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Kicking ass is more fun


You know it's true. The better you get at something, the better it feels. Snowboarding. Programming. Writing. Learning Japanese. Chess. Painting. Building cars. Cooking. Designing a web page. Skateboarding. Teaching. Marketing. Being a parent. Being in love.

My running coach told me a few years ago, "It's just more fun when you're faster." I wasn't sure what he meant; I was just trying to get back in shape and do a decent 10K. But once I started training with much better runners, and began pushing myself and keeping my splits and timing my speed work... it was more fun. And it wasn't like I had any illusion of being competitive. Being better is just more fun.

The more we analyze and reverse-engineer passion, the more we see learning and growth as a key component. No, not a key--the key. The more knowledge and skill someone has, the more passionate they become, and the more passionate they become, the more they try to improve their knowledge and skills. (Much of it has to do with the flow state.)

Why are so many companies and causes doing virtually nothing to help users get better?

Assuming you have a good product or service or cause--just like everybody else out there we're all competing with:

It's not what you sell, it's what you teach that matters.

Or rather, what you help someone learn.

Too many books and businesses take users through the first steps and then leave them stranded and alone still in the frustrating and painful stage! How many readers claim they actually finished or even got halfway through a technical book? How many users ever learn anything but the most basic features of the software--even when they'd be thrilled if they could do more? But it just isn't worth it for them to struggle, so they stay with what they know, often using very inefficient steps to do something simply because that's the only "safe" way they feel comfortable with.

Kicking ass is more fun regardless of the task. It's more fun to know more. It's more fun to be able to do more. It's more fun to be able to help others do more.

I'll say more on this later, but I can think of a lot of wasted ad dollars that might be better spent teaching. Red Bull, for example, wants to be the drink of choice for late-night dancers. But rather than simply sponsoring raves and keeping popular DJ's well-stocked (like anyone else would in that business) they create new and better DJ's. They offer the Red Bull Music Academy:

The Red Bull Music Academy is a unique environment where musical innovators shed light on the history, the motivations and the technology behind the tunes that we love. It's a place where ideas are expanded and friendships are forged in real time. It's where sonic theorists meet up with beat junkies and communicate the best way they know how - through music.

By helping more DJs (and wanna-be DJs) kick ass, they've done more to inspire real passion than any of their freebie promotions ever can.

So... how are you heping your users/customers/students/guests/visitors/clients/members/readers kick ass? What are you teaching them? How are you helping them get past the painful parts and into the better-than-drugs flow state?

Posted by Kathy on June 6, 2005 | Permalink


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You bet! Any skill is more fun doing when one is in the "zone". But can an instructor take you into the "zone" without your own effort? Perhaps not. There has to be effort from our side that takes us to the next level.

Posted by: Neelakantan | Jun 7, 2005 1:41:18 AM

This makes great sense from a professional development point of view. I'm a big proponent of keeping up - and how that contributes to passion - because as you learn more about your profession and what's happening in it you get more activated. The real challenge is getting people to invest the time in getting better.

This is especially true with a population like undergraduate students. In their chosen field they might eventually develop that passion and then the learning gets easier. But with anything else - such as a course on middle east relations - they see that as having nothing to do with their career - and it can be extremely challenging to get them excited about that sort of topic - and even with good active learning techniques - it is still quite a challenge.

Posted by: steven | Jun 7, 2005 7:43:22 AM

And that kick-ass experience is what carries us (and users) through the inevitable plateaus when we don't feel or perceive progress.

Posted by: Dave Rogers | Jun 7, 2005 8:00:40 PM

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