The Learning Pit


13 days ago by siggi

In a meeting today we got talking about startup success and why some are successful and some are not. You might think it has something to do with intelligence, luck, or maybe connections. Turns out it is actually timing. But, that’s not what was on my mind.

What was on my mind was something I heard a long time ago in an interview with Ira Glass. He was talking about storytelling and how bad he was at it in the beginning, and through doing it, again and again, he became better, until the level he reached at the time of the interview.

When I was young I often heard people say “he is so talented”. Of course, there is some genetic advantage people can be born with, but what each and every person in the world that has reached the peak of their profession has in common is that they did a lot of it. They practiced a lot.

There are countless motivational videos to be found on YouTube and most of them talk about this aspect. Perseverance, never giving up, weathering the tough times. although they are mostly very cliche, it seems to be very true.

When you start something new, you will be bad at it. Guaranteed. You will have to work on getting better, but before things become better, they will get worse. This is nicely described by something called the Learning Pit, and most people will quit at the bottom of the pit before things start becoming better.

This is not just a theory, you can see this all around you. If you hear of someone with a successful career, a successful business, they have had to work hard to get there. This will not always be immediately visible, but on further inquiry, you will find where they have spent more time than others to hone their skills.

Don’t ever tell your kids that they are talented. Tell them how great you think it is that they worked so hard, that they persevered, that they overcame the obstacles. They will only be set back in life by thinking they are talented but will be at a great advantage if they learn to never give up.