Developing a New Skill is Not Easy

This is for all the people who believed an ad, a speaker, or a well-intentioned coach who told them that developing a new skill would be fast, easy, and fun. It’s not.

I talked to a young woman yesterday who is sick of hearing about how great things could be if only she learned to a) listen better, b) think before she spoke, and c) respect her co-workers. Her boss told her so, but she insists that he’s wrong. She said she has invested some effort in changing her behavior, but nobody has noticed and nothing has changed. She’s also sick, by the way, of commercials selling “solutions” that are fast, easy, and fun.

In reflecting on our conversation, I realized a number of things. There is an awful lot of lying going on when it comes to “fast and easy” solutions. That’s a harsh thing to say, but it’s true. “Selling the sizzle” too often leads to outrageous hyperbole and leaves people wondering, “where’s the beef?” But would you ever engage in something that someone told you was going to be difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating at times? When you really want to do something better, it’s natural to look first for the fastest, easiest, and least expensive route to success. Sadly, there are precious few of those.

Even a small amount of effort can feel great if what you’re trying to do is a lot different from what you’re used to doing. It’s natural to want someone to notice. When nobody does, it’s hard to stay the course. When you do persist and really begin to change, people who liked you the way you were start telling you how different you are. This is rarely said with enthusiasm.

It’s easy to feel like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But when you start feeling that way, it means you’re looking through a distorted lens at what you’re trying to do and what you expect from others in response to your efforts.

No change is easy. None. No change is quick. And here’s the real kicker, no change is permanent.

That’s why a lot of people close their minds to change of any kind. It’s easier to keep things the way they are, even if they’re not what you’d like them to be. In the case of yesterday’s conversation, it’s easier to blame a dumb boss than to keep working on new skills. The young lady has made up her mind that until he changes, she’s going to stay unhappy. But that doesn’t feel right, either. So she’s quick to listen to the experts tell her that she could change her misery with a quick and easy seminar or an e-learning course or maybe that college degree she never got. It’s a nasty doom loop that captures a lot of people. Do you recognize it?

Growth of any kind is not easy. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it is. They’re lying. But if you’ll commit to working at it, find some means of fortifying yourself when the going gets rough, and construct your own private measuring system so you can see and appreciate your progress, you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of doing. Truth is, you really are as good as you think you are.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.