Being Fast or Being Good?


Brent Schlenker tweeted an interesting question yesterday,

“Is it better to learn how to be fast at doing something, or to first learn to be good at it?

I think it depends on your goal and it is more important where you end up than where you begin.  The more you create, the faster you adjust (learn), the faster you create a quality output.

Learn by doing.

Eric Scott shared the story that fits well with Brent’s question – what do you think?

A pottery teacher split her class into two halves.

To the first half she said, “You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot. At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see whose pot is the best”.

To the other half she said, “You will spend your semester making lots of pots. Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish. At the end of the semester, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition.”

The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design. Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.

The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfulls of clay and started churning out pots. They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones. Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.

At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition. Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity. The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.

Learning Means Believing in Yourself

believe in yourself

This is the third post in a series on improving your learning from A to Z.

“Self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.” Samuel Johnson

Believing in you is another foundational component of learning. If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s hard to grow and learn.

Like knowledge, confidence can’t be transferred. The person that needs to believe in you, is you. This is not about motivation, tenacity or drive it’s about believing that you can do it.

You can do it!


“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval”  Mark Twain 

There are two kinds of confidence, self-confidence and confidence in others. We’ll focus on self-confidence.

Merriam Webster defines the term confidence as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.” Let’s break this definition apart.

  • “A feeling” – an emotional state.
  • Or belief” –  something that you accept as true.
  • “That you” – these feelings and what you accept as true are happening inside of you.
  • “Can do something well or succeed at something” – whatever it it that you’re doing or thinking about doing, you can do it well. Notice that it says “something”, it doesn’t say everything. We’ll talk more about this later.

This means that how well you think you can or can’t do something is true, at least inside of you. It doesn’t say anything about external or tangible items. So, it’s not about whether you have or have not:

  • Graduated from High School or College
  • Started a company
  • Collected many followers on your social media accounts
  • Scored high on an IQ test

It’s about whether or not you think you can do something. I’m not criticizing the achievements above, I’m saying that to believe you can learn something doesn’t mean you have to have any of these items.

This self confidence becomes the foundation that helps when times are challenging.  When those challenging times arrive, your self-confidence helps keep you going because you trust yourself and know that it will be OK.

Signs of Confidence

“Your life is the fruit of your own doing.  You have no one to blame but yourself.” Joseph Campbell

Below are some signs of low self-confidence confidence. Do any of these feel familiar?

If you regularly:

  • Need to over explain
  • Are indecisive and second guess when you do make a decision
  • Cover up your mistakes
  • Are defensive
  • Can’t accept compliments
  • Modify your behavior based on what others think

If some of these resonate with you, try to figure out if it happens regularly or only in certain situations? If it’s intermittent, it may be a particular situation that triggers low confidence.

Improving Your Self-Confidence

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck 

If you identified with the low confidence signs, here are 8 tips to help you improve your self-confidence.  The key to improving your confidence is to take action.


  • Comparing yourself to others – there will always be someone is smarter or better than you at something or many things.  Get over this now, it’s only eating away at your own progress and self confidence.  On the flip side, you will always be smarter or better at something that other someone else. So what? Thinking you’re better than others can make you over confident.  Just focus on yourself.
  • Negative self-talk – be positive. There’s a quote from William Shakespeare that “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking that makes it so.” You’re in charge of how you view something and the thoughts in your head make a big impact on how you feel and perceive the world.  If you can make these thoughts more positive, it will make you feel better about yourself.
  • Second guessing your decisions – when you make a decision, don’t worry what others think.  If it turns out to be the wrong decision, learn from this and incorporate into your thinking in your next decision.  Isn’t this what you’re trying to accomplish (i.e., learning)?  The more decisions you make, the easier they become.
  • Trying to be perfect - if nobody has told you, it’s OK to not be perfect. You’re not perfect and neither am I. Part of the learning process is to try new things that have the possibility of failing or have a different result than expected. That’s the point – you will learn and grow from that experience. You have weaknesses and so does Superman! So, give yourself a break.


  • Exercising- releases endorphins that make you feel good and helps make your body look better.  It doesn’t mean you have to become a bodybuilder or train for a marathon.  Even a brisk walk can increase endorphins.  Just get out there a few times a week and exercise for 20-30 minutes. This “good feeling” will seep into other parts of your life as well.
  • Dressing well – what you wear can make a big difference in how you feel.  You will be thinking about what you’re wearing more than anyone else.  So, put on something nice or something that makes you comfortable and be done with it. This will free up more of your mental capacity for other things that are most important to you.
  • Embracing the unknown - get out there and take action. If you’re staying comfortable and not pushing yourself to the edges of discomfort, you won’t grow. The more you do go to the edges, the more comfortable (and confident) you become.  As James Altucher says, “The only truly safe thing you can do is to try over and over again. To go for it, to get rejected, to repeat, to strive, to wish. Without rejection there is no frontier, there is no passion, and there is no magic.”
  • Watching your body languageyou can feel more powerful in 2 minutes by assuming the “power pose.”  In this TED video, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy explains that powerful people have higher levels of testosterone (dominance hormone) and lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
  • In her video she shows how you can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol in 2 minutes by assuming the “power pose”.


When will the Robot Instructional Designer Arrive

Or has it already arrived? I was reading an article about how Quill (a natural language program) is writing reports for large financial companies, intelligence agencies and even reporting on baseball games.  Stuart Frankel is the CEO of Narrative Science which is the company that owns Quill. Here’s an excerpt from the article where Frankel discusses renting out Quill […]

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A Learning Strategy is About People

I wrote a post about why workplace learning is complicated and it could apply to most workplace scenarios because working and learning are all about people.  Ajay Pangarkar and Teresa Kirkwood recently questioned if this perception is deserved.  This is a good question and they have some good suggestions for making workplace learning less complicated, as […]

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Week in Review 090714

Things I found online this week that caught my attention.  How about you? What did you discover? @JD_Dillon Again, learning doesn’t change. Our understanding and ability to support it will hopefully become more effective. #LRN2024 World in Beta from @hjarche  In a world exploding with potential, the way you embrace emerging technology, and the transformations it […]

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My Top Learning Tools for 2014

It’s that time of year again! Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools. I enjoy sharing my tools and seeing what other tools people find most useful to them.  If you haven’t contributed, there’s still time. Here’s my list, in no particular order: Twitter – my social stream YouTube – great tool for visual and hands on learning […]

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Search Isn’t the Answer for Everything

search isnt the answer for everything
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Learning is Connecting

Learning is connecting
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Learning Mindset

learning mindset


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What if we train them

what if we train them
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