Quick fixes. Step-by-step guides. Cheat sheets. Checklists. And time-savinghacks.
Have you ever tried to learn a new skill like copywriting, business development, painting, writing, Spanish or even playing tennis using any of the above?
If so, you probably enjoyed a little progress before hitting a frustrating plateau. Then that stagnation is enough to make you want to give up. Well, you’re not alone.
In his book Mastery, author George Leonard detailed three common approaches to learning new skills and why they prevent mastery.
The dabbler is going on vacation to Barcelona and feels excited about learning Spanish.
So he downloads a vocabulary app and during breakfast in a local café, he discovers he can order café con leche and bollos from the menu.
However, the rate of expanding his Spanish vocabulary slows as the vacation rumbles on. And while he might be able to wish a server good day, it’s much harder for him to hold a full conversation for more than five minutes.
So after the trip, he gives up on Spanish.
It takes time, patience and perseverance to become fluent in Spanish, and our dabbler might have to hire a teacher or immerse himself in the language to progress beyond ordering his breakfast.
The same applies to a business skill like copywriting. You can dabble by reading a few copywriting books, but you’ll master the skill only by practicing and considering feedback from other copywriting professionals.
The obsessive learner wants results — and fast!
She needs to sell more products and services and believes copywriting is the way to do it.
Productivity drives her. She tracks every working hour and gets maximum value from her work day. She can’t afford to waste any time and buys ten of the top copywriting books.
After reading a few books, she sells several coaching packages via her new and improved sales page, but then sales level off. She loses patience. And she puts her books away.
The obsessive learner has hit a plateau.
To progress, she must accept her work week isn’t going to be as productive during the time she learns copywriting.
What’s more, she needs to get into the habit of complimenting her studies with critiques from experts who are farther along their journey toward mastery.
Feeling humbled in this way is particularly challenging for the obsessive learner because she’s used to feeling confident about her abilities.
Leonard offered this advice,
“To be a learner, you’ve got to be willing to be a fool.”
The hacker wants to know only what works. He keeps a list of the 100 most commonly used Spanish words in his phone and turns to these when stuck. She knows a few copywriting hooks, which she relies on almost extensively for her sales pages.
The hacker doesn’t have the time or inclination to take a step backward before going forward. He or she finds the ongoing practice of learning a skill frustrating and time-consuming.
“I don’t want to become a great copywriter,” she says. “I just want to sell some coaching courses.”
The sad thing is unless the hacker can set aside his or her fixation on results, they will never get beyond the plateau and improve their skills.
Leonard wrote, “Our preoccupation with goals, results and the quick fix has separated us from our own experiences.”
Your Learning Style
Your learning style varies from skill to skill.
You could be a dabbler while studying Spanish, an obsessive when you step onto the golf course, and a hacker while exploring copywriting.
The trick to success is understanding your mindset while studying a skill. If you still want to dabble, hack or obsess that’s fine, but don’t be surprised when you hit a plateau or progress stalls.
True masters are more concerned with lifelong learning and continuous practice than short-term results.