we do all we can to kill that feeling as soon as possible. Why do 77% of the people in the United States own and use smart phones? Because they want to know— who, what, why, how, and when.

We hate not knowing.

As creative business owners, especially in this highly-visible age of social media, with communities of comparison and unspoken expectations for transparency, the pressure to KNOW IT ALL (or pretend to, at least) is strong. So is the pressure to find all the right answers at lightening speed, when we discover gaps in our knowledge.

But in an effort to be in “in the know,” I think many of us have ceased learning. We collect systems and “how-to manuals,” download free guides right and left, and pass around information from one self-taught creative to another, stacking our mental bookshelves full of answers without actually doing to work of LEARNING.

For many of us, we’re not learning, we’re just erasing that uncomfortable feeling of “I don’t know” as quickly as possible.

But here’s the thing: the “not knowing” is necessary. A Jen Wilkin says, “The first sign that learning is about to take place is when we feel the extent of what we do not know.”

Want to grow and change as a creative, as an artist, as an entrepreneur, as a business owner? DON’T RUSH PAST THAT FEELING. Lean into it the “not knowing”. Let yourself dwell there. Be humble enough to “not know” long enough to absorb new information, not just memorize answers to regurgitate on command.

Want to figure out your pricing? Don’t just look up competitors prices and slap numbers on your website. Sit in the discomfort of not knowing, do the hard work of calculating your own costs and doing your own research, until you KNOW your costs, KNOW your profit margins, and can price yourself with confidence.

Want to master off-camera lighting? Don’t just download a guide and call it a day. That may be a GREAT starting place, but don’t stop there. Learn it, don’t just check it off your list.

Want to learn time-management? Don’t just google “top time management tips” and apply the first two that pop up. Lean into the tension and figure out what works best for you.

There is absolutely no substitute for doing hard work on your own, as Thomas Edison said. Nor is there such a thing as an overnight success.

“Feel the extent of what you do not know. Don’t rush to find out what others say. Rather, sit in the discomfort of not knowing, because then the “aha” moment will stick with you.” — Jen Wilkin

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