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  • Writer's picture Lauren Malach

Expert, Idiot, Expert, Idiot, Expert, Idiot

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

The Problem With Pursuing Learning Opportunities With The Wrong Mindset

Even Michael Jordan had to practice.

The Problem With Pursuing Learning Opportunities With The Wrong Mindset

When our first child was about to arrive, my husband David asked our friend Larry Smith for advice on parenthood.

Larry is the founder of Six-Word Memoirs and delivered that advice in the perfect six-word summary:

Expert, idiot, expert, idiot, expert, idiot.

As soon as you master one level and move to the next, you are again— The Beginner.

We've returned to those six comforting words repeatedly at every new stage of child development.

As in parenthood, so it goes in professional development.

If you want to grow and be challenged at work, you have to stretch outside your comfort zone. And when you do, this cycle is likely to show up. Our desire to grow and develop new skills leads us to pursue learning opportunities— new roles or projects that will stretch and challenge us. But pursuing learning opportunities with the wrong mindset will get you nowhere fast.

If you want to learn, but then beat yourself up for not being an expert- you're doomed to struggle. And too many of us do just that.

I want to let you in on a secret. No one likes being a beginner.

We prefer to be an expert. We prefer to be the best at something on day one. We prefer to have all the answers, not all the questions.

I remember when I first started recruiting.

Cold calling was so excruciating for me that I read a script for every call for the first year. I listened longingly to my colleagues, who handled these awkward calls with charm and ease.

But eventually, with enough practice, I got better. A few years later, I was the one with my feet up on the desk, chit-chatting with total strangers over the phone.

You can't be an expert unless you're a beginner first.

So you have to approach learning opportunities with the learning mindset.

What is the learning mindset?

The learning mindset is rooted in the following beliefs:

- Our abilities are not fixed but instead cultivated over time with constant practice.

- Practice is the key.

- You need help from others who know how to do those things.

So how can you practice thinking like a learner?

- Remind yourself that you are a beginner. Whenever you are in a stretch situation, tell yourself over and over again. "I am learning," "I am learning," "I am learning."

- Be kind to yourself. Would you tell a kid that was learning to ride a bike that she was a total idiot every time she fell off? Talk to yourself like you would to a beloved 5-year-old.

- Ask yourself: "Who can help me?" "What support do I need to practice and master these skills?"

Your friend in learning and growth,

Lauren Malach

Navigating your career with confidence and courage requires getting clear on your destination.

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