Found in the Field · Miscellany

HBR: ‘Resisting the bias against doing new things’

I got off the plane in Narita, and things changed, forever.

I was heading into a study abroad program in Kyoto, where, funnily, I’d be surrounded by classmates who were all, unlike me, Ivy Leaguers.

This was new.

This was, at first, a little daunting.

It was a weird feeling being placed by our diagnostic tests in a classroom with them. Because of them being, well, them.

I was on exchange that year from my own university. My own school was a state college, which I went to because of a full scholarship, in part, but also, because of a lot of other things that aren’t really part of the scope of this post, but are there, and worth mentioning, because of what K. and I talked about in Hanoi how when you are 18 and have to make big decisions you can be swayed easily and get into $$$ debt and I think that’s a thing to note. Because by the end of this post, I hope you will see through the examples from my Kyoto story and an article linked to below why it’s not about what you are told to think is good to do, but rather, what you discover to be what’s important: to you.

I think people who take more time between high school and college are on to the right idea.



Me? Right. I’d wanted to study engineering, and my university had a high ranking for that. Civil was my beat. So, I did that. A female in an engineering class who goes through all the classes and graduates… about one in ten of us, maybe? No idea. But I was used to being the odd one out, so I guess there was that padding of experience, coming in to my experience in Kyoto.

All four of my classmates during my year in Kyoto were from Ivy League schools; yet… despite this, looking back, reflecting, I found out… that we had way more in common than I had imagined.

After all, it wasn’t about our economic or social class backgrounds or privilege or even the paths we’d taken up until then in life that had brought us together in that small classroom.

Rather, it was the attitude that we brought towards learning in general. 

It was an attitude that was shared; an attitude of ‘bring it on’, which, after all this time and reflection, I now understand was what made us more the same, than different. We cared about getting good at Japanese. Not just passing a class somewhere and calling it ‘good enough.’ We weren’t going to settle for anything less than an ‘A.’ Here is where I have to say thanks to the people in my life who helped me become that kind of person. All of my math teachers, plus my piano teacher from when I was twelve, and my fluid dynamics prof But most of all, my typing teacher from homeroom in seventh grade, who was probably the most influential of all, CB. I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for these people, encouraging me and teaching me cool things like the Second Law of Thermodynamics and how electromagnetism works.



Jordan-sensei, ‘Eavesdropping’



In Kyoto, I also found out that there was an important pre-requisite for making our studies matter to us. This:

We had to want to be there; we had to want to learn.

The five of us weren’t where we were, in that room together, because of any other reason than that.

(HT JE, thanks for the mix tape.)


How I learned to speak Japanese

Our teachers got us to talk about our interests, and then, they brought together texts for us on related topics, so we could be interested in the density of the otherwise extraordinarily daunting, to the newcomer, texts in Japanese.


Making it matter to us to own our own learning was how we did it. It’s how we stayed motivated to ingest all kinds of new grammar patterns, and vocabularies that were relevant, for each of us. (Taking turns, we did economics, microeconomics, law… not my stuff, of course, but guess what I brought? Architecture. Japanese traditional and modern architecture design: that was my bit. No surprise there. It was, in fact, architecture that had drawn me to the whole country; what made me want to study the language was the interest in finding out what was behind the design… language shows you so very much; richness, complexity.. it’s all there, in layers, if you learn to read the words.)


All of this is to say

All of this because of today’s research, for a fresh new story to come here in S P C that is based on an interview I got to do on Monday. With a very cool, young entrepreneur, SL, whose work I have been loosely following for the arc of… six years. You know what’s cool about being based in a place for a while? Local knowledge, for one, but better than that, discovering that you are a peer to some folks, who remember you, and have seen your progress, just as you have observed theirs. In this way, it’s like being back in university again. We can talk together about the paths we’ve taken, and what we’ve learned.

And the theme of this story I’m putting together about him, it’s about learning.

But a different kind of learning than what you might imagine if you heard someone say that word. We are not talking about the usual format of ‘education.’ Not schoolbooks. Not university programs, with their brands and $$$ images.

But something else. Intrinsic motivation.

But how does one even get that?

You can’t find that by consuming videos, after all, on YouTube.

Where does it come from?




Quoted in the Harvard Business Review article I found today while researching ‘learning how to learn,’ was the following:

In the words of Arie de Geus, a business theorist, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” I’m not talking about relaxed armchair or even structured classroom learning. I’m talking about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a novice again and again: an extremely discomforting notion for most of us.

This was written by author Erika Andersen, who continues: ‘We’ve identified four attributes they have in spades: aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability. They truly want to understand and master new skills; they see themselves very clearly; they constantly think of and ask good questions; and they tolerate their own mistakes as they move up the learning curve.’ Read the full story here:

Even more to share. What do you think? Discuss with us in our forums in S P C about this topic, when yousubscribe [$] to our e-mag, S P C.