ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Eduardo Briceño - Learning expert
Eduardo Briceño is a learner, leader, speaker and writer devoted to enabling a more learning-oriented world.

Why you should listen

Eduardo Briceño leads Mindset Works, the leading provider of growth mindset training services and programs for schools and businesses.  It helps organizations cultivate learning-oriented cultures and systems. He started it in 2007 with the foremost growth mindset researcher, Carol Dweck Ph.D., and education expert Lisa Blackwell Ph.D. Prior to his current role, he was a Principal at the Sprout Group, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

Briceño regularly speaks at national and international conferences and in-house trainings for educators, professionals, and leaders. His TEDx talk, "The power of belief," is widely used to introduce teachers, students and professionals to the growth mindset, and his TED Talk, "How to get better at the things you care about," differentiates performance vs. improvement behaviors. He has been quoted and featured in prominent media, such as Education Week, NPR, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, KQED MindShift, Entrepreneur and Inc.

Briceño grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, before moving to the US when he was in high school. He now lives with his wife in San Jose, California. He holds Bachelor's degrees in economics and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford University. Most important, he continues to enjoy lifelong learning every day.

More profile about the speaker
Eduardo Briceño | Speaker | TED.com
TEDxManhattanBeach

Eduardo Briceño: How to get better at the things you care about

Filmed:
2,818,975 views

Working hard but not improving? You're not alone. Eduardo Briceño reveals a simple way to think about getting better at the things you do, whether that's work, parenting or creative hobbies. And he shares some useful techniques so you can keep learning and always feel like you're moving forward.
- Learning expert
Eduardo Briceño is a learner, leader, speaker and writer devoted to enabling a more learning-oriented world. Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:12
Most of us go through life trying
to do our best at whatever we do,
0
760
4016
00:16
whether it's our job, family, school
1
4800
2576
00:19
or anything else.
2
7400
1200
00:21
I feel that way. I try my best.
3
9240
1800
00:23
But some time ago, I came to a realization
4
11920
2896
00:26
that I wasn't getting much better
at the things I cared most about,
5
14840
3776
00:30
whether it was being a husband or a friend
6
18640
3176
00:33
or a professional or teammate,
7
21840
2216
00:36
and I wasn't improving
much at those things
8
24080
2016
00:38
even though I was spending a lot of time
9
26120
2536
00:40
working hard at them.
10
28680
1200
00:43
I've since realized from conversations
I've had and from research
11
31200
3376
00:46
that this stagnation, despite hard work,
12
34600
2656
00:49
turns out to be pretty common.
13
37280
1736
00:51
So I'd like to share with you
some insights into why that is
14
39040
2856
00:53
and what we can all do about it.
15
41920
1524
00:56
What I've learned
is that the most effective people
16
44160
2496
00:58
and teams in any domain
17
46680
1976
01:00
do something we can all emulate.
18
48680
1640
01:03
They go through life deliberately
alternating between two zones:
19
51000
4056
01:07
the learning zone
and the performance zone.
20
55080
2080
01:10
The learning zone
is when our goal is to improve.
21
58160
2656
01:12
Then we do activities
designed for improvement,
22
60840
3096
01:15
concentrating on what
we haven't mastered yet,
23
63960
2456
01:18
which means we have to expect
to make mistakes,
24
66440
2456
01:20
knowing that we will learn from them.
25
68920
1800
01:23
That is very different from what we do
when we're in our performance zone,
26
71160
3736
01:26
which is when our goal is to do something
as best as we can, to execute.
27
74920
4296
01:31
Then we concentrate
on what we have already mastered
28
79240
2616
01:33
and we try to minimize mistakes.
29
81880
1760
01:36
Both of these zones
should be part of our lives,
30
84840
2416
01:39
but being clear about
when we want to be in each of them,
31
87280
3256
01:42
with what goal, focus and expectations,
32
90560
2296
01:44
helps us better perform
and better improve.
33
92880
2816
01:47
The performance zone maximizes
our immediate performance,
34
95720
2936
01:50
while the learning zone
maximizes our growth
35
98680
2096
01:52
and our future performance.
36
100800
1286
01:55
The reason many of us don't improve much
37
103320
2056
01:57
despite our hard work
38
105400
1736
01:59
is that we tend to spend almost
all of our time in the performance zone.
39
107160
4000
02:03
This hinders our growth,
40
111880
1376
02:05
and ironically, over the long term,
also our performance.
41
113280
3080
02:10
So what does the learning zone look like?
42
118040
1960
02:12
Take Demosthenes, a political leader
43
120760
2016
02:14
and the greatest orator
and lawyer in ancient Greece.
44
122800
2840
02:18
To become great,
he didn't spend all his time
45
126240
3655
02:21
just being an orator or a lawyer,
46
129919
2417
02:24
which would be his performance zone.
47
132360
2176
02:26
But instead, he did activities
designed for improvement.
48
134560
2620
02:29
Of course, he studied a lot.
49
137600
1376
02:31
He studied law and philosophy
with guidance from mentors,
50
139000
2816
02:33
but he also realized that being a lawyer
involved persuading other people,
51
141840
4536
02:38
so he also studied great speeches
52
146400
2376
02:40
and acting.
53
148800
1200
02:42
To get rid of an odd habit he had
of involuntarily lifting his shoulder,
54
150640
4296
02:46
he practiced his speeches
in front of a mirror,
55
154960
2416
02:49
and he suspended a sword from the ceiling
56
157400
2976
02:52
so that if he raised his shoulder,
57
160400
1736
02:54
it would hurt.
58
162160
1216
02:55
(Laughter)
59
163400
1616
02:57
To speak more clearly despite a lisp,
60
165040
2136
02:59
he went through his speeches
with stones in his mouth.
61
167200
2840
03:02
He built an underground room
62
170840
1376
03:04
where he could practice
without interruptions
63
172240
2136
03:06
and not disturb other people.
64
174400
1416
03:07
And since courts at the time
were very noisy,
65
175840
2136
03:10
he also practiced by the ocean,
66
178000
1856
03:11
projecting his voice
above the roar of the waves.
67
179880
2560
03:15
His activities in the learning zone
68
183400
1696
03:17
were very different
from his activities in court,
69
185120
2496
03:19
his performance zone.
70
187640
1280
03:21
In the learning zone,
71
189760
1216
03:23
he did what Dr. Anders Ericsson
calls deliberate practice.
72
191000
2776
03:25
This involves breaking down
abilities into component skills,
73
193800
3536
03:29
being clear about what subskill
we're working to improve,
74
197360
2896
03:32
like keeping our shoulders down,
75
200280
1976
03:34
giving full concentration
to a high level of challenge
76
202280
2856
03:37
outside our comfort zone,
77
205160
1416
03:38
just beyond what we can currently do,
78
206600
2336
03:40
using frequent feedback
with repetition and adjustments,
79
208960
3216
03:44
and ideally engaging the guidance
of a skilled coach,
80
212200
2976
03:47
because activities
designed for improvement
81
215200
2056
03:49
are domain-specific,
82
217280
1256
03:50
and great teachers and coaches
know what those activities are
83
218560
2896
03:53
and can also give us expert feedback.
84
221480
1880
03:55
It is this type of practice
in the learning zone
85
223960
2696
03:58
which leads to substantial improvement,
86
226680
1896
04:00
not just time on task performing.
87
228600
2360
04:03
For example, research shows
that after the first couple of years
88
231960
3176
04:07
working in a profession,
89
235160
1256
04:08
performance usually plateaus.
90
236440
2336
04:10
This has been shown to be true
in teaching, general medicine,
91
238800
3056
04:13
nursing and other fields,
92
241880
1696
04:15
and it happens because once we think
we have become good enough,
93
243600
3736
04:19
adequate,
94
247360
1216
04:20
then we stop spending time
in the learning zone.
95
248600
2256
04:22
We focus all our time
on just doing our job,
96
250880
2176
04:25
performing,
97
253080
1216
04:26
which turns out not to be
a great way to improve.
98
254320
2320
04:29
But the people who continue
to spend time in the learning zone
99
257160
2936
04:32
do continue to always improve.
100
260120
2136
04:34
The best salespeople at least once a week
101
262280
2416
04:36
do activities with
the goal of improvement.
102
264720
2616
04:39
They read to extend their knowledge,
103
267360
1776
04:41
consult with colleagues or domain experts,
104
269160
2416
04:43
try out new strategies,
solicit feedback and reflect.
105
271600
3000
04:47
The best chess players
106
275360
1616
04:49
spend a lot of time
not playing games of chess,
107
277000
3536
04:52
which would be their performance zone,
108
280560
1936
04:54
but trying to predict the moves
grand masters made and analyzing them.
109
282520
3480
04:58
Each of us has probably spent
many, many, many hours
110
286920
4096
05:03
typing on a computer
111
291040
1536
05:04
without getting faster,
112
292600
1576
05:06
but if we spent 10 to 20 minutes each day
113
294200
3416
05:09
fully concentrating
on typing 10 to 20 percent faster
114
297640
3176
05:12
than our current reliable speed,
115
300840
1576
05:14
we would get faster,
116
302440
1256
05:15
especially if we also identified
what mistakes we're making
117
303720
3016
05:18
and practiced typing those words.
118
306760
1960
05:21
That's deliberate practice.
119
309400
1400
05:24
In what other parts of our lives,
120
312280
1736
05:26
perhaps that we care more about,
121
314040
1696
05:27
are we working hard but not improving much
122
315760
2536
05:30
because we're always
in the performance zone?
123
318320
2320
05:34
Now, this is not to say
that the performance zone has no value.
124
322560
2976
05:37
It very much does.
125
325560
1216
05:38
When I needed a knee surgery,
I didn't tell the surgeon,
126
326800
2656
05:41
"Poke around in there
and focus on what you don't know."
127
329480
2656
05:44
(Laughter)
128
332160
1016
05:45
"We'll learn from your mistakes!"
129
333200
1600
05:47
I looked for a surgeon
who I felt would do a good job,
130
335680
3256
05:50
and I wanted her to do a good job.
131
338960
1640
05:53
Being in the performance zone
132
341160
1416
05:54
allows us to get things done
as best as we can.
133
342600
2640
05:57
It can also be motivating,
134
345800
1376
05:59
and it provides us with information
to identify what to focus on next
135
347200
3576
06:02
when we go back to the learning zone.
136
350800
2296
06:05
So the way to high performance
137
353120
1696
06:06
is to alternate between the learning zone
and the performance zone,
138
354840
3696
06:10
purposefully building our skills
in the learning zone,
139
358560
2536
06:13
then applying those skills
in the performance zone.
140
361120
2400
06:16
When Beyoncé is on tour,
141
364560
2016
06:18
during the concert,
she's in her performance zone,
142
366600
3176
06:21
but every night when she
gets back to the hotel room,
143
369800
2496
06:24
she goes right back
into her learning zone.
144
372320
2216
06:26
She watches a video
of the show that just ended.
145
374560
2776
06:29
She identifies opportunities
for improvement,
146
377360
2136
06:31
for herself, her dancers
and her camera staff.
147
379520
2616
06:34
And the next morning,
148
382160
1256
06:35
everyone receives pages of notes
with what to adjust,
149
383440
3056
06:38
which they then work on during the day
before the next performance.
150
386520
3976
06:42
It's a spiral
151
390520
1216
06:43
to ever-increasing capabilities,
152
391760
1576
06:45
but we need to know when we seek to learn,
and when we seek to perform,
153
393360
3616
06:49
and while we want
to spend time doing both,
154
397000
2056
06:51
the more time we spend
in the learning zone,
155
399080
2096
06:53
the more we'll improve.
156
401200
1240
06:55
So how can we spend
more time in the learning zone?
157
403360
2400
06:59
First, we must believe and understand
158
407040
3176
07:02
that we can improve,
159
410240
1336
07:03
what we call a growth mindset.
160
411600
1520
07:05
Second, we must want
to improve at that particular skill.
161
413840
3256
07:09
There has to be a purpose we care about,
162
417120
1936
07:11
because it takes time and effort.
163
419080
1600
07:13
Third, we must have an idea
about how to improve,
164
421360
3016
07:16
what we can do to improve,
165
424400
1696
07:18
not how I used to practice
the guitar as a teenager,
166
426120
2576
07:20
performing songs over and over again,
167
428720
2096
07:22
but doing deliberate practice.
168
430840
1480
07:24
And fourth, we must be
in a low-stakes situation,
169
432960
3600
07:29
because if mistakes are to be expected,
170
437160
2216
07:31
then the consequence of making them
must not be catastrophic,
171
439400
3016
07:34
or even very significant.
172
442440
1240
07:36
A tightrope walker doesn't practice
new tricks without a net underneath,
173
444240
3696
07:39
and an athlete wouldn't set out
to first try a new move
174
447960
2616
07:42
during a championship match.
175
450600
1334
07:45
One reason that in our lives
176
453120
1656
07:46
we spend so much time
in the performance zone
177
454800
2456
07:49
is that our environments
often are, unnecessarily, high stakes.
178
457280
4080
07:54
We create social risks for one another,
179
462200
2216
07:56
even in schools which are supposed
to be all about learning,
180
464440
2856
07:59
and I'm not talking
about standardized tests.
181
467320
2136
08:01
I mean that every minute of every day,
182
469480
2216
08:03
many students in elementary
schools through colleges
183
471720
2696
08:06
feel that if they make a mistake,
others will think less of them.
184
474440
3416
08:09
No wonder they're always stressed out
185
477880
1936
08:11
and not taking the risks
necessary for learning.
186
479840
2240
08:14
But they learn
that mistakes are undesirable
187
482760
2256
08:17
inadvertently
188
485040
1256
08:18
when teachers or parents
are eager to hear just correct answers
189
486320
3496
08:21
and reject mistakes
rather than welcome and examine them
190
489840
2656
08:24
to learn from them,
191
492520
1256
08:25
or when we look for narrow responses
192
493800
1736
08:27
rather than encourage
more exploratory thinking
193
495560
2216
08:29
that we can all learn from.
194
497800
1336
08:31
When all homework or student work
has a number or a letter on it,
195
499160
3096
08:34
and counts towards a final grade,
196
502280
1736
08:36
rather than being used for practice,
mistakes, feedback and revision,
197
504040
3576
08:39
we send the message
that school is a performance zone.
198
507640
3200
08:44
The same is true in our workplaces.
199
512240
2056
08:46
In the companies I consult with,
I often see flawless execution cultures
200
514320
4016
08:50
which leaders foster
to encourage great work.
201
518360
2576
08:52
But that leads employees
to stay within what they know
202
520960
2536
08:55
and not try new things,
203
523520
1256
08:56
so companies struggle
to innovate and improve,
204
524800
2336
08:59
and they fall behind.
205
527160
1200
09:01
We can create more spaces for growth
206
529960
2296
09:04
by starting conversations with one another
207
532280
2056
09:06
about when we want to be in each zone.
208
534360
2280
09:09
What do we want to get better at and how?
209
537240
2696
09:11
And when do we want
to execute and minimize mistakes?
210
539960
3000
09:15
That way, we gain clarity
about what success is,
211
543680
3016
09:18
when, and how to best support one another.
212
546720
2080
09:22
But what if we find ourselves
in a chronic high-stakes setting
213
550000
3096
09:25
and we feel we can't
start those conversations yet?
214
553120
2720
09:28
Then here are three things
that we can still do as individuals.
215
556720
3096
09:31
First, we can create low-stakes islands
in an otherwise high-stakes sea.
216
559840
4280
09:36
These are spaces where mistakes
have little consequence.
217
564640
2736
09:39
For example, we might find
a mentor or a trusted colleague
218
567400
3456
09:42
with whom we can exchange ideas
or have vulnerable conversations
219
570880
3176
09:46
or even role-play.
220
574080
1376
09:47
Or we can ask for feedback-oriented
meetings as projects progress.
221
575480
3616
09:51
Or we can set aside time to read
or watch videos or take online courses.
222
579120
4136
09:55
Those are just some examples.
223
583280
1400
09:57
Second, we can execute
and perform as we're expected,
224
585360
4176
10:01
but then reflect on what
we could do better next time,
225
589560
2576
10:04
like Beyoncé does,
226
592160
1256
10:05
and we can observe and emulate experts.
227
593440
2136
10:07
The observation, reflection
and adjustment is a learning zone.
228
595600
3520
10:11
And finally, we can lead
229
599880
2200
10:14
and lower the stakes for others
by sharing what we want to get better at,
230
602760
3576
10:18
by asking questions
about what we don't know,
231
606360
2496
10:20
by soliciting feedback
and by sharing our mistakes
232
608880
2496
10:23
and what we've learned from them,
233
611400
1616
10:25
so that others
can feel safe to do the same.
234
613040
2080
10:27
Real confidence is about
modeling ongoing learning.
235
615760
3520
10:32
What if, instead of spending
our lives doing, doing, doing,
236
620880
4456
10:37
performing, performing, performing,
237
625360
2096
10:39
we spent more time exploring,
238
627480
2280
10:42
asking,
239
630640
1416
10:44
listening,
240
632080
1296
10:45
experimenting, reflecting,
241
633400
3096
10:48
striving and becoming?
242
636520
2480
10:52
What if we each always had something
243
640320
2816
10:55
we were working to improve?
244
643160
1520
10:57
What if we created more low-stakes islands
245
645760
2416
11:00
and waters?
246
648200
1200
11:01
And what if we got clear,
247
649840
2456
11:04
within ourselves and with our teammates,
248
652320
2376
11:06
about when we seek to learn
and when we seek to perform,
249
654720
3536
11:10
so that our efforts
can become more consequential,
250
658280
3056
11:13
our improvement never-ending
251
661360
2656
11:16
and our best even better?
252
664040
2280
11:19
Thank you.
253
667000
1200

▲Back to top

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Eduardo Briceño - Learning expert
Eduardo Briceño is a learner, leader, speaker and writer devoted to enabling a more learning-oriented world.

Why you should listen

Eduardo Briceño leads Mindset Works, the leading provider of growth mindset training services and programs for schools and businesses.  It helps organizations cultivate learning-oriented cultures and systems. He started it in 2007 with the foremost growth mindset researcher, Carol Dweck Ph.D., and education expert Lisa Blackwell Ph.D. Prior to his current role, he was a Principal at the Sprout Group, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

Briceño regularly speaks at national and international conferences and in-house trainings for educators, professionals, and leaders. His TEDx talk, "The power of belief," is widely used to introduce teachers, students and professionals to the growth mindset, and his TED Talk, "How to get better at the things you care about," differentiates performance vs. improvement behaviors. He has been quoted and featured in prominent media, such as Education Week, NPR, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, KQED MindShift, Entrepreneur and Inc.

Briceño grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, before moving to the US when he was in high school. He now lives with his wife in San Jose, California. He holds Bachelor's degrees in economics and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford University. Most important, he continues to enjoy lifelong learning every day.

More profile about the speaker
Eduardo Briceño | Speaker | TED.com