Learning: the excitement and the frustration

Learning is a key part of what I do.

I’m learning and developing my own skill-set all the time. I push myself to learn new skills and develop existing ones.

If I don’t grow and develop, I limit my business and limit my clients’ businesses.

Learning is a process. I put time, money and effort into that process, through which I am rewarded with increased knowledge and skill.

Yet, whenever and whatever I’m learning, I’ve noticed the same two feelings occur: excitement and frustration.

The frustration occurs during the stages in the process at which I am investing time and effort, but don’t have the immediate gratification of knowing and understanding.

The excitement comes from ‘knowing’ something new and being able to do something that I couldn’t do before. Learning is fun!

So what can we learn from this process?

  1. We need to judge frustration correctly. Will the frustration break through to excitement, in which case we just need to keep pressing on? Or do we need some help or need to pursue another avenue? It is pointless pressing on if the frustration is there because we have reached a dead end, but we also shouldn’t give up too quickly.
  2. If we are not getting frustrated about the learning process, then this may be telling us that we’re not being stretched enough.  Maybe we’re just coasting when we should be pushing through into a new area.
  3. ‘Breakthrough’ is difficult to predict – normally it comes after, or in the middle of, frustration, but we have no way of knowing exactly when it will happen. It often feels like one of those lightbulb moments when suddenly it all makes sense.

Applying this to our businesses…

In business, we find the experience of learning in both our own personal development and also in the implementation of new projects and tasks.  How often have you felt frustrated that a project seems to be going nowhere and you just feel stuck?  Maybe you’re trying to re-write the copy for your website but you just can’t quite grasp those elusive words that say what you really want to say!  The same principles as above apply.

  1. We need to judge frustration in a project correctly.  It may be that we’re on the right path, we just haven’t reached the point of breakthrough yet; in which case, we need to keep pressing on.  Alternatively, we may need some external input and support – it’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can see.  Or, we may have actually reached a dead end; using a business analogy, maybe the marketplace we’re competing in just isn’t the right one anymore and we need to target a new set of customers.
  2. If all the projects we take on as a company or as individuals are easy and never give us any sense of breaking through, it may be that we’re coasting.  Although coasting can be great – especially if the company is making good profits and returns from something that they find relatively easy – coasting can lead to complacency and also never gives that great sense of achievement we gain from breaking through in something we’ve found quite challenging.  I can’t imagine that the truly great companies out there have ever achieved that status without stretching themselves.
  3. Breakthrough is difficult to predict, so when we feel we really are on the right path, we need to press on through and not get discouraged.  Breakthrough may be just around the corner and it will be a fantastic moment of elation when we reach it.

Article by

Matt Stocker

Matt is founder and director of Stocker Partnership, a strategy and innovation consultancy. As a strategist, designer, innovator and geek, he's known for his creative thinking. Matt thrives in challenging environments and loves to push the boundaries of possibility. He's a big picture, visual thinker who is always running 5 to 10 years ahead. More about us

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