My brother and I had countless arguments over this one when we were younger.  I had started reading a lot of self-help books and had learned about beliefs and their power, and was trying on a few new beliefs to see their effect.  ​

One of the new beliefs I was testing was “You can learn anything,” and this was also supported by the fact I had started to read self-help books and get some interesting results by applying what I had learned.  I was still a novice but my eyes had been opened to a world I didn’t even know existed. 

​Can you really learn anything?​

I can remember my first ever self-help book as if it were yesterday!  I was sat on the Copacabana beach on my own.  The sun was shining down on fit Brazilian bodies as they strolled around me and I was head down in a book feeling like I was Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole or Neo taking the red pill in the Matrix! My whole mindset and world was shifting under me as I sat on that beach reading. 

That one book opened up my eyes to self-development and I remember going to the English book stores in the mall in Rio looking for the next book and buying Tony Robbins’ other books and getting absorbed in them as well. 

That first book was Notes From a Friend by Tony Robbins, and is a short read with some entry- level self-development information that at the time ROCKED my world!

20-something years later and books still have a huge influence on my life and I am still a believer that you can learn anything!

My brother’s point revolved around things where there were physical limitations.  I was 21 at that point and he asked, “Could I learn to become the best footballer there ever was?”  And he had a point, I was a little bit late for that one and we didn’t know if I had the genetics for it.   There are certain sports and things where genetics do play a role, but for most of us it is nothing to do with genetics – it is all to do with:

  • The cost of learning something
  • ​Can anyone do anything? Self-belief
  • The motivation to learn something
  • Getting through the dip

The Cost of Learning
There is a cost to learn anything new.  The cost is not always financial; in fact the financial cost is normally irrelevant or small (the price of a book). It is the cost of energy, the cost of time, the cost of effort and more that stops people from learning new things.

Let me give you an example where I choose not to pay the cost of learning something new.  In my mid-twenties, I joined Toastmasters and fell in love with it.  I started to win a few competitions and really invested my time and energy into learning how to public speak.  I put many hours into it, reading the books, studying the YouTube videos and buying DVD courses to learn.  I managed to get myself to the UK and Ireland final of the Toastmasters Humorous Speaking contest and had an incredible time in Ireland performing there.  I didn’t win but it lit a fire within me to learn how to make people laugh.  I bought books on humour, I went on a stand -up comedy course, I bought a DVD  called I Can Make You Funnier by Next Week, and I learned.

​You can even see my first ever stand-up comedy set here:

I can’t believe I even wore a suit back then!

So I learnt and I wasn’t the best, but I was getting better and better and I felt there was a path if I wanted it to being a stand-up comedian.

As I thought through that path though I got less excited.  The cost of being a stand-up comedian was stage time.  And stage time meant travelling to London to do 5- 10 minute stand -up slots as many of the weeknights as I could, and every weekend.  I needed to practice my art.  The cost was spending the time that my wife would be at home after work away from her and travelling an hour and a half each way to perform for 5 minutes!  I wouldn’t have seen my wife!

The cost  of learning that skill and getting into that world was too great for me and I parked my stand-up comedy aspirations there and focused instead on learning speaking skills to become a professional trainer.  That I could do during working hours and be with my wife after work.

The cost of being a stand-up comedian for me was putting in the hours and doing it whilst my wife was at home.  I was not prepared to pay the cost!

​I really do believe you can learn anything but there can be a steep cost at times depending on what you choose to learn.

Can anyone do anything?
This brings us onto the next part of the cost, and that is changing your mindset to believe it is possible.  Could Alan Donegan have actually become a stand-up comedian? Did he have it in him?

We’ll never know!

Whilst I didn’t pay the price to be a comedian, I did learn a lot from my studies and still use humour in every single workshop I run.  I believe that if you are laughing then you are learning and I work hard to make sure my audiences have a great time as they learn at my workshops.  I learned some simple ways to write jokes (like the triad pattern, which I will teach you in a future post) and make people laugh.

I truly believe I could have made it.

Compare that to a lot of the participants who come to our Rebel Business School workshops.  They turn up and the first thing they say to me on Website Wednesday is, “I am not good with technology” or “I am a technophobe.”  What chance do you think they have of being able to learn how to create a website with those beliefs and that self-image before the start!

​This next quote really, really changed my world! Henry Ford said:

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right

The people who come along to our courses saying they can’t build a website are absolutely right before they even start!  Those beliefs stop them from even trying!  They look at a laptop and say they can’t do it, they tell me it is impossible before they start!  They are stopping themselves from learning before they have even started.

I know it is a bullshit belief,  I know it is utter crap and that anyone can learn it.  I have been doing this long enough to see all sorts for all walks of life build websites; we had one lady at a recent workshop that had had 5 heart attacks and been in a coma for a month before the course and she still turned up under special supervision from her doctors and never having build a website proceeded to throw herself at it and just learn!  She believed it was possible and she had found the motivation to get going and JUST DO IT!  She nearly died and that motivated her to stop wasting time and just have a go. She just started building and made it happen.

People say all sorts of things to me:

  • It takes money to make money,
  • You can’t learn new things at my age
  • Technology and me don’t get on
  • You can’t start a business with no money

If you believe any of that shit then it will stop you from ever trying.  You have to believe it is possible to give yourself even the chance that it is possible.

Now I am not saying that just thinking you can do it is enough.  You can’t just believe you can and then it is so!  You still have to do the hard work, you still have to learn, and it still might be frustrating! The one thing I can say with certainty is that if you believe it isn’t possible then you will never even start and you definitely won’t succeed.

Believing it is possible allows you to have a go.  Believing it is impossible stops you from ever having achieving it.

I know that if I believe I can do it then I am at least giving my chance at bat, a chance to have a go, a chance that I will prove myself right!

So my belief is that given the time, support and education, I can learn to do anything.  It might not be true but it helps me to be successful in life.

Motivation to learn

How are you going to drag your ass up off the couch and get going learning something if you don’t have motivation and energy?!  You have to find the motivation and energy to learn.  If you don’t have that then you are going to struggle.

Where do you find motivation from? How do you get started? How do you get energy?

You don’t get motivated to do something; you get motivated by doing something

So many people I have met wait for motivation to hit them.  They sit on the couch watching mindless television waiting for the motivation to hit!  At the weekends they complain of just not feeling motivated; in the evenings they complain of no motivation and so they don’t do anything.

If you wait for motivation to hit you then you are going to be waiting a LONG, LONG time!  Motivation is not a weird thing that occasionally floats by the house and thinks, I am going to give some of myself to this person tonight.  It is not a noun, it is a not a thing, it is not something I can put in my wheelbarrow!

It is a state.  It is a way of feeling in a given moment.  It is a feeling. The question is, how do you generate that feeling within yourself so you can get on and do things?  How do you generate motivation from nothing?  One thing I know for certain is that sitting on the couch is not the way to generate motivation!

Here are some of my favourite strategies for generating motivation:

  1. Get up and start – just get up and get going, start something and I don’t care how!  Send someone an email, start writing the book, read something.  Just START!
  2. The 15 minute rule – this is designed to get you to start.  Tell yourself you are just going to do fifteen minutes and you have permission to stop afterwards.  You can do fifteen minutes, can’t you? If you can get yourself going then quite often you get into it and do more than 15 minutes anyway, and if not then you are still doing 15 minutes a day towards your goal
  3. Thinking of everything you will get out of doing this positively – think of how your life will be better off, visualise it done in as much detail as you can, write about it being done and what it is like to experience it and make a list of everything you will get out of doing it!  There is energy in making life better
  4. Thinking of everything bad that will happen if you don’t do this – what will happen if you don’t do this? How will life be worse off? People are motivated in all different ways; some of them are motivated towards a goal and some motivate themselves by the pain of not doing it.  Notice which one of this one and the above motivates you the most!  Make a huge list of what will happen if you don’t do it and spin that list out over time.
  5. Jump around and dance – get some energy!  The more energy you give the more you get back; so get up and give some energy.  MOVE!  You need to find energy to do this and energy to get going so one of the best ways to do this is to bounce around your house, move to music or just get going!  Give some energy!
  6. Get angry – a lot of my energy over the years, my motivation, has come from fighting what I think are injustices.  The bank trying to take away my family home, fighting against the StartUp Loan company, standing up to people doing things that damage other people’s mental health and aspirations.  Find what makes you angry about the situation and use that to power your progress!

Motivation and energy come from so many different places.  These are just a few I use to get myself going and create the energy to be able to build businesses, get to financial independence and make the world a better place.

Motivation won’t suddenly show up in your life; you have to generate it and use it to get things done.

Getting through the DIP

Does it always go perfectly the first time you do something? Is there a learning curve to new things? Do you immediately get the results you desire?

Sometimes there is a rather large lag between when you start putting energy into something and when you see the results. You don’t go to the gym once and then you have massive muscles (I know, I have tried!) It takes time.

I want you to be prepared that when you start learning, it is going to take a while for the results to show. You have to be prepared to push through this lag between effort and results, this dip, to make it through to the other side where you want to be.

Let’s look at a few common goals and how long the dip/lag might be

  • You want to build a business.  You launch, build the website and start selling, and then there is slow progress.  Depending on how much energy you put into the business it can take 6 months or more than a year to see really good results.  You have to be prepared to push through for that period of time to get results
  • You want to write a book.  A book can be upwards of 40,000 words!!!  You don’t sit down and write and then the next morning you have a book.  You need to strap in for the long haul and start writing every day for 6 months to a year to get to the book stage!  You have to go through the lag period to get to the results
  • You want to lose weight.  You have salad for a week and drink lots of water.  You have worked so hard for a week and at the end of the week you have only lost a pound when your goals is 40 pounds!  You want to throw in the towel and have a pizza right there and then!  The results take time to come and you need to eat healthily for months to get to your goals and you need to be prepared to push through the first 4 months to get to your goal!

Prepare yourself for a period of time after you start learning anything or doing anything that will be tough and you won’t get the results you want immediately!  You have to push through this period to get to the results on the other side.

You can learn anything

“You can learn anything” is a belief.  It is not one that is true or false, it is one that is useful.  This allows me to get going, to work on my goals, and helps me to make progress.

I have stopped arguing over things like this as there will always be someone who believes the opposite to be true and I don’t really care what they think at this stage because I know that this belief has a positive impact on my life and the people around me.

Is it true you can learn anything?  Who cares!

I believe it and I am going to have a go!

I would love to know your thoughts!  Write me a comment or share the article below!

​Alan

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