Be Your Best

A Lifetime of Constant Learning and Learning from Pain — the importance of getting comfortable getting uncomfortable

by on Aug.24, 2015, under Blog Posts

Like a lot of you I am sure, our house is full of books.  Books everywhere.  My wife likes novels, history books, and big encyclopedic type reference books on many topics.  I like “how-to” books, automotive/old car reference books, business books, and fitness/sports/wellness books.  And then of course our kids have more books and are becoming proactive book readers.  Heck, how can they not be — we are running out of space to put all the books!  I was thinking about how we ended up with so many books and when we purchased each one of them, since we did not acquire them ‘in bulk’.  It is about 28 years of book accumulating.

The general answer to my question of ‘when did I get each book?’ is:  when I felt some sort of pain and needed or wanted to learn something.  It is not always the same type of sharp pain when you stub your toe, but it could have been a kind of burning pain that drove us to learn.  I know for myself that once I become aware of something that I am interested in (home repair/improvement project, a sport, a hobby, etc…), I immediately start to experience some ‘pain’ of feeling unknowledgeable or incapable — so I usually turn to books to begin the learning process.  And then once I begin learning more about the thing that I wanted to pursue, I find out how much more I really did not know and still don’t know, and may never know.  This creates more ‘pain’…and then more learning (and more books!).  And the more I realize how much I don’t know about so many things that I think I should understand and know about…

…it creates the concept or philosophy for me of a lifetime of constant learning.  Over the years, I have come to look at this pain-learning-pain-more learning-more pain-more learning cycle as one huge “goal” of: a lifetime of constant learning.  And the pain that causes me to want to learn (and read) is pain that I really want to have as much as possible, seek out, and experience.  “Passion” can be substituted for the word “Pain”.  I feel that passion is a form of pain.  So if passion makes more sense vs. the word pain, insert it.

And the point of this is…?

I think a lifetime of constant learning is a worthy, rewarding, but challenging goal.  Knowledge = “wealth” = ability to try new things = fun/excitement = happiness.  But it really is a challenging goal for several

reasons.  First, there is a paradox going on at all times.  I am trying to learn to master any given endeavor (basically trying to ‘conquer’ it) as I learn about it — and achieve the feeling like I know it all or have it mastered.  But the moment you think you know it all or ‘enough’, you stop learning.  And if you stop learning, the knowledge = ‘wealth’ = try new things = excitement = happiness equation above stops happening.  This applies to everything: golf, model building, dancing, playing the piano, gardening, or whatever.  You basically have to operate comfortably in constant paradox:  always try to learn it all, but know that you will never learn it all.  Second, learning takes time and effort and focus.  Time is precious and limited, and focusing on learning is even trickier with all the daily distractions.  You could say that you are learning as you watch TV or surf the web on your smart phone, but that kind of learning is spotty.  Third, you have to approach learning with a consciously open mind.

Like a great quote I heard many years ago says:  “Your mind is like a parachute — it only works when open.”  This means that you should consciously be thinking about and focusing on the learning process in order to learn.  It takes some practice.

Reading is obviously not the only way to learn.  DOING is another powerful way to learn.

More on learning via Pain

When you do and try a lot of things (which tends to increase the more you read and learn), you increase your chances for having more pain through failure.  But it is these painful experiences and failures that create powerful learning experiences.  Not trying things for fear of failure removes one of the most important lifetime of constant learning opportunities.  Rarely do we learn important lessons from our successes, but rather from our setbacks.  Here again, another paradox that you must be comfortable with to execute the goal of a lifetime of constant learning: you try as many things as possible and try to succeed at everything you do, but you know that you will learn more from failing than succeeding.

Read and Do.  Read and Try.  Try and fail (or succeed) as much as possible.  It’s the goal of a lifetime of constant learning!

Another great quote I really like:

“To be really successful in life, you must get comfortable with getting uncomfortable.”

The way I translate this quote is that you want to constantly try things that create pain (failure), which then

force you to learn, which many times forces you to read.  That then makes you comfortable, and then you want to seek to get uncomfortable again.  This cycle produces growth and success.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford



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