“You don’t need to get comfortable before you can practice your skills”

Adam Grant shares a learning key from polyglots—people who learned several languages—in Hidden Potential:

You don’t have to wait until you’ve acquired an entire library of knowledge to start to communicate. Your mental library expands as you communicate. When I asked Sara Maria what it takes to begin, she said she no longer waits to talk until she has a basic level of proficiency. She starts talking on the first day, discomfort be damned. “I’m always trying to convince people to start speaking,” she tells me. “Just memorize a few sentences—a short monologue introducing yourself and explaining why you’re learning the language.”

When Benny is ready to start learning a new language, he sets an ambitious goal: to make at least 200 mistakes a day. He measures his progress by the number of errors he makes. “The more mistakes you make, the faster you will improve and the less they will bother you,” he observes. “The best cure to feeling uncomfortable about making mistakes is to make more mistakes.”

Psychologists call that cycle learned industriousness. When you get praised for making an effort, the feeling of effort itself starts to take on secondary reward properties. Instead of having to push yourself to keep trying, you feel pulled toward it. 

The idea of speaking from day one has changed how I think about learning. You can code from day one, teach from day one, and coach from day one. You don’t need to get comfortable before you can practice your skills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *