Yesterday, we shared Josh Kaufman’s thoughts on the 3 barriers to learning something new – barriers that also apply to a life in the grey. Today, he explains how to get in the right mindset to learn (and have a fulfilling career).

First things first, you don’t need to be an expert:

Say you don’t know how to paint, but want to learn. Here’s the absolute worst way to go about it: compare your current level of ability (nouveau third grader) with Picasso, Michelangelo, or any random artist that posts on deviantART. Anything that you produce will look like garbage in comparison, so why bother?

Comparing yourself to others during the beginning of your journey is wasted energy and can be demotivating. We love to provide you with examples of folks that are living in the grey, but complete in their grey stories is the fact that they too had ups and downs in their journey.

Just like you don’t need to be an expert when learning a new skill, you don’t need to be a master at blending your personal and professional. Rather, define grey for yourself and do what you need to do to get the results you want, not to get the results that someone else may have gotten.

Our brains track our perceived competence vs. others constantly. When you don’t think you’re as good as other people at something, it’s common to feel self-conscious, and your mind starts looking for ways to protect your fragile ego from feelings of inferiority.

That’s why you get so uptight when you try to learn something new: your brain kicks into social comparison mode, even though it’s unnecessary at best, and counterproductive at worst.

We’ll leave you with these two ideas from Josh that apply so perfectly to the quest to living in the grey. Noodle on them while you develop your plan to go from black-and-white to grey:

  1. Social comparison is meaningless – who cares what other people can do if you’re able to get the results you want?
  2. When you decide to learn something new, you’re not competing against other people: you’re competing against your own previous lack of ability, and any improvement is a win.

Stay tuned to tomorrow’s final installment of Josh’s super-insightful guest post.

[Ninja Image: Jeyhun85]



Josh Kaufman is the bestselling author of “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast” and “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business.” You can find more of Josh’s ongoing research at joshkaufman.net.



  • This is a great article. This really is a bad way to live. The fact is that there is always somebody better than you somewhere.

    The cool thing is that it means there is always somebody to learn from. Thanks for sharing this article!

  • I mean… Comparing your self and skill level to others is not a good way to live.

  • Live in the Grey

    Good point, Tim. What you’re saying reminds us of the part in our philosophy: “Learn from others. (Everyone’s a teacher.) Teach others. (We’re all students.)

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