Why is it so hard to learn new stuff?

We say we want to improve only to find ourselves back in old habits and ways of being wondering how we ended up here.

Recently I’ve been working on improving my Spanish and I find myself struggling. I do pretty well for a while and then a waiter will say something I’ve never heard before, a new accent will make the words tricky to discern, or the speed of someone’s speaking overcomes my ability to translate in my head. 

In English, I have a sizeable vocabulary, I can write poetry, make metaphors, and even make clever puns. In Spanish, a 3rd grader has a more advanced vocabulary than I do. I celebrate navigating the grocery store. I rejoice in understanding simple sentences. 

The experience is humbling and it’s HARD. But I’m committed so I keep going. 

This is no different than what it takes to improve your leadership or get better at communicating. You don’t know the vocabulary of good leadership, you don’t know how to navigate listening to people when they talk. 

You have an old language you’re familiar with, a mother tongue of habits and skills you’ve relied on to get you to where you are. 

But in order to learn a new language, to improve as a leader, to serve your team and vision in a new way, you have to let yourself be humbled, to slow down, and to be willing to look foolish and make some mistakes. 

Otherwise, you’ll just end up speaking your old language and never discovering what a new place, people, or language can hold.