Action is the most important step of the learning process. It can also be one of the most difficult.
In order to grow we have to take and sustain action - today we unpack two frameworks that will help provide the fuel.
Full Show Notes
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
The Culture Code by Dan Coyle
WorkLife Podcast by Adam Grant
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. So all of us have goals that we want to achieve, stuff we went to learn. If we want to learn things we want to do. All of those require action, you could argue is the most important step above us things. So we think there are four big things that can sort of impede our actions. The first one is having a fixed mindset. I don't believe I can do this or learn this. And the second thing is fear. I'm afraid to look bad. I'm afraid what would happen if I try this. Exactly. And then the third thing is not understanding the value of something. You're not seeing the value of the value or purpose. Like what's the point of this? Why are we doing this? And then the fourth thing is aiming to big starting too big, right? So I'm teaching you math and you're really like checked out and like not into the, I don't really care that much. Okay. So my argument is it could be one of these four things and maybe a combo. It's either you don't believe you can learn this lesson, you're afraid to look bad. You see it as too big of a jump from where you're at now to where I'm telling you to go, or honestly, probably most common is I don't see the value of this. Why do I have to learn this stuff? What's the point? Right? We've given a lot of love to fear in our mindset, especially on the train ugly website, and we're going to touch on those later on the pod. But today let's talk about these other things because I think they're kind of universal hurdles, right? So the idea here is to get good at number three and four. In order to take action, we have to find ways to aim low, start small, and find meaning and purpose in the activity. Okay, so we're going to go through some tools about how to do that on two sides of the fence. One as the individual between our ears and to as a leader. And I think we can deploy kind of both. Let's just role play this. I'm your math teacher. All right, awesome. Hello, Mr. Reagan. It's funny because my dad isn't that teacher. That's what it's called. Anyways. All right. I'm teaching you this equation. What's a common question you might ask? Well, I'm teaching you this equation. Oh, what's the point of this? Why do I have to learn this equation? Am I going to use this? The common answer I might give you is because it's on the test, or even better because I said so. Our argument is there's not much like purpose or meaning behind those two things, right? Maybe a better option to create more meaning and purpose around this equation would be, look, you're not probably going to use this equation in your life, so you're being real with them. That's the truth. I'm being honest. It's like you're probably not going to use this ever. There's some situations where you might, but you're most likely not going to use it, but no matter what it is you choose to do in life, you will use the skill of being a problem solver. Okay? And that's the value of what I'm teaching you right now. I'm giving you a tool, this equation, and then I throw problems at you. And this is a place where you get to sharpen that skill identifying and solving problems, right? Because I'm gonna use that even if I don't use the equation here. What you do, problem solving, anything super power, especially now, right? And this is where we're sharpening that skill. Doesn't mean this lesson is going to be the most fun thing for you. But what I've done there, I've created more meaning and purpose. So now as the student, you're not looking at this like, oh, I have to learn this equation because the teacher said it's learning this equation and deploying it against the problems I'm presented with. I'm getting better at being a problem solver. Right? And I think we can also do this as individuals, right? Like it's important for leaders to help us with this. But I think we can also do it ourselves. So if I'm in a class and I know that whatever material is being taught might not be directly applicable to my life later on, I can at least look at that and say, Hey, what can I gain from this? How can I attach this to some meaning that might exist to help me like later on how, what is the, maybe the more relevant skill it might even be if you're teaching me something about writing, like it's take it away from math for a second. If we're learning about writing or grammar or something like that, we can look, hey, I might not have to write papers later on in my life. But communication is a huge skill that you're going to use and whatever you're going to be doing, regardless of your profession, written and verbal communication, huge, essential. And here's a place to practice that, right? And so when you have that meaning connected to that, you kind of see this, this larger purpose of why this is an important task is not about necessarily this poem and not about just like, I have to do this because you told me to. It's about, I'm becoming a better communicator, right? A valuable skill, no matter what it is I want to do in life. So again, we're sharing this purpose, this meaning, so some concrete ways to do this. One is we call it like sharing the meaning, sharing the purpose. That's the teacher saying, look, this is the bigger picture thing that we're trying to get done. And we can share that as leaders, as individuals, it's kind of connecting, meaning like how could this scenario, how could this situation help me for what it is that I care about? Right? And now we're not just coming up with some pie in the sky things. I think in finding the meaning or connecting the meaning, it should be relevant and real. What do you mean when you say real? It means being realistic about, yeah, like it's like the meaning of the Madison Vision isn't going to change your life, but it can help you become a problem solver. That's a real thing. Going on a 30 minute walk every day is not going to make you incredibly healthy, but it has a big impact on your brain. Right? You know what I mean? So it's like a realistic, not pie in the sky necessarily purpose or why? Right. So then the relevant stuff, how does that work? That's just relevant to me. Back to the math equation, I say, well, if you're going to be an astronaut someday, you'll use stuff like this. And I'm like, I don't, I don't care about astronauts. And it's not that relevant. Like if that's not on your radar, right? That's a big y big purpose and it's true, but it's not relevant to your life. Okay. So it's like finding something that could make it important. To me. A good example is like meditation. Okay. There's like lots of reasons to meditate. For me, it's like the research on how it improves, like the gratitude centers of your brain and how you can get better at the skill of finding and feeling gratitude. That would be a very important reason that I would start to, you're intrigued by that. I bet that's not yours. No, no. For me it would be something different. I would be more curious about how to improve my ability to focus. Right, right. So that's sort of my meaning behind why I might want to meditate and then yours is, it's completely different. So absolutely. So for everyone, we're not all going to have the same meaning or the same why for this, but the physics works the same. When we have the meaning, like when we see the value, the argument is we're more likely to do it because we see the importance of it. Right now. That's where the relevance comes in. It's different for you and me, but the meaning is still there. That little target is likely to fuel our action. Say we're a leader and we want our people to meditate. Surface level is everyone needs to go meditate, have to do this, it's good for you, right? Another approach would be present some ideas and some research about the value of meditation and cast that Wide Net, so give a bunch of the benefits and why it might be used and maybe some of those will speak to the different people in the group. Now there's more meaning and purpose. I'm not just being told to do something. There's a meaning and purpose. A huge topic in marketing and education and everything was start with why everyone's watched the Simon Sinek ted talk and it's great, but sometimes the trap we fall into there is like our why is always going to be huge. It's like I'm trying to make the world a better place. I'm trying to change the lives of the young people. I educate. Great and so sometimes we come up with our big why but we stop with the same mechanics work in the like the smaller examples like this. It's like finding the real purpose or why like a small y in this activity in the workplace. Let's go everyone super secret classified conference room meeting. Now I come to you and I say, Hey, I need you to arrange all of these clients contact information on this spreadsheet. I need it done by Thursday. Sounds very cool. You like what time? Like probably typical. Maybe a better thing would be, hey, we're working on creating this new podcast and a big part of it is we want to shine light on experts and the scientists in the trenches doing the work and I think it's going to be a really cool thing for the audience, but also a good way to give love to these people doing the work. What we need to do is kind of go through and scrape around the Internet and find this contact information and I think it's going to add a lot to this project. You're sort of adding context to what's happening. Yeah, yeah. Context and a purpose, right? That's it. And just those little hacks and communication. The idea is you're more likely to be engaged in this work now because you see the purpose or meaning behind it versus I just have to do this because my boss said, and it's due on Friday. Yeah. There's another kind of interesting way to create more purpose and meaning in a lesson. I don't have a good name for it other than it's sort of like working backwards. And I actually hopefully jack can find this clip and we can just play it of Elan Musk explaining what he means by this.Speaker 2:
It's important to teach, uh, teach problem solving or teach to the problem, not to the tools. So this would be like, let's say, um, you're trying to teach people about, uh, how engines work or you know, you could start by more of more traditional approach would be to say, well, we're going to teach you all about screwdrivers and ranchers and, and you're, you're going to have a course on screwdrivers, a caution on ranches and all these things and it's, there's a very difficult where to do it a much better way. It would be like, here's the engine, now let's take it apart. How are we going to take it apart? Oh, you need a screwdriver. That's what the screwdrivers for your ranch. That's what the ranches for. Um, and then the very important thing happens, which is that the relevance of the tools becomes apparent.Speaker 1:
The idea is this the normal way we teach something, it's pretty linear. We like build up, we start small and build, we go through the steps chronological. Exactly. So if we go backwards, there's more purpose and meaning, but now it's like, Ooh, I kind of want to know how the screwdriver works because I'm trying to take engine up. At first it was just a screwdriver, but now the screwdriver is how we, how the agents, and I like how you used the word context. There's context. It's like this is a tool to take the engine apart. I'm trying to take the engine apart because I want to know how it works. And so starting backwards is a good way to kind of build meaning into a lesson or project. And and honestly that's the same framework as the spreadsheet example. I like can paint this picture of we're trying to reach out to these people and do this special thing, right? This podcast with this project, do this. Right? So I started with the end, which means we kind of have to set up this spreadsheet versus just do the spreadsheet. So like it, it's the same as the engine. The engine is we want to highlight incredible researchers work in this podcast. Cause honestly like a lot of times the work in the middle isn't all that glamorous, right? But the ending is usually what kind of Sykes us up, right? That's what we're excited about. And so it's when you have that ending in mind, then all that unglamorous work kind of has more meaning. It's like I'm doing this to get to that. Again, it's a relevant and real why it's not like you need to do this to make the world a better place and you're going to change everyone's life. It's like here is the relevant and real purpose of this and I'm going to share that with you. So one sort of hurdle, the taking action is if we don't see the purpose or meaning, we're probably not going to do it. And there's a lot of hacks and tools that we just went through that can help us find that or build that within ourself and others. Now the other one is kind of counterintuitive, but the idea here is aiming low. Starting small when we're faced with a new challenge or a project or want to build a new skill or learn something new. The traditional approach is when we start something, we start too big and there's a few problems in that. One is if it's too big, we might never start like it sounds good. It looks good on paper, but it's so big and so daunting we don't start. And the other problem is if we start too big, we can't sustain it. It's like out of the gates, we could do it for three days. So, so this is like if I want to start running or something, and I tell myself I'm going to go for an hour long run every single day, you do it for two days. And I'm like, Oh, you're done. It's like you came out of the gates flying. You are aiming big, but you're going to fizzle out. It's not sustainable. So the actual better approach and more realistic approach is to flip it and start small. So when you say aim low, the idea is I should maybe choose to go for a run maybe for 10 minutes every day and build up to that. Okay. Now there's a few upsides to this one. If it's small, if it's a small enough target for aiming low, you're more likely to start because you're like, oh, I could do that. It seems feasible. Yes, and I'm more likely to sustain this action. And that's the key with all of these endeavors, whether we're learning a new skill or taking on a new project, it's we need to sustain the attic. You want that long run growth is just the short term. When we sustain the action, we're building our habits and that can make a like a lasting change. I was actually working with this school a few months ago and I was having a conversation with the PE department and like just small group little workshop. Right? And they mentioned a student who like refused to participate in PE. Like the kid absolutely will not move. He just sits on the side and does absolutely nothing. He's completely disengaged with the idea of the five of us sat around the table. It's like, okay, we know that in order to take action we need to aim low and we need some sort of meaning or purpose. So like how do you deploy that framework onto this student? And I asked him like, okay, what does that student interested in ends up the students passionate about art and drawing. Okay, we can use that. That's useful. So what if we go to the student and say, Hey, I know that you're really passionate about art and drawing. There's actually a lot of research that shows when you move your body, it helps your brain and can actually help you become more creative. So now we've kind of created some meaning. We're connecting it to this. We're not just saying you need to go participate PE, because that'll help you pass. Right? Kind of talking about something he's passionate about and you've made it real and relevant. Right? Like it's real because a real thing. Yeah, the research exists and it's relevant because he cares about art. Absolutely. Good call back. And then we say, here's the important part. Let's go on a walk around the track. One lap, aim, low, aim and low. Not here's all this research, go run two miles and fully participate. We just aim low one to walk a lap. Now the idea is an aiming low. He's more likely to do that, right? Because now he sees the value and it's a small goal. And the cool part is if he walks the lap, he will feel better because he'd moved his body, right? And maybe when he's in art class he is a little more creative and he sees how that paid off. And if we walking one lap, the idea is we can build up from there. Someday he can walk to and someday he can run, right? We created meaning we connected it to something that matters, right? It was real and relevant and we found a way to start small one lap walking around the track. It's a great example.Speaker 3:
I agreeSpeaker 1:
in a lot of these examples it's about kind of knowing our people and having that empathy and understanding them. And I would argue like the more that we do that, the better we are at connecting meaning and creating. If we understand what each person cares about and what they're interested in, then we can, we can connect that sort of tailor that. Yeah, I think that's important. And again, we mentioned this in a previous episode, it's like the importance of knowing your people as a leader, right? Yeah. All right, let's take it back to meditation, right? So if we both want to build that habit of meditating, that's an action we want to take. Maybe a lot of the research that we've read says that like meditating for 90 minutes is what you should. Then you get hyped on that and you come out of the gate trying to meditate for it. Let's do it. 90 minutes. You did it running right in a burnout and you can't do it. You might do it for like a day or two. So if we're going to aim low with meditation, what we might do is just choose one minute, right? Right. Every day, sit down and just commit to one minute of meditation. That's pretty feasible. We should be able to do that. It's a small enough goal that we're likely to do it and if we continue to do it, we're starting to create the habit and like that's the key with learning new skills or changing anything. It's like we have to create a sustainable habit, right? It's too big. It's not sustainable. We don't do it enough to create the habit. Of course we have the big target. We want to meditate for 90 minutes, run 10 miles, right? It's an important goal and we're not saying get rid of that. It's, we have to come up with these small attainable steps in the pursuit of the bigger one, right? So many times we just have the big one and never start or we don't sustain it. So one minute a day, if we do that, we start to change our habits. Some day we can do two or five and we're building up to this thing. That's a more realistic approach and it's actually more effective because we're changing our actions behaviors and developing habits. That's the upside of aiming low. Big picture here is like we're using human nature to work in our favor. Like humans need a target, we need to be aimed at something. We need that meaning bigger, small, we have to have it. And when we don't like that's when things get weird in a big way and small way. Like for me, if I look back on 2018 the times in that year that I felt the worst was like after a big video or big project lunched and for the next like week or so I have like nothing to point at, nothing to chase, aimless. And without that, yeah it's like aimless and I felt really weird. But then we figure something else out, have another target. We're back on the chase. Right. So like we need meaning in big and small ways in life. Right. Question. Do you think it's important to always be aimed at something? Yeah, we have to be headed up and at something growth. Like growth is human. Right. And would you agree that it's okay to aim at something and it switch it absolutely right. As long as we're aimed at something sort of progressing towards that. Even if we come to figure out you can change the target all day and it's, it should be okay to do that. You shouldn't feel guilty. You do that. It's having that aim that is fueling and that is energizing. That helps us feel better. This is the physics of action. We need something to point at and then we have to aim low so we actually take that action in the pursuit of whatever it is we're aiming at. Right. We're not always going to have something to point at, but the quicker we get it. Something like some little thing to chase. It's good. It's really good. I think it's, yeah cause once you realize aiming low and then you, you can always change what you're aiming at. You can always escalate it to something bigger. But also if you aim at something and let's say you ended up setting in a bit too high, like maybe you were trying to do the meditation. Let's take the meditation example again. If you're trying to meditate and you say, I'm going to do it for five minutes each day, you can bring that back down, right? If you realize, oh, I didn't actually do that, that doesn't mean you have to click completely. So our big target is we want to meditate more, right? And then the aim is like, so we start with one or five, we don't know what you can calibrate. Right. And it seems kind of arbitrary at first, right? Cause we have no reference. Like I don't know how long people are supposed to meditate for. So we have our target and then we're calibrating and sometimes we aim too low. It's like, Yo, it's 30 seconds. It's way too easy. Yeah. Good. Escalate. You started. Let's do one now. So again, we're calibrating all of this, but the fascinating part about all of this is it works in big and small ways. And that's the argument. It shouldn't just be this pie in the sky. Big stuff all the time. It's like, nope, find the small little purpose of this thing that's going to help drive action.Speaker 4:
perhaps the biggest upside of starting small is right. It is something that I can actually do and I might do it. And if I do it, I get the win. It snowballs. Right? And so that's kind of how we talk about escalating our, our aim basically, right? Let me start to aim higher. This snowball is how that happens naturally. Floor's a little higher, right? And now I can reach something a little higher than before. Okay. Making progress. And I think the cool part is the underlying neuroscience of everything we're talking about. Michael Merzenich, he was in the trailer, the one of the, he's known as the father of neuroplasticity. Really smart. Really studies like our brain's capacity to change and how it changes. Um, I want to play one little clip from an interview with him about, put it in there. How employee Jack, drop it raw. Yeah.Speaker 5:
And the magic is, is that once you get into a learning mode, once you're really trying to improve yourself as on a regular basis and acquiring new skills and improving whatever's important to you, you actually improve the machinery that controls learning for everything you're trying to do.Speaker 1:
So, so the idea is when we aim low, not only are we making progress towards this specific skill or goal, we're actually improving the machinery in our brain that controls learning for everything, right? We're becoming a better learner. It's not just the skill we're getting better at the overarching spillover. Start again. Exactly. And so that's why taking action is the most important step. So to recap the idea, if we want to take action on something, we should find ways to create meaning or connect meaning with it, and those ways should be real and relevant. Absolutely. And then we should also aim low to get started and get that snowball effect rolling. It sounds simple. It's hard to do, but that is a great fuel source for the actions that we want and need to take. Jack, it's your time to shine. Load up those questions.Speaker 6:
Hey y'all, my name is Rachel. I am a director for a forced camp six point sports academy in California. Um, we are super obsessed with growth mindset and we've actually had Trevor come out to some of his trainings during our staff week. Um, I've been reading, I'm thinking a lot about a group culture and I just read the inner coil is a culture code and I'm wondering if you all can share your top three, like a top three list for how to develop a culture of learning and what, you know, what's your advice for, for getting that going super into what y'all are doing. Thank you so much and look forward to the next week. All right. Bye. Bye.Speaker 1:
Appreciate the question Rachel. Um, one other book recommendation. I think like you read one of the very best, which is close your code. That's a great one, number one. And it's about taking those lessons to heart. Um, if you're looking for something else kind of in the same ballpark. Uh, creativity inc by Ed Catmull is really, really good. Um, there's some really good that kind of like show a lot of these principles in action. I'd recommend that book. Uh, and then if you're looking for another podcast, maybe checkout worklife by Adam Grant, he studies how groups work together. He has some really good sort of like small adjustments you can make within a group or culture that make a big difference in the research to support it. So highly recommend that pod. And as far as like kind of what we can do as the individual, it goes back to creating the label learner and seeing everyone we work with in the group as a learner, like so much. Um, so many good things can happen from doing that. One that squash is the Pygmalion effect. Like that makes sure we're providing opportunities for all of our people. It's a really good way to support sort of a growth mindset culture because simply the, the word learner is saying we're all capable of growth. So that would be, I think my best advice is look at everyone around you as the learner and then treat them as such.Speaker 6:
You still applied to your life today. Thanks guys.Speaker 1:
Thanks for your question, Aaron. That's a tough question. Um, I tend not to think of individual moments has failures in my life. I, I view things more on like broader trends and one of the broader trends of failure. My life has been acts of omission rather than acts of commission. So like things that I, I view failure is more of things that I haven't done then things that I have done. Um, so for example, like not taking certain opportunities on or pushing myself to do certain things and I view that as somewhat of a failure. Um, and I'm still trying to get better at that. And so that's still sort of a trend that I'm working through. I'm not past that failure, I guess she's just like aware of it. Yeah. And so I'm still working on how to do that, how to get better at doing that, how to force myself to try new things and do certain, certain things that I don't feel immediately compelled. And I'm sure you can like look in the past and see times where that kind of bit you, it's like, aw, man. Yeah. Certain opportunities like Oh that would have been great, but I think that is one of the broader failure trends in my life. Yeah, it's a good one to be aware of it. And I would imagine everyone right here is the wrong. Uh, mine is kind of a specific moment. My biggest one that hurt the most and I know in the scheme of things, this is not like the worst thing that could happen to someone, but it hurt bad. Um, I wanted to play basketball at Duke like my whole life, like legit since third grade and that was the dream. That was the dream. And I got so close to achieving that they had like open tryouts for to walk on spots and I made the final four or five and we were all on the team for like a month of preseason and it was unreal. Long story short, I was the last person cut and that was really, really tough on me because I had spent like my whole life identify and like I'm a basketball player and then that was gone and I didn't recognize its value at the time. Like, it wasn't like, oh, this could make me grow and this will make me better. It's like I didn't handle it well like that put me into a couple of year tailspin. Um, so I didn't handle it well. I'm not like proud of how that shook down. But looking back on it, do you feel like it's looking back, it just planted a lot of the seeds that have led to this? Like this is why I'm curious about learning. This is why I'm curious about growth and finding better ways to learn because it's answering that question like what could I have done better? Right. Because it's fueling this. I thought I did it as much as I could. Obviously I could have done more. I just wasn't quite good enough. Right. And so a lot of this stuff is like, uh, that's the fuel that started this. How can we get better at learning? So he make it on the team. That's a good way. So yeah, that's fine. Thanks for all the questions we have a few more to get to for next week. Remember you can call it anytime at (805) 635-8459 Yo, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone. This is been going, it's been a blast this month, like it really, really has. We've been learning a ton about the process and just learning a lot of interesting concepts, so we really appreciate you guys following along and we're going to keep it rolling.