Ever muttered to yourself “When will this clown ever learn?” when watching Nick Kyrgios blow up either on court, in a press conference or on social media?
If you have, then you can at least feel satisfied that you’re asking the right question. Kyrgios’ inability to learn is the anchor on his progress. It isn’t his footwork, as suggested by respected coach Roger Rasheed. It isn’t his attitude, his forehand or his propensity to give up and serve underhand when things are looking grim within a match.
Kyrgios is just a big kid. And to educate a kid, it’s worth heading back to school momentarily.
In schools, teachers battle every day with students trying to learn. It’s a tough gig, made tougher by the emotions that kids experience when learning doesn’t go the way they wanted it to.
When kids make mistakes, when they fail, they cease to use the thinking part of their brain, the neo-cortex, and commence to use the emotional part of their brain which is buried deep within a complicated set of componentry called the limbic system.
And what do kids feel when they fail at school? The answer is shame. They feel a deep, burning and acute sense of shame and embarrassment. When we’re feeling something as strong as shame, it’s very difficult to think or to learn at all.
Have you ever noticed that, as humans, we’re not so great at feeling and thinking simultaneously. We’re one or the other and, when we fail, we’re a ball of negative feelings.
It’s chiefly why research indicates that up to 80% of poor student behavioural choices in the classroom can be directly attributed to a sense of academic failure.
Some kids, and perhaps a smaller percentage of adults, are able to cope with the sting of shame when it shows up and to learn from it. These are the people for whom learning through the old-fashioned trail and error works particularly well.
As kids, these people work through challenges and resist the help of the teacher with a firm “No, I don’t want your help! I can do it myself!” Teachers love working with these kids.
For these kids, shame is just a signal that they’ve run headlong into a learning opportunity.
In adults, the ones who experience failure positively are the ones who learn from defeat. Arguably the world’s greatest ever basketballer, Michael Jordan, once said “I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
But for many adults, Kyrgios included, they experience shame negatively and respond in one of four equally unproductive ways.
Firstly, we might withdraw. We hide from the world. We stay home from our jobs and fake sickies. Kyrgios occasionally drifts to the withdrawal response to shame when he blames “mystery injuries” that hadn’t seemed a problem just moments earlier.
Some people avoid shame. They hit the bottle or use drugs so that the feeling of having failed, whether it be at tennis or at life, is temporarily numbed by the alternate state induced by their substance of choice. Doesn’t seem Nick has a problem here.
There are some folk who will attack themselves when shame comes along. They beat themselves up and they self-deprecate harshly. At some stage most of us have said nasty things to ourselves that we wouldn’t dream of saying to others.
And then there’s Kyrgios’ favourite response to shame – to attack others. Dealing with shame can be delayed indefinitely by the busy work of whacking other people who really had nothing to do with you falling short of your expectations.
In the few days since his first round loss at the Australian Open, Kyrgios has lined up Rasheed, Lleyton Hewitt, ex-footballer Gerard Healy, a random reporter at a press conference and a slew of online keyboard warriors. That’s more than enough to take your mind off your inability to take set from Milos Raonic in the first round of your home Grand Slam. Mission accomplished, Nick.
Well might we ask ourselves “When will Nick Kyrgios ever learn?” but we need to be mindful that there’s a genuine, well-considered answer to that question.
Nick Kyrgios will be able to fulfil his potential the moment he can control his shame response in a career where failure is inevitable. When he learns to think, rather than feel, when he loses, then he might just spend less time posting and then deleting blameful tweets than he does examining the replay of his loss to Raonic … and learning from it.
FREE WEBINAR – “The Learning Attitude”
Nothing undermines the effectiveness of your work, of your learning and of your productivity better than a bad attitude.
Yet, when many people find themselves in a learning environment, their attitude drifts towards the negative. They sit on their hands, they roll their eyes, they interrupt or the recruit others to sabotage the event.
If you’re really lucky, their negative attitude is there, but it’s passive behaviourally. In other words, they sit there looking interested but they’re just not paying any real attention.
How much more effective could we be if your people approached their learning opportunities with enthusiasm, interest and curiosity? Let’s do some work on that.
But before we get too excited about “fixing” everybody else, you should know that this webinar will be about you too! If we fail to honestly address the learning attitudes of those leading the learning … then … we’ll just fail.
As respected life-long educator Rita Pierson says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. And this stands perfectly well against the people in your team. After all, they’re just big kids deep down.
The collective attitude of everyone in every learning experience is likely to be the most important determining factor of mission success.
Let’s get an attitude – together!
For all of the reasons above, this FREE opportunity is one that you just shouldn’t miss ahead of the challenges that will come with 2019.