When did it get so difficult to be the learner?

It seems like never before have so many people been so uncomfortable with their own not knowing.

Yet when I look at my life, there isn’t one single thing that I’ve learned that I could do perfectly the first time I tried it. None:
  • Not driving
  • Not writing my own name
  • Not speaking French
  • Not even walking
If you’ve ever said “I should have done better…” chances are you too have a little perfectionist living inside too who thinks it's possible to get a better past through rumination and regret.  My perfectionist bully arrived when I was about 7.  My first grade teacher, Mrs Wolf had a very gnarly hand with red nails and it would swoop onto my paper as I was writing and point to the single mistake on the page.  I swear I had nightmares about her right index finger pointing the way to my certain death.  I was terrorized. 

I continued her practice by terrorizing myself, in turn, believing that the way to approval was through the eye of the needle of perfect performance.

So, are we supposed to learn by, erm, already knowing?

Just walk around to notice the number of children currently being educated in perfectionism.  Why do you think so many teens commit suicide?  They aren’t supposed to be in school to learn it seems, only to prove how much the already know.  Kids do more tests, earlier, every year.  Standing with your hand on the handle of the door marked Failure is terrifying to contemplate and future creative lifetimes are being tossed into the waste bin right now to avoiding having to open it. 

What happened to not-knowing, when failure was considered a required class for success?

I was under the impression that mistakes are not a synonym for wasted life, but for ‘learning’.   Someone put the wrong sign up on that door. It should say "Step through this door and experiment all ye who enter here."

Now that we are big and not terrorized by Mrs. Wolf’s index finger, the door marked 'Failure' shouldn't seem so scary and shameful.  But it does. 

Eldon Taylor, who guests on my show on Friday, April 16th,  has written powerfully about the "form of conditioning that can set us up for disappointment and failure... the one that teaches us we should have an answer (I've reprinted his great thoughts on my Facebook Fan Page in Notes). 

Let’s take a dare together today. What if, just for today, we didn't try to be perfect.  I OK, this is going to sound crazy, but you really cannot know what you don't know.  

After all, what’s the worse that can happen?  I can write my name, speak French, drive and walk. So worse case – you learn something. 
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Pair #5 Perfectly Perfect in Every Way
© 2010 Elese Coit
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