Learning Doesn’t Feel Good




The human species didn’t plan to use fire. Fire happened. It was probably scary. And then someone or some group decided to see what they could do with it. The wheel didn’t happen because a genius set out to make one. Someone made a mistake and got confused. Instead of dropping the whole business and running the other way, something magnificent was created because that person kept pushing through their confusion. Of course inventors and innovators make plans and deliberately work towards goals. And yet, so much of what has shaped our world is the product of people turning confusion into clarity. 

Confusion, the inability to make productive sense of our reality, feels terrible. It feels terrible to be confronted by our blind spots, our misbeliefs, our mental models that we believe to be true but aren’t. Confusion can lead to conflict, and conflict that solidifies into intractable battles. Confusion can lead to people with otherwise generous spirit and many things in common to be at odds with each other. Physiologically, confusion feels bad, and this is by design. Our brains are wired to make sense of things as quickly as possible, by relying on familiar narratives and beliefs. 

But here’s the catch. When we are confused, we have an opportunity to interrogate our own perceptions, figure out what we are missing and if there’s something we’re afraid of. Nobody has ever been comfortable with something while learning from it. If people weren’t confused, forced to confront the gap between their expectations and reality, they wouldn’t know that the opportunity for learning exists. If people felt comfortable all the time, why would we be motivated to learn? If we had all the answers, why would anyone be curious? We can become better, and achieve our goals, by insisting on examining the confusion we encounter.

At Talentism, we’re grateful for confusion as fuel for improvement. We’re grateful for the opportunity it gives us to learn about ourselves and others, and the connections between us all. Without confusion we may feel safe, comfortably ensconced in our beliefs. But we’re also alone. In confusion there is opportunity for the world to be improved, and for potential to be unleashed.

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