Steep learning curves are sexy.
From the outside, all you see is seemingly infinite growth. New information, new connections, new ideas – things so new to you, you literally don’t possess the processing capabilities to imagine them right now.
It was one of the things I looked forward to most when I was thinking about joining this place. (Though if I’m being totally honest, I worried they were just saying the right things.)
Maybe it’s the light speed intelligence of the people here, maybe it’s the planet-sized brains on our clients, or maybe it’s just a B2B thing – whatever it is, this might be one of the steepest learning curves I’ve ever been on.
I know this because it’s made me realise something about steep learning curves that I’d never noticed before:
What steep learning curves feel like
I’m probably best defined by an internal battle between constant curiosity and chronic laziness. The curiosity makes me want to devour as many new things as I can fit in my big mouth.
The laziness makes me want to do so in record time and with minimal effort or impact on my delicate, but unwieldy ego.
The trouble for me was that, on the steep-ass learning curve that comes with super-focused colleagues and hyper-intelligent clients, there is absolute no room for laziness and even less room for egos.
Briefings and input calls with domain experts are probably the most humbling experiences you can put yourself through. Because it’s not just the exact product or issue you’re tackling in that one conversation – it’s the fucking universe of inter related products and issues that led up to the discussion.
Which means you aren’t just learning about the thing you’re selling, you’re also building a framework – from scratch – of stories and mistakes and competitors and legends that have made the thing you’re selling relevant.
It’s an avalanche of new data and if you aren’t careful, you’ll feel like you’re getting buried. My first few calls and meetings with a client of ours that’s right at the forefront of big data and cloud computing had me feeling like someone learning how to surf for the first time.
Harsh, salty water spraying in through every facial orifice, while I weakly attempted to stand on the flimsiest of surfaces and ride a wave that clearly didn’t give a shit whether or not I was riding it.
The thing about steep learning curves
You don’t really hear all that much about the actual trauma of being on a steep learning curve. Let me be very clear – that trauma is necessary and in no uncertain terms, thrilling. It’s the single funnest, most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
Because no win feels as good as a win you had to fight for your life for.
But it would be foolish to pretend that fighting for your life isn’t difficult and stressful and tiring. While you’re in the ring it can feel gloomy and dark and lonely as hell. I spend something like 85% of my time feeling like the biggest idiot in the room and the remaining 15% licking the wounds to my ego.
Even worse, any time I look back at the things I worked on just a few weeks ago, I instantly regret most of the choices I made. It’s the price you pay for gaining new information at a rapid pace. I’m smarter today, but I can’t ignore how dumb I was yesterday.
I struggle with the steep learning curve a lot, as I imagine almost everyone does. So let me sum up what I’ve learned so far on the unrelentingly steep learning curve that is B2B content marketing. These are lessons for myself but I hope they help someone else too:
- If you’re feeling nauseous, you’re in the right place.
- The only way is up – down is done and uninteresting.
- Do not look behind you and expect comfort – only difficult lessons.
- Fear and self-loathing is a slippery slope that is both natural and unforgiving – exchange it for borderline delusional positivity.
- Victory will be sweet, rewarding and fleeting. When comfortable, move on.
- At any given point in time, you either love the vertigo or you don’t.
That last point is worth expanding on. A buddy of mine recently got promoted out of a small town in Texas and sent to his company’s New York office. On the face of it, it seemed like he’d be leaving a place where he’d experience lesser growth, to go to New York – the epitome of fast paced madness.
What actually happened though, was that he got promoted out of an incredibly steep learning curve into a more comfortable upward trajectory at the company’s headquarters. And now he’s bored. As hard as he’s still having to work, he’s hardly learning.
The flurry of learning and productivity that comes with a steep learning curve is almost addictive to people who love it. And while the promise of comfort and stability can be alluring when you’re tired and stressed out, it probably won’t be as much fun. If you can live with that, great.
But if you love chaos, pain and excitement, go to where the personal growth is. My personal recommendation would be to grab a brown paper bag and have a go at B2B content marketing.
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