I blog on Brain-Based Learning, Metacognition, EdTech, and Social-Emotional Learning. I am the author of the Crush School Series of Books, which help students understand how their brains process information and learn. I also wrote The Power of Three: How to Simplify Your Life to Amplify Your Personal and Professional Success, but be warned that it's meant for adults who want to thrive and are comfortable with four letter words.

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How to Achieve Competence and Create Confidence

Achieve Competence and Create Confidence

The following is a Letter to All Teens and Their Parents.

“Competence Creates Confidence”

I heard that somewhere and it got me thinking...

What is Competence exactly? How do you get it?

Think about something you are good at, maybe really good at. Maybe it’s a sport like soccer or basketball. Maybe it’s painting, sculpture, or another art form. Maybe you’re good at fixing stuff or cooking or gaming or have some other skill you feel competent in. How do you feel when you do stuff that requires you to use this skill?

Chances are whatever your mind conjured was positive. You feel good to do stuff you’re good at because you experience success in it. This motivates you to keep going. You keep doing it and as a result you keep getting better at it. You keep getting better because once you feel competent you have the confidence to try new things. You try new ways; new techniques and strategies. Some don’t help much but some lead to small improvements. Over time, this series of small improvements adds up to a big improvement which you likely don’t even notice because you enjoy doing this thing you’re good at so much.

Imagine school being this way. You might already be a good student but how would you feel knowing that no matter what subject you have to take you can crush it? How would you feel to have the confidence that you can understand difficult concepts, learn them fast, and actually remember them months later when it’s final exam time?

You see, there are 2 types of people in this world - those who fear change and let their anxieties paralyze them to keep them stuck and those who fear change but decide to face their anxieties and grow as individuals. The first type stays comfortable but average (or less than) while the second type of people succeeds at school, work, and life. The good news is that everyone has the potential to be successful.

No matter how good or ugly your school competence is you can get much better at school. And don’t worry - you won’t have to drink the weird Kool Aid to get there. All you have to do is follow the same process that took you to the level of competence and confidence you have in the other skills you’re good at. Except this time it won’t be trial-and-error. You will have small, easy, and specific strategies at your disposal.

You already have the “school skill.” It’s far from perfect but it’s a skill and as such it can be improved. The only way to improve it is to change how you approach school - learn and apply new learning techniques and study strategies - things that help you do school smarter, faster, and better.

You see, after overcoming the initial anxiety of trying something new you will realize that it’s the new experiences and new learning that lead to an upward spiral of success. As you get more comfortable doing things outside of your comfort zone, you end up learning even more, being more competent, and feeling much more confident. This is a result of the “happy” brain chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin your brain produces when you experience positive feelings such as joy, confidence, or feeling successful.

Once you accept and understand that fear-induced stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline are normal brain reactions to all things unknown, you will lessen their effect on your decision-making. They will no longer prevent you from venturing into the unknown. It will become easier to start making small changes to how you do school and other life things. Each small change will bring more competence and more confidence and reduce stress while increasing the happy chemicals. Keep at it and you will become more than a great student - you will turn into a learning machine - someone who learns and applies new things to make their life better every day.

So, you’ve reached a decision intersection. You can go straight, left, or turn right. Here’s what awaits you:

  • Straight: Do nothing. Keep complaining. Stay as you are. Complain some more.
  • Left: Try to change. Study more. Grind it out. Do somewhat better at school.
  • Right: Learn and apply skills that help you learn faster, study smarter, and remember more. Improve your learning skills in small, easy steps that make you a much better student and school much easier.
Decision Intersection: Which decision involves the most progress?

Decision Intersection: Which decision involves the most progress?

The Right decision involves Change, which involves Uncertainty, which involves Facing Your Fears. But, it helps you Achieve Competence which Creates Confidence.

But you already know that. It's time to choose who you want to be.

Good luck to you no matter what you decide.

And to Your Parents: 

Being a dad I know how you feel about your children's success. If you're a bit like me you don't want to leave their success up to luck or school alone. This is why I wrote my new book Crush School Student Guide: Learn Faster, Study Smarter, Remember More, and Make School Easier, which is a workbook that contains a series of short, fun, and easy to follow lessons designed to incrementally turn a mediocre or good student into an advanced learner ready to crush the challenges of high school, college, and the world of work.

It is now 33% off regular price on Amazon. Just click here.

You have the power to change lives. Use it often so they can change the world.