Learning Curve Addiction

Day 190 Week 28  Q3 Saturday, July 9, 2022


Okay, I admit it, I am addicted to the steep initial part of the learning curve when you are drinking from a water hose to learn how to use an app with a several hundred-page manual. It is the same sensation some of us got when we discovered we could ride a bike a lot faster down a hill than pedal up it. Both have the same downsides and some of us have the scars to prove it. Yes, you can certainly get into trouble intellectually besides physically when going too fast. But then again, there is this adrenaline rush from going really fast.

It seems that creative outliers love to learn. We are extremely curious and we are also extremely good at absorbing information. People who are great at swimming like to swim a lot.  They are comfortable in deep water and know how to handle themselves so they dive in without having to think too much about it. Creative outliers have this same facility about investigating whatever catches their fancy. We dive in and just start processing.

I bet some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there is a potential problem. The problem is, that it can be far more fun to investigate and explore things that you do not know about than taking the less exciting path to complete projects already begun. Of course, we rarely get paid for exploring nearly as much as the compensation associated with finishing. Some people do get paid just for trying not for finishing but they are called bureaucrats and in general, they are not creative outliers, however, they are sometimes lapsed creative outliers, who got tired of not being able to monetize their learning curve exploits. 

This is why learning curve addiction is as problematic as other kinds of addiction to the compulsive among us. Wait you say you are not compulsive? You are well managed and carefully balance your creative impulses with meeting expected deadlines punctually or even in advance of deadlines. Are you certain you are a creative outlier? Well, you may be and you also may be a CEO methodically working your way toward a profitable exit. It happens.

For the non-CEOs among us still working to balance our creative urges against our other responsibilities, I am simply raising the issue that being an addict or even a borderline addict can be dangerous but none of you know anything about that right? Even if you never had a drink, smoked a cigarette or had a fling, there is still danger in addiction and for me, learning curves are my nemesis. It can be time to go to bed to be ready for tomorrow by having a reasonable night’s sleep, and I can even tell my wife “be right there”. But that new toy or app or book or something else, not totally known or understood is right there beckoning me to take a peak. And before I know it several hours have gone by. At least now it is only several hours, but when in my twenties it could be several days.  

So, what to do? I am sure being creative outliers you have many coping strategies. I know I do. But then again as an involuntary innovator, I find ways to try to “improve upon” these strategies and somehow find myself in cahoots with my other self the learning curve addict.  In fact, sometimes the tangent is new coping mechanisms.

And by the way, cold turkey does not work very well either. Have you ever told yourself to not have any new ideas until you completed processing the old ones? Or do not try this new tool until you complete the semester or the year or the project.

Well, I am reporting from the other side. I acquired several kinds of interesting new tech toys and tools early in the pandemic and told myself I could not justify spending time with them until I go things under control. And much to my amazement it worked. Well, I did have to hide them deep in a closet and put things in front of the door. In my enthusiasm, I also told myself to not write any new music unit I perfected and recorded the works in progress and also to not start writing any new articles or books or anything unit I published the already started ones. 

Okay so during the last 18 months all sorts of progress was made, but I have run out of delayed gratification discipline and cracked upon the door once again to new stuff and my learning curve addiction 

Has taken control for the last few days and I can say without reservation that it is great to indulge.

No, I am not intending to become a full-blown learning curve addict and three days of binging on learning instead of the news did a great deal to make me feel good about the world or air least feel better.

So, am I telling anyone to do anything here at all? No. I am simply acknowledging I have an addiction and no I do not want a twelve-step program to cure it, because I think this is where tomorrow comes from. People who are so compulsive about something, that they have to do it.

And in addition, to be feeling better, which is not a bad reason to do something that essentially does no harm to anyone else, I have another new pile of unfinished things to master and no I do not feel guilty. I am enjoying it too much. In fact, I am enjoying it even more than the occasional lapse into ice cream or pasta or other things that take longer to correct than learning.

And the crazy you, the who loves learning, well this is also a very attractive you as well. People notice and they like it, which is after all how some of us have founded companies, departments and projects.

Does learning have to be managed? Sure. But smothered? Never. 

This is one addiction that benefits us all as long as it is managed to some extent.  My recommendation to myself is to reserve some time every day to reward myself by plunging in and then coming back out. Will all of these projects get completed in my lifetime? It is doubtful but I am mo longer going to punish myself for being a learning curve addict.

And excuse me, I need to get back to understanding what my new tech can really do.