What can a college football program, a six year old, an auditing company, a HS basketball player, and Uber driving educator teach us about learning? They show us that the only way we can grow is if we're willing to step out of our comfort zone and struggle a bit.
The one and only, Seth Godin
Full Show Notes
Yale Comfort Zone Research
Learning Like a Jungle Tiger TEDx
I'm Trevor. I'm Alex. Welcome to the learner lab podcast presented by a train, ugly.com each week something new that can help us learn. Let's go. Let's start this podcast off. Like all good podcast should start. Has that with a video. What do you see a guy like help the audience hears a man, a skateboarder in a leather jacket and he's falling a lot and he's looks like he's trying to do a trick. Yup. He's like going up this ramp trying to switch skateboards in mid air and land it and it is not going well. I think he's on like his seventh miss now. Also fun fact not wearing a tee shirt or a helmet, but he's got a leather jacket, which yeah, he's not happySpeaker 2:
about this boy doing this guys.Speaker 1:
He says he's found it. Here we go.Speaker 2:
When we're at time, he did it.Speaker 1:
Switching skateboards in med air, no crashing, no shirt. His name is Jerry. Jack will drop the link in the show notes. So what can we learn from a video like that? Perseverance is what I learned from that and like, yeah, for sure. I think it's, to me it's like a great reminder of the learning process. So like let's break down what happens first crashes a bunch of times. In the end we get sort of the visible Aha moment. We can see it in his face, it clicks, he goes, I found it right, and that's something that we've all experienced before. Like every single one of us, no matter what we do. We've been in that situation where we're trying something a bunch of times and then it clicks, which means something that we all know, but sometimes we forget is that the Aha moment can't happen without the crashes. You need those 20 missed attempts at first and who knows how many it's going to take, but you could make the argument every single crash led him to, I found it now. That's what learning looks like and sounds like no matter what we're trying to learn. That's exactly how we learn to walk, ride a bike, shoot a basketball, do Algebra, make a podcast, communicate with people. It's every exactly like no matter what the skill we're trying to build, the process we moved through is always the same. In fact, there's an iron clad rule of learning. One of the biggest truths of learning. We're always going to be bad first period, end of sentence. There's no way around this rule like if we want to get better at something, learn a new skill. We're always going to struggle at first and it's sort of from the struggle that we grow. I would bet every single person listening to this pod right now has something they want to get better at now. It would be awesome. It'd be fun and convenient if we could just skip this struggle step and get good at whatever we want, which our way to being pretty awesome, but that's not how learning works. We have to earn our skills. We have to earn our growth from the struggle. Step. Can't land the skateboard without a few crashes. Can't get good at something unless we're willing to be bad first. One of my favorite people on earth is Dave Chang, the chef in on his podcast. He made this statement. He goes, you can't make good Kimchi unless you're willing to make some bad Kim. So true. It's so true for everything. It's impossible to get good unless we're willing to be bad. If you're listening to this podcast, you have done this hundreds of times. Everyone listening is really good at a lot of things. So we just don't realize all of the struggles that we've put in beforehand. Yeah. It's like, okay, we're all super skilled, were ridiculously good at a lot of things, and for the majority of those skills, we weren't born with them. Right? Like you can think about things as simple as walking. Yeah. Right. You built that skill. Yeah. Riding a bike, built that skill, communicating with others, built that skill of driving a car. All of these things, we build these skills through practice and struggle and experimentation by doing exactly what Jerry did. So, so many times we watch a video like Jerry the skateboarder, and like, we're in awe of that. But the truth is we do these things every day. Seth Godin, one of our favorite people on Earth, the icon. Seriously, our idol, uh, I think kind of summarizes this up pretty well.Speaker 3:
The people who are good at learning say, I liked the feeling of not knowing yet the same way that people are good at skiing. Say I liked the feeling of being just a little bit out of control. That's how you get good at ca and that's how you get good at math. The difficulty comes from the fact that if you are not open to living with the tension of being stupid, you can't possibly learn it. I call it thirsty. If you are thirsty, it means that you were willing to feel stupid. You are willing to try. You are willing to expose yourself to the unknown in order to seat what your desires are to get to the next level.Speaker 1:
Honestly, this episode should be that video on loop for 20 minutes because what he's saying is so true. If you want to grow, you have to be willing to struggle and I think there's two sides of this. It's, we have to be able to step into those situations as a novice, like, right, I don't know this skill like Jerry, this gave the initial jump. Yes, and it works on the other side of the fence. Even when I'm good at stuff, I still have to find ways to like push out of the comfort zone and struggle in order to grow. Right. Because as we all know, it's not just that first leap. Right, exactly. It's a continual process. In order to grow, we have to struggle. Now, the way we think about it is in a lot of the listeners have probably heard this is the jungle tiger versus zoo tiger sort of metaphor that we use. Is that a metaphor analogy? I think we said it's an allegory but never heard of that word, but whatever it is, it's, this is an explanation of comfort zones. It's like, okay, compare a tiger living in the zoo with one in the jungle zoo, tiger. Easy life. Definitely struggle. Africans in the zoo. Who's brought to it? Yeah. Jungle Tiger. Really hard life and a ton of struggle. Right? Obviously the jungle tiger learns way more than the zoo tiger. Now this is an easy kind of exercise that a kindergartner can understand, but there's so much science that supports us. Like literally Darwin did this study where they compared brains of animals in the zoo with wild animal brains and the wild animal brains were 30% bigger and you'll just published a study also where they looked at the brains of monkeys while they were training them. Once the monkeys started to figure out what was happening and they were getting comfortable with the whole practice, they're learning centers in their brain started to shut down and then when they started to introduce uncertainty back into the process, those learning centers lit up again. This message is sort of blown up. A lot of people are talking about jungle tigers in zoo tigers. It's a good framework for this. Yet sometimes the, the core of the message is lost. This has nothing to do with aggression or big leaps out of our comfort zone. It's usually the small choices. At its core choosing to jungle tiger is any time we do the right thing, the better thing or maybe more difficult or uncomfortable thing over the easy, comfortable option. We're kind of choosing discomfort because we know it leads to growth. Exactly. Like asking a question in a group that's jungle tiger is having a difficult conversation. Jungle Tiger because it's more difficult to do that than to avoid those conversations. And those aren't huge leaps. No, the small things, but they're still difficult to do and they still help us grow. Absolutely. Working on a project out of our comfort zone, trying out for a team, applying for a job. These are all things that everyone does all the time. And the argument is when we do stuff like that, we grow more than if we don't. Honestly, this sounds a lot like the desirable difficulties material we talked about in episode two. Exactly. Remember the flashcards example? Right? So if we're studying for a test and we have all these flashcards in there, an order that's pretty comfortable when we're getting them, we're getting quizzed on stuff that we know what comes next. Yup. But if we really want to learn the material, we should shuffle those cards up. We're going to grow more because it's a bit more uncomfortable, right? Yeah. It's going to be harder to shuffled into. Not Shuffle, but we will grow more. And that's illustrating the point. This isn't like grand leaps out of the comfort zone. It's these small little choices we make to struggle or not struggle to grow or to stay where we're at. So everyone listening, we've done our fair share of jungle tiger ring, but if we're going to be real, everyone listening, we've done a lot of zoo tagging as well. And look, we're not saying you need to spend all of your time out there in the jungle and being uncomfortable. Absolutely not. We're saying is that if we want to be learners and we want to grow at something and there's a skill we want to get better at, we should work to spend more time in the jungle and pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone. And perhaps like the biggest reason that we don't spend more time in the jungle is it will always involve more struggle to jungle tiger then to zoo tiger and struggling is not very fun, right? Like fun and it's hard. There's other reasons like our fixed mindset and our stories could keep us in the zoot. We talked about that in episode six. Fear is at play here, but it all kind of sits back to struggle. It's like that is the price of admission we have to pay in order to grow. Are we willing to do that or not? Now look, just like with desirable difficulties, there's ways to make things way too difficult where we don't grow. Just like there's ways that we can struggle a ton and not grow, but that's not the goal here. Right? We don't want to make it too hard for us, right? We want, we want the right amount of struggle. One way to think about this is if you want to get better at playing basketball, you want to play with people better than you, right? Yes. That's going to be helpful, but you don't want to go play against like Lebron or something like you're going to play one on one with Lebron because you're not really gonna. Yeah, we're, we're calibrating this. Right. It's like this isn't just a binary thing. It's like, oh, struggle a lot. It's, that's how you grow. It's right. We have to struggle to grow and there's like the right amounts, the right amount of weight to help me get stronger. Right. And there's, there's a lot of self awareness in that, right? Like knowing how much do you need, that's still going to push you out of your comfort zone, but it's not going to challenge you too much that you're not going to grow. Right. It's like finding ways to venture out of our comfort zone being down. So we've kind of touched on this idea on if we want to learn a new skill, there's some struggle we have to go through to do that. Is that initial struggle right? You have to sit through the valley of being bad stay patient. Yeah. Like you said, sort of the price of admission. Yes. But it doesn't end there. If we want to keep growing at any skill, we have to keep struggling. We have to keep pushing ourselves outside of our comfort, designing ways to jungle tiger, because if the goal is to grow, that's how it's done, right? Okay. No one's saying we need to spend 24, seven in the jungle. It's if we want to grow. Now we got to figure out how to jungle tiger. Let's look at both sides of the fence through a story. Okay? A few years ago, over the holidays, I was hanging out with the family friend, his the names, we'll call him Fred, okay? And also, Fred is six. We were just like sitting on the couch, like real bored. And I decided to show off. I showed him this trick. It's called quarter snatching. You put a quarter on your elbow, swing your hand down and try to catch it. Okay? Uh, looks pretty cool. But to be real, it's pretty easy to do. Terrific way to impress a six year old, right? So I did this a few times and Fred legit thought I was magic. He's like, oh my goodness, you have to show me how to do this. So I showed him a couple more. He decided he wanted to try, so puts the quarter on his arm, swings his hand down. Completely misses. Okay, no big deal. First try. Of course I didn't catch it back on the arm attempt number two, swings the hand down, smacks the quarter across the room. Okay, ran and got it back on the arm. One more time. Attempt three missed again. There was no fourth attempt. He goes, well, that's dumb. And went back to the couch. Which tiger is he choosing to be in this scenario? It's definitely being a zoo tie back to the zoo. We were in the jungle. We were getting our trying it. We were trying something new. Three good. This doesn't feel good. I'm back to my comfort zone. The couch. The couch is the comfort zone. The comfort zone is the zoo and this is a six year old illustrating the point. This is a universal thing. We have all done that now. Some people might be laughing at him, but we all do this all the time. All the time, all the time. So many times we try something like this, we see a skill that we want to learn. Like say we want to learn how to play guitar. We go pick up a guitar, try it three times. And we're like, wow. Overwhelming. Really tough cause that's where that, that we're met with the wall of struggle. When we learn like after effects or Photoshop, you first open it up and it's like, oh my goodness. And we have to be willing to kind of sit in that. And if we're not, it's impossible to figure it out more often than not. What do we do? We retreat to the couch, to our comfort zone. All of us do it way back in the day before train ugly was even a thing. This all started with basketball camps and we would go in the summer and do like a week long basketball camp with uh, like high school teams and we're working with a team that was really, really good in the state and on their team was one of the best players in the state. We'll call him Jason now. Now stick with me. I promise we're going somewhere, but we've got to add some details here. So add some context. We were doing a drill called the one on one ladder and so the basic idea is you play one on one for 90 seconds against someone. If you win that game, you move up at court. If you lose, you move down a court. The goal is declined at the top of the ladder by winning whoever finishes at the top court wins. And this player named Jason was like six inches taller than everyone. It was. You've got a pretty good advantage. Yeah. So basically what he was doing, he was winning every game by just like backing people in. He'd shoot miss, shoot, miss, shoot, miss eventually make it and no one could stop it because he's just way taller than everyone. Right? So we ran through this and he kept finishing at the top. What we realize is like, Yo, like this isn't really helping him get better. Like if we use this, the language we've established, it's like this is a very zoo tiger drill. He's very comfortable. Yes, he's finishing at the top but he's not really struggling. So the coaches and I invented kind of like a manipulation to the drill to hopefully make it better for Jason. So we said, okay, this time, same game, but we're going to play one shot, one on one. There's no rebounding. Like if you miss, it's automatically that the defenders ball. So now we can't just sit there and make buckets. It's so it's kind of going to throw him into the jungle a bit. He can't just depend on the put backs. He has to focus on making a good move and making the first shot. He finished at the bottom court, we dated again. Jason finished at the bottom again. He freaked out, kick the Water Fountain and left the gym and never returned. And now look, I'm not trying to shame him cause I didn't know any of this stuff. Now if it happened we could have had a really, really good conversation about this. So this is my bad that he left because I just kind of threw him out there. I didn't give him a purpose or why behind it or any of the underlying science. Right. I have a couple of questions for you. I know like I'm the basketball guy in this team, but okay. Which drill would be better for Jason if he's trying to become a better player? The second drill. Why? Because he's struggling there. It's not as easy for it. It's kind of out of his comfort zone. He's has to focus on doing something that he's maybe not as good at. So drill one easier. Right? He's going to finish at the top. Drill to better one involves struggle. One did not. Now I think whether we know basketball or not, we agree with what you said. Yeah. The second drill is better. So why did he leave? Because he wasn't looking good anymore. Yeah, and that is kind of like this big distinction we have to make. It's like look, looking good and getting better are two different things that usually don't happen at the same time. Right now there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good. We should, we should be able to put it on the line and compete like Jerry the skateboarder. Guess what? He wanted to land the trick and maybe impress his friends, but he was down to do the things to help him grow. So Jason was so obsessed with looking good that it actually robbed him of the learning opportunities. Let's just be real, like the looking good thing. There's nothing wrong with that. We shouldn't feel shame about that. It's like outcomes and performance matters in everything we do in life. Like in business, in school, in sports that matters. And it's okay to want those and care about those in choosing to train ugly. In jungle tiger, we're not asking people to sacrifice their longterm performance. The real sacrifice we need to make to become a better learner is in our comfort level backstage. So what I mean by that, no one was asking him to sacrifice his points per game, his starting position on the team. Like all those are safe, right? It's just in the practice. It's we're practicing and it's the summertime. And during this drill can you sacrifice your comfort? And the cool thing is if you do that and do that more, all of those outcomes that you do care about, we're going to see more of that. This isn't a choice between performance and learning. This is a choice between our comfort level during practice. We all have this backstage time. That's where we're trying to jungle tiger and then by all means, when it's game time, put your best foot forward. I think there's another point that this story illustrates, right? So Jason was pretty good at basketball. He's really good at basket put in that initial work, that initial struggle. He practiced and and struggled and got good. Right? But once he got good, he sort of plateaued and just kind of stayed in the comfort zone right here. He knows he's taller than everyone. He can just sit there and keep shooting them up and then rebound and then putting them back in there. If he doesn't start struggling more, he's not going to grow beyond that level. Exactly. In this scenario, looking good became more important than getting better. The whole goal with the pod is to help people become better learners and I think this is such an important piece. It's like understanding that in almost every learning situation we face there's a simple choice to jungle or zoo tiger to struggle or not struggle to grow or not and we get to make that choice like every single day. The cool thing is once we understand the value of these desirable difficulties, the value of the struggle, we can choose to do that more. Now there is no blueprint to that, but the idea is like finding ways to get better reps, finding ways to get feed back, looking for different models and different concepts. All of these things will challenge us. All these things will create struggle and all of these things can help us grow. I've seen so many cool examples of this in our workshops, so let, let's just go through a few and I think putting some examples on the table is going to help everyone. One, one of the most successful college football coaches of the century went in and I was working with his team and they, they did this thing that was so interesting in every single team meeting. Anytime a coach was presenting to the team, they actually hired education professors from the university to come sit in on those meetings and give feedback to the coaches about how they were presenting the material to the players. Wow. Think about that. Not the most comfortable thing to do. No, it's kind of the opposite of [inaudible] some struggle, but it's brilliant. It was a useful skill. How we present material to our team, let's bring in an expert to help us get better at it. So that's not really a huge leap that they're making up. It's not this grands jump out into the jungle, right? They're just bringing some people in to give them extra feedback on. It's, it's a very useful skill and a creative way to Prac and I think that we can find ways to incorporate that sort of idea into our own practices. Right. If there's a skill that we're trying to get better at, we can bring other people who are experts in that common. Just wash our process, see how we're doing it. Honestly, there's probably someone in your building that's really good at something you want to be good at. Yeah, and you can find ways to just seek them out and ask for some feedback on your own process. Absolutely. We maybe, we don't all have the resources to hire professors from the education department, but someone around us, it's probably good.Speaker 4:
We can go observe, we could get feedback from them.Speaker 1:
I think a great example of this whole process is like you in these after effects videos that you're making. So years ago I was like, dude, you should get good at this. I get to see the power in the videos and it's been so cool to watch you do it. And I would imagine like when you first opened the program it was like, oh my goodness, it's pretty dense. Overwhelming. But you made your first video and of course it wasn't that good. She made one. And how many have you made since then? Like 1515 or so. And the last few are like really, really good. I think one you were willing to sit through the valley of bad, that initial part to make the first video or even just kind of learn the tools of the software and then every single video I can see you trying new techniques, learning from new people, experimenting with different things. And that's why every single video is better than the last. Are you the best after effects person in the world? No, but you continue to get better each time cause you're finding ways to put yourself into the jungle. I did some work in a school district outside of Dallas and during a few of our brainstorms this teacher was like outlining some of her fears and sort of limiting beliefs like we talked about in episode six and she said my biggest fear in life is parent teacher conferences because here comes the story. I am terrible at interacting with strangers. So again, kind of like our stories and fear work together. Right. And so she like put that on the table. This is a few years ago. Well, I actually got to go back to the school and during the workshop she like shot her hand up. She's like, I've been a jungle tiger. And she had a huge smile on her face and I was like, all right, him like I could remember her from few years ago and it ends up over the last few summers she signed up to be an Uber driver. That is awesome. Now of course this little side hustle bringing in some money, but she did it to specifically practices skills. She realized this is like a low stakes way to get some reps, every person that gets in the car. Is this a stranger? It's a new low stakes rep to practice the interaction right? When I wasn't comfortable. No, absolutely not. But it's helping her get better at this skill. So the threads so far is just like, okay, what is the skill I want to get better at? How can I step out of my comfort zone to get better? Reps are better feedback. Another great example. Um, I've done quite a bit of work with this auditing company and during one of our brainstorms we, when we were talking about jungle tigers, you tiger, I'm a woman, got up and she's like, I think Isseu tiger a lot, but that doesn't mean I don't do anything. She's like, I'm constantly working, but I only work on the things in my comfort zone. She's like, my comfort zone is made of numbers and accounting. Like that's what I do. And she's like, if I think of the books that I read, the conferences I go to, the conversations all within her own little, they're all about like numbers and accounting and the way she, she explained this was pretty cool. She goes, rather than sharpening my spear a little bit more, maybe I should go to the jungle and add a new weapon. First of all, I was like, okay, I'm stealing that forever. That was brilliant. And I kind of pushed her on it like, okay, what would that look like? And I've actually been in touch and a lot of the people in the company are doing this now. They're signing up for Improv classes and they're reading books in like storytelling and communication. They're thinking was, we all have all this knowledge up here about numbers and accounting, but if we can't communicate that to someone, it doesn't do as much good. So again, let's just break down what they're doing in going to the Improv class. Is that going to be very comfortable? No, it's going to be very uncomfortable. And in going to a few of these classes and reading a few books, are they going to be experts in? Probably not. Are they going to be better at their jobs? Certainly without a doubt. With almost everything that we encounter and we have a choice of I can either zoo tiger here or jungle tiger, right? I can either stay in my comfort zone or try to force myself out a little bit. Right? And that's really what the auditor is doing, right? Like my comfort zone here is the numbers world. I'm good at that. I'm comfortable here. I'm sharpening my saw, right? Yeah. But I have the opportunity with every other encounter to expand that comfort zone and try new things. And that's what the Improv's for 100% and, and like we said, we don't want this to come across as like, oh, it's easy just jungle tiger. It's like, no, it's hard. Right. And scary. And we're also like realistic. It's like, look, we're not jungle tiger ring every single challenge we're faced with. And the reason we use this sort of allegory, hey learning, it's because it's easy to remember. Like a question we can always ask ourselves is like, which tiger am I being now? Right. And it's something that we can control. It's sort of like almost think of it in a flow chart, right? Yeah. It's like, here's some opportunity that came to me. It's like, am I trying to get better at this skill? If yes, yes. I need to have a little discomfort here. I need to have some struggle in order to create the pay, the price of admission. Are you ready for a call back? Yes. You forgot about this Guy Fred. Oh, where did we leave Fred? Uh, that was the coin flipping guy or yeah, we told a lot of stories, but Fred is our six year old friend and where did we leave him? Uh, he gave up on the third try, went back to the couch, come back to the couch. What happened next was pretty cool. When did the couch took out my laptop. I showed him the skateboarding video. The same one was earlier at the beginning of the episode. It's coming full circle. He watched Jerry the skateboarder crash fall and eventually landed. As soon as the video is over, Fred went and got the quarter, put it back on his arm, swung his hand down and caught it. If we did he actually get you that? No, just kidding. You didn't catch it. Just seeing if you're on your toes there. Of course he missed like again, that's not how learning works. He missed of course, but this time he tried for four minutes, 50 or 60 attempts, round one, three attempts, not enough round two after 50 or 60 tries, he was catching it. Then he's doing two arms at once and then he's stacking quarters in catching the entire stack. It couldn't have been a bigger shift question. I want to ask you and the audiences, what did the video do for him? It showed them that struggle is an essential part of the process is a reminder, right? It was a reminder, it wasn't like a hype up video of like inspirational quotes and someone running up a mountain with rocky music in the background. Right. It was someone actually, it was showing how his skill is built and it was a reminder cause he knows this just like we all know this. It was a reminder that to get good we have to struggle. We tell people it's okay to make mistakes when the truth is it's necessary. And watching Jerry do that was a reminder to him, which helped him get off the couch, out of the zoo, back into the jungle. And in this scenario, the whole difference for him was four minutes. All he needed was four minutes in the jungle to learn the skill. Obviously the skills that we're trying to learn here take longer than four minutes, but the tactics remained the same. Only way to catch the quarter is to be willing to drop a few, and if we're not, it's impossible to get good at this skill. Jungle Tiger ring is identifying a place that we want to grow, a skill that's useful and important to us, and finding ways to step into the wild, to get the reps to struggle, to get the feedback and basically do the things that help us grow. It's not always fun, but that's a choice that we can all make more often. Thanks so much for listening. Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to call our hotline at (805) 635-8459.