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Is Your Hope in Formulated Certainty or in Learning from Real-life Experiences?

Listen to this as a podcast HERE.

Okay. Today we're diving deep.   We are going to talk about the value of learning through experience.  Of course, as somebody who creates courses and teaches,  I believe that workbooks and formulas have their place.  And there's something uniquely powerful about the lessons that we learn from real-life experiences that will always surpass what a workbook, worksheet, formula, or theoretical strategy will bring us. Obviously, there's an undeniable importance to having formulas, theories, and frameworks. They're the building blocks, right? They give us a foundation. Whether that's, you know, you're learning algebra or any kind of math, you need the foundation.

You're in the kitchen learning how to cook or you're learning how to speak Italian because you're taking a trip. That formula, which is the foundation, the guideline, the framework, can save you time. It can help you avoid the pitfalls that you would fall into if you didn't have a plan.

Because if there were no framework, then you're just kind of duct-taping everything. You're going through in the blind, blindly in the dark, trying to figure it out.  Formulas are necessary for problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. They offer structure and ways to approach difficult things so that we figure out how to do things.

Formulas and frameworks are like recipes. When you're learning a recipe, I always say learn what the recipe is for and why that's the order of it. Why does the recipe have these specific ingredients? What do they do? Why do you add them in a specific order? Why do you mix the dry ingredients first and the wet ingredients and then put them together later?

There's a reason why we're using baking soda instead of baking powder in this recipe. The result requires certain things, and you figure out the recipe first then you adjust it so that you can make it your own. Then you know how you can add different seasonings and spices and make different textures out of it, and so on.

So, formulas are an amazing part of progress, but they're only one part of the equation, right? Road maps don’t replace the need for actual experience. It’s not a replacement for getting in the car and driving someplace.

So you can have a perfect plan and step-by-step instructions; Siri can tell you exactly where to go. And until you actually get in the car, you're not going to fully understand what it's like to be behind the wheel. The way that you have to take a left-hand turn feels different than the way you take a right-hand turn. You've got to take a wider turn, and depending on the length of the car or the vehicle you're driving, there's some nuance involved.

So there's a limitation if you rely only on a formula, a plan, or a framework, right?  Real-world life is unpredictable and nuanced. You can't account for every variable that you're going to encounter.  And you need to be creative and adaptable as an entrepreneur and as a coach, or anything that you do, really.

You can read books; you can take courses, can watch the stock market, and can read customer feedback. You can do all of those things, but you're not going to truly understand success as an entrepreneur, a business owner, a coach, or anything else if all you're doing is reading, thinking, learning, and knowing about it.

When you over-rely on a formula, you stifle not just your success but even your innovation, your ability to grow from one place to another. If you're too focused on following a specific path, you'll miss all the opportunities to have veered a little bit to the left and stepped a little bit outside the box.

You need personal, practical experience.  It's the ability to experiment and explore, to make a mistake, and to learn from that mistake. It will foster your creativity, innovation, and success.  Doing something with what you know is the best way to learn.  And that hands-on experience only comes by you saying, “Yes, I will take imperfect action.”

You've got to take action and give yourself permission for it to be imperfect the first time. You're going to activate parts of your brain, the cognitive processes that will help you retain more of what you're learning because of what you do versus what you read or watch.

I would love to go to Italy, so I would love to learn Italian.  I don't know if I'm ever going to do this. I just don't always have a lot of brain capacity. In addition to everything else I'm doing, the idea of learning a new language sounds incredible AND incredibly hard.

I already know some Spanish and some sign language, but this would be like a whole new learning process.  And I could study the rules of the language, the vocabulary of the language, I can do all of that. But I'm not actually going to know it unless I start speaking it, right? I have to actually interact with people who actually speak at least some decent version of Italian.

If I don't do that, I'm really going to struggle to learn it if I'm just speaking it. Even if I’m watching videos or using Rosetta Stone or Duolingo I'm not talking with anybody. So I've got to actually step out and start talking to somebody. I need to go to an Italian restaurant where people who are Italian work there and actually talk to them.

And then just practice it. Test it out and see what it's like to actually talk to somebody who's going to speak back to me and feel a little bit weird and awkward when I have no clue what they said, because I said, “Hello, how are you in Italian?” And then they respond back with five sentences really quickly and I have no clue what they said and it’s super awkward. That's when I get to learn how to say, “I only know a little Italian.  I can't speak quickly. I don't understand you.”

I would say in sports as well, you can study the techniques and strategies (let’s use pickleball as an example) if you were trying to learn how to do that like I am, but it's actually getting on the court and competing with somebody and playing against somebody that's going to hone my skills.

Well, honestly, that's where I'm going to create skills. I can know about the rules and still not have any skill, right? So I need to actually feel myself moving on the court, my muscles working, developing muscle memory and adapting mentally, emotionally, and physically to the unpredictability of actual gameplay.

It's the same thing with coaching clients. Without the human element in front of you, which will surprise you every time and always throw you off your formula if you're set on using one, you really can't coach from theory. You have to learn how to adapt to the needs of the client. And you can't learn to adapt if you never have a client.

So yeah, it's scary in the beginning. A lot of my clients feel like it's so scary to do it for the first time. That's normal. In fact, it's okay to be scared. It's okay to be in situations that feel scary.

What if it's just a thought that you're having?

What if you've decided to think that coaching your first client is scary?

What if I gave you a new thought and told you it's not scary?

Helping somebody in front of you.  It can be an intentional decision and can go really well because helping people is second nature to you. You love doing it. You believe it's an honor to do it. And those people are not a threat to you. So you're not actually threatened.

You're doing what you're good at. You're doing what you love.  So are you really scared or are you just thinking you're going to be scared?  You can actually think this is going to go well and I'm going to do this.

I love an art form called acrylic pouring where you use acrylic paint and you add some different things to it to help it flow easily. Then you pour it out on a canvas and blow it with a blow dryer or move it around.

And as I was learning how to do that a couple of years ago, I could sit and watch videos all day long because it was so beautiful. It was really peaceful to me and I could watch these videos all the time, and yet after watching them, still not have a clue how to do it.

I tried following all of their paint mixing formulas to a T and I still struggled when I started to make something beautiful. And the only way I learned how to paint pour was to actually pour paint.  I had to put paint on the canvas and risk making something ugly.  I had to risk wasting paint, wasting a canvas, starting over again, scraping it off, or just throwing it away.

But I had to make multiple ugly things in order to ever make something pretty, and I had to practice pretty in order to make something beautiful. So, the formula that I learned could only get me so far in my head because the experience that I got personally was what really pulled things together and created something.

Experience is such a powerful teacher because the difference between theoretical knowledge and practical application is huge. Formulas, theories, and frameworks are awesome, but they don't prepare us for the nuance of real life.

The other aspect of it is the emotional impact of the experience. Because when you go through something firsthand, it's going to leave an imprint on your memory.  And it's going to impact the decisions you make going forward. Right? Think about the first time you've ever had a job interview. Maybe you were 16, 20, 14, and you felt the nervousness, the feeling of anticipation, the preparation you felt like you needed to do, and then when you got there, there were questions you didn't expect to have to have an answer for. There were all of those things that you could not really make happen according to a specific formula, as desperate as your brain wanted to be certain about how that interview was going to go.

The elements that you didn't expect taught you more about the process and more about you than any other interview and career coaching formula ever could.

Get a career coach and ask them to help you figure out how to present yourself the best way possible in an interview. But knowing what your coach says is still only theory if you never apply for a job and show up for an interview, right?

And the emotional highs and lows that come with your experience make the lessons that you learn deeper and more profound and give you more to learn from, leading to greater success or quicker success in the long run.

Let's say you're learning how to coach and you watch all the videos and you read all the books and you answer all the questions and you come to all the live trainings.

You should do all those things. And then you should go coach somebody and put all the theory you've learned into practice. You need to apply what you learn in real life and you need to experience to know how you did it. A lot of my clients, people who are becoming coaches or are already coaching, want to know, “How do I coach? How do I make a session successful? How do I start doing this in my business? How do I get this exact result?”

I say, GO TRY.  Learn what you can, and then try.  And then from trying, you're going to be able to look at it and say, “This is what I did, this is what worked, this is what didn't work.”

Ta-da! Now you know something.

In The Greenhouse Course, I give a framework for how to go through the flow of a 55-minute session. Some coaches really want to keep to a 55-minute session with the exact amount of time I lay out for each part of the session. 

If copying something to the T is the best way for you to learn, that's totally fine- you can do that.

If you need to use the exact words that I give you as a template for telling somebody you're a coach, who you help, and what you help them do, that’s fine too.

But you just have to know that no matter what formula you pick up and carry with you, it will never be fully successful if you stick to it, trying to gain success from the theory in your head, and put your hope in the formula.

You have to make it yours through the application of your knowledge and thinking. There is so much growth that comes from learning through experience by doing. And it will make you more resilient, adaptable, understanding, and really successful with the person in front of you because you can shift with them.

When you face the challenges, and you do the navigation, then you're actually building a personalized toolkit of strategies and skills that are going to serve you in the future. That kind of learning will always encourage your growth mindset, which I think is one of the most powerful things that you need to have. I think we should be teaching it in every grade in school to have a growth mindset so that people can understand that setbacks are not ultimate failures; they’re not fatal. They are opportunities to grow, learn and improve. Failures are not what human nature- our soul- tries to make us believe that they are.

Failure is part of life. Failure is okay. Failure is acceptable. Even when your parents told you it wasn't, it is.  It's part of how you grow, because if you are always afraid of failing, and you only operate from a formula of certainty, you're losing out on so many things that you just need to try. You just need to be willing to show up, try, take imperfect action, and then refine it from there.

Remember that every experience, good or bad, is just a stepping stone towards growth and wisdom and all the true mastery that you really long for. It's going to come from actually rolling up your sleeves and jumping into action, not from sitting and thinking more. If you need a formula, I'm gonna give you one.

If you reeeeaaaally need a formula, here it is:

  1. Learn what is available to know

  2. Put what you learn into action ASAP!

  3. Be willing to try, then fail, and learn from it

  4. Be willing to try, then fail, and learn from it. Again.

  5. Be willing to try, then fail, and learn from it. Again.

  6. Succeed at some point. Feel nice and cozy about it.

  7. Rinse and repeat

If it's possible to research and learn so that you can understand the ingredients of what you want to create, then go research and learn.

But immediately- as fast as you possibly can- go apply what you learned. Go teach it, share it, coach it, make it, apply it in some way, and do it as many times as possible. Experiment and explore and practice over and over and over again.

And then you're going to be able to look back in hindsight and say, “Oh, that's how I did it. I used what I knew and I turned it into what I did.”

And from there you refine. But you're never going to have something to refine into excellence if you don't ever first have a poopy first draft.  The real magic happens when you step out of the learning and thinking and you step into doing.

It's through the action that you gain real understanding, develop resilience, and become adaptable so you can unlock all of that capacity, possibility, and potential that's within you. So next time you find yourself stuck in your head,  stuck in theory, demanding a formula, demanding that somebody else tell you how they did it, remember, the best way to learn is by doing.

So go put on a new pair of shoes and just do the thing.


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