Most of us go through life trying to do our best
at whatever we do,
无论是我们的工作 家庭 学业
whether it’s our job, family, schoolb
or anything else.
I feel that way. I try my best.
But some time ago, I came to a realization
that I wasn’t getting much better
at the things I cared most about,
whether it was being a husband or a friend
or a professional or teammate,
and I wasn’t improvingmuch at those things
even though I was spending a lot of time
working hard at them.
I’ve since realized from conversationsI’ve had and from research
that this stagnation, despite hard work,
turns out to be pretty common.
So I’d like to share with some insights
into why that is
and what we can all do about it
What I’ve learnedis that the most effective people
and teams in any domain do something we can all emulate.
They go through life deliberatelyalternating between two zones:
the learning zoneand the performance zone.
The learning zoneis when our goal is to improve.
Then we do activitiesdesigned for improvement,
concentrating on whatwe haven’t mastered yet,
which means we have to expectto make mistakes,
knowing that we will learn from them.
That is very different from what we do when we’re
in our performance zone,
此时 我们的目标是竭尽所能 尽善尽美
which is when our goal is to do something as best
as we can, to execute.
Then we concentrateon what we have already mastered
and we try to minimize mistakes.
Both of these zonesshould be part of our lives,
but being clear
about when we want to be in each of them,
目标不同 重心不同 期待不同
with what goal, focus and expectations,
helps us better performand better improve.
The performance zone maximizesour immediate performance,
while the learning zonemaximizes our growth
and our future performance.
The reason many of us don’t improve much
despite our hard work
is that we tend to spend almost all
of our time in the performance zone.
This hinders our growth,
and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.
So what does the learning zone look like?
Take Demosthenes, a political leader
and the greatest oratorand lawyer in ancient Greece.
To become great,he didn’t spend all his time
just being an orator or a lawyer,
which would be his performance zone.
But instead, he did activitiesdesigned for improvement.
Of course, he studied a lot.
He studied law and philosophywith guidance from mentors,
but he also realized
that being a lawyer involved persuading other people,
so he also studied great speeches
To get rid
of an odd habit he had of involuntarily lifting his shoulder,
he practiced his speechesin front of a mirror,
and he suspended a sword from the ceiling
so that if he raised his shoulder, it would hurt.
To speak more clearly despite a lisp,
he went through his speecheswith stones in his mouth.
He built an underground room where he could practicewithout interruptions
and not disturb other people.
And since courts at the timewere very noisy,
he also practiced by the ocean,
projecting his voice above the roar of the waves.
His activities in the learning zone
were very different from his activities in court,
his performance zone.
In the learning zone, he did what Dr. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice.
This involves breaking downabilities into component skills,
being clear about what subskillwe’re working to improve,
like keeping our shoulders down,
giving full concentration to a high level of challenge
outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do,
using frequent feedbackwith repetition and adjustments,
and ideally engaging the guidanceof a skilled coach,
because activitiesdesigned for improvement
are domain-specific, and great teachers
and coaches know what those activities are
and can also give us expert feedback.
It is this type of practicein the learning zone
which leads to substantial improvement, not just time on task performing.
For example, research showsthat after the first couple of years
working in a profession, performance usually plateaus.
This has been shown to be truein teaching, general medicine,
nursing and other fields,
and it happens
because once we think we have become good enough, adequate,
then we stop spending timein the learning zone.
We focus all our timeon just doing our job, performing,
which turns out not to be a great way to improve.
But the people who continue to spend time
in the learning zone
do continue to always improve.
The best salespeople at least once a week
do activities withthe goal of improvement.
They read to extend their knowledge,
consult with colleagues or domain experts,
try out new strategies,solicit feedback and reflect.
The best chess players spend a lot
of time not playing games of chess,
which would be their performance zone,
but trying to predict the moves grand masters made and analyzing them.
Each of us has probably spentmany, many, many hours
typing on a computer without getting faster,
but if we spent 10 to 20 minutes each day
fully concentratingon typing 10 to 20 percent faster
than our current reliable speed, we would get faster,
especially if we also identified what mistakes we’re making
and practiced typing those words.
That’s deliberate practice.
In what other parts of our lives, perhaps that we care more about,
are we working hard but not improving much
because we’re alwaysin the performance zone? Now,
this is not to say that the performance zone has no value.
It very much does.
When I needed a knee surgery,I didn’t tell the surgeon,
“Poke around in thereand focus on what you don’t know.”
“We’ll learn from your mistakes!”
I looked for a surgeon who
I felt would do a good job,
and I wanted her to do a good job.
Being in the performance zone allows us to
get things done as best as we can.
It can also be motivating,
and it provides us
with information to identify what to focus on next
when we go back to the learning zone.
So the way to high performance is to alternate
between the learning zone and the performance zone,
purposefully building our skillsin the learning zone,
then applying those skillsin the performance zone.
When Beyoncé is on tour,
during the concert,she’s in her performance zone,
but every night when shegets back to the hotel room,
she goes right backinto her learning zone.
She watches a videoof the show that just ended.
She identifies opportunitiesfor improvement,
无论是她本人 她的伴舞 还是她的摄像团队
for herself, her dancersand her camera staff.
And the next morning,
everyone receives pages of notes with what to adjust,
which they then work on during the day before the next performance.
It’s a spiral to ever-increasing capabilities,
but we need to know when we seek to learn,
and when we seek to perform,
and while we wantto spend time doing both,
the more time we spendin the learning zone,
the more we’ll improve.
So how can we spendmore time in the learning zone? First,
we must believe and understand
that we can improve, what we call a growth mindset. Second,
we must wantto improve at that particular skill.
There has to be a purpose we care about,
because it takes time and effort. Third,
we must have an ideaabout how to improve,
what we can do to improve,
not how I used to practice the guitar as a teenager,
performing songs over and over again,
but doing deliberate practice.
And fourth, we must bein a low-stakes situation,
because if mistakes are to be expected,
then the consequence of making themmust not be catastrophic,
or even very significant.
A tightrope walker doesn’t practicenew tricks without a net underneath,
and an athlete wouldn’t set
out to first try a new move
during a championship match.
One reason that
in our lives we spend so much time in the performance zone
is that our environmentsoften are, unnecessarily, high stakes.
We create social risks for one another,
even in schools which are supposedto be all about learning,
and I’m not talkingabout standardized tests.
I mean that every minute of every day,
many students in elementaryschools through colleges
很多学生都觉得 如果他们犯了错 别人就会轻视自己
feel that if they make a mistake, others will think less of them.
No wonder they’re always stressed out and
not taking the risks necessary for learning.
But they learnthat mistakes are undesirable
inadvertently when teachers or parents are
eager to hear just correct answers
and reject mistakesrather than welcome and examine them
to learn from them,
or when we look for narrow responses rather than encourage more exploratory thinking
that we can all learn from.
When all homework or student work
has a number or a letter on it,
and counts towards a final grade,
而不是把分数用在练习 错误 反馈与改正上
rather than being used for practice, mistakes, feedback and revision,
we send the messagethat school is a performance zone.
The same is true in our workplaces.
In the companies I consult with,
I often see flawless execution cultures
which leaders fosterto encourage great work.
But that leads employeesto stay within what they know
and not try new things,
so companies struggle to innovate and improve,
and they fall behind.
We can create more spaces for growth
by starting conversations with one another
about when we want to be in each zone.
What do we want to get better at and how?
And when do we wantto execute and minimize mistakes?
That way, we gain clarityabout what success is, when,
and how to best support one another.
But what if we find ourselvesin a chronic high-stakes setting
and we feel we can’tstart those conversations yet?
Then here are three things that we can still do as individuals. First,
we can create low-stakes islandsin an otherwise high-stakes sea.
These are spaces where mistakeshave little consequence.
例如 我可以找 能与之交流思想 或进行不必掩饰自己脆弱面的谈话
For example, we might finda mentor or a trusted colleague
with whom we can exchange ideasor have vulnerable conversations
or even role-play.
Or we can ask for feedback-orientedmeetings as projects progress.
Or we can set aside time to read
or watch videos or take online courses.
Those are just some examples. Second,
we can executeand perform as we’re expected,
but then reflect on whatwe could do better next time,
like Beyoncé does, and we can observe and emulate experts.
这些观察 反思 修正的行为都在学习区
The observation, reflectionand adjustment is a learning zone.
And finally, we can lead
and lower the stakes
for others by sharing what we want to get better at,
by asking questionsabout what we don’t know,
by soliciting feedbackand by sharing our mistakes
and what we’ve learned from them,
so that others can feel safe to do the same.
Real confidence is aboutmodeling ongoing learning.
What if, instead of spendingour lives doing, doing, doing, performing,
而是花更多时间 去探索 去请教
we spent more time exploring, asking,
去倾听 去尝试 去沉思 去努力 去改变自己
listening, experimenting, reflecting, striving and becoming?
What if we each always had something
we were working to improve?
What if we created more low-stakes islands
And what if we got clear,
within ourselves and with our teammates,
about when we seek to learn
and when we seek to perform,
so that our effortscan become more consequential,
our improvement never-ending
and our best even better