Learning Zone — The Personal Lab For Growth Mindset.
It's not about being perfect all the time.
Imagine you are a tightrope walker. You are at a show performing your stunts. There is no net beneath you to protect you if you fall. It may seem very dangerous for someone who is looking at it from the outside. Yet for you, walking across a rope is nothing but another walk in the park. You easily walk across the rope every day. However, with time, your audience finds your trick a bit mundane. All you do is walk across a rope. Your audience demands more from you. Yet you can not deviate from your comfort zone and take a risk to perform new tricks. The 4-inch-thick concrete beneath you and the image of your brain scattered around the floor is preventing you from taking even the sliest risk.
People do not come to a circus to see a man getting crushed Infront of them. They also do not want to see you perform with the comfort of a safety net. I know it is unfair, but that is why it is called a circus. This is where you need to get back in the learning zone to take risks and master new tricks. A time on the rope without an audience, but with a safety net.
Even in life, we try to spend most of our time in the performance zone. We do not let ourselves experiment. Always stay on the edge because you want to avoid others thinking that you make errors. If you do not want others to see that you are human and make errors, then like the tightrope walker, you too will have to stay in your comfort zone. If you choose to do that, instead of you turning out to be perfect and smart, your life will become dull and everybody, including yourself, will lose interest.
The main reason for someone to get stuck in the performance zone would be due to the fixed mindset they have. When you believe that smartness and performance are fixed attributes of a person that cannot be improved through deliberate practice. Then you do not want to show any weakness as it can scar you for life. In such a toxic mindset, nobody is willing to take risks and improve.
This is precisely why you need to create time and space to make mistakes and upgrade yourself.
In the golf season of 1996–1997, Tiger Woods managed to win the Masters by 12 strokes. He won 25% of the majors he attended. Woods was gaining momentum at a rate and clearly on his way to becoming a legendary world champion. For anyone who looks at him from the outside, he was performing like a legend to become one. Yet soon after the 1997 season, he went back to his learning zone to change his swing entirely. A man in his budding prime of the career with unprecedented statistics decided to give up on his signature swing to upgrade himself.
Now that you know how successful he was after the swing change; you might not find it super surprising. But nobody with a fixed mindset can even fathom the idea of such an improvement in the nets. Of course, Mr. Woods did not attempt to change his swing midway of a game. That would be outright stupid. Instead, he created a safe zone where he was able to perform his experiments. A place where he could fail without any permanent damage.
Even at your place of work, we talk about creating an environment that allows mistakes to happen and let people learn from them. However, the very first question that comes with that idea is, what if they make those mistakes in the most critical of times? This is a very valid question that does not have any straightforward answer. Instead, what you can create is a clear differentiation between the performance zone and the learning zone. Times to stay on the edge and times to cut loose and play wild.
Either way, at any given stage, you should empower everyone around you to grow over trying to prove perfect and fake.
Even at the most critical times, people are bound to make mistakes. In such instances would you rather have a team who goes out its way to cover it up and cut corners or a team that admits the hiccup, learn from it, and move on?