This idea of intrinsic motivation towards growth really hit home for me this week when a leader at Facebook expressed the following in our intern lunch:
“I love to be at the steep part of the learning curve.”
After a bit of self-reflection on the Caltrain up here in San Francisco, doing the typical things people tell you to do to discover “what you really care about in life”, these words have continued to resonate with me. I thrive at the steep part of the learning curve. The challenge exhilarates me, the endless opportunities to grow cause my brain to get crazy excited, and reflecting on my own growth and the growth of others truly inspires me.
But I don’t think this is just me. I think this is a function of the era we live in: an era of learning.
If you think about our parents’ careers, our grandparents’ careers, and so on, the idea of striving to have a growth and learning-filled career was exponentially more difficult. Learning something new often meant taking just as much time, if not more, to figure out where you could get the resources as the learning itself. Today, we are fortunate to live in a world of open and free information where you can learn practically anything online. Today, we are thriving in an era of learning.
However, the accessibility of learning and growth can contradict the common spotlight on focus. Grit, by Angela Duckworth, explains the idea of relentless focus in detail. She argues that people who have achieved high success, grit paragons as she calls them, possess a combination of passion and perseverance towards one goal for an extended period of time. She also argues that the gratification resulting from mastery exceeds that of being a jack-of-all-trades. From this point of view, trying new things would arguably distract from the continuous focus towards achieving one goal for a long period of time that Duckworth defines as the key to ultimate success.
In grappling with this contradiction of striving for growth and learning versus focus, here is my question for myself, for you, and the world: how do we balance keeping a rigorous pace of improvement, experimentation, and trying new things, yet still keep our focus and grit in tact?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!