November 12, 2013

The 3 Major Barriers to Learning Something New

Today we’re sharing excerpts from a  post on Ramit Sethi’s blog by Josh Kaufman (read the whole thing here). We thought this post was a great way to understand learning and how it can help you live grey. Check it out below:

Take a moment to think of all of the things you want to know how to do. Would you like to:

* Learn how to speak or write a new language?
* Figure out how to draw?
* Play a musical instrument, or learn to sing?
* Start your own business?
* Get better at negotiation or public speaking?
* Program, design, or learn some useful new technology?
Fly an airplane?

Learn how to acquire new skills quickly, and you can pick up ALL of these skills, and many more. You can learn things that’ll help you make more money. You can learn things that’ll raise your profile, earn the respect of people you value, and create new opportunities. You can learn things that’ll permanently enrich your life, and open up entirely new areas of the world for exploration and enjoyment.

So why don’t most of us spend more time systematically picking up new skills? Three reasons:

1. Most people don’t commit to learning anything specific. They just say things like “I think it’d be totally cool to learn how to speak Japanese someday,” and never actually make a plan to sit down and practice. Even worse, they never take a moment to figure out WHY they’re interested in that particular skill, so it’s close to impossible to make it a priority vs. other, more urgent matters, like going out drinking with friends or watching old episodes of Breaking Bad.

2. Learning new skills is often intimidating. When you’re learning something new, there are enormous gaps in your understanding of the topic. You’re very aware of what you don’t know, and you don’t know where to begin. That ambiguity generates fear and uncertainty, both of which make the ancient survival-oriented parts of your brain freak out. What’s the easiest way to stop feeling afraid? Give up.

3. Learning new skills is usually frustrating. Let’s say you push through the uncertainty long enough to actually sit down and practice. Here’s what’s going to happen: YOU WILL SUCK. Completely, totally suck. What’s the easiest way to stop feeling stupid? Stop practicing, and say to yourself, “it really wasn’t that interesting to begin with.”

Here’s the thing: indecision, intimidation, and frustration are universal barriers to skill acquisition. They’re entirely predictable, so you can prepare accordingly.

The key to rapid skill acquisition isn’t involve complicated memorization techniques or mental hacks. It’s just a simple, systematic way to spend your time and energy doing things that help you build real skill, and avoid things that don’t.

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Are you guilty of thinking any of these excuses? We’ve all been there. Tomorrow, we’ll share more insight from Josh on how to overcome these reasons for inaction.

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

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