Learning Agility and Embracing the Suck

Learning Agility and Embracing the Suck


“Embracing the suck” is part of the path to mastering anything new says social scientist, Brene Brown.

These days, my “new” is learning to write the stories of the amazing, courageous women I’ve interviewed for my book…I’m learning to be a storyteller, essentially. And it’s hard!

It’s hard because

  • I feel responsible for someone’s story. I want to write it in such a way that I honor and convey the core essence of their narrative. I want my reader to really see the women and their experience.
  • I’m so accustomed to business writing, which is all about keeping the message short, direct, and to the point. Storytelling requires me to develop a style of expounding, elaborating, and being more colorful and emotive in my writing.
  • I’m working to find the balance of staying focused and on point, yet sharing enough that my reader is drawn in, as if riding a wave beside my “character,” following the rise and fall of the story’s build, the peak, and the close.

The work is stretching and challenging me in new ways. The difficulty persists, but so do I. I show up even when I don’t feel creative. I make myself write – “just get words on the paper,” I tell myself, “and the flow will come.” I feel myself growing, not only in my ability to write the stories, but also in how I tell stories to others. I’m learning about the art and delivery.

This path, and sometimes anguish, of learning something new is what I refer to as The Learning Curve. I have the (ahem) joy of being in it right now!

The Learning Curve

Whenever we come up on a learning opportunity, we have a choice of two ways to go:

  1. We can decide to go for it, or
  2. We can choose to stay right where we are…“the comfort zone”

If we choose to go for it, we’re sure to have some new muscle building with a likely series of trying the new thing and failing. It’s like learning to ride a bike as a kid and taking the training wheels off for the first time. We’re gonna fall – probably over and over and over again. Attempting and failing is hard, it’s embarrassing, it…sucks. It makes us want to quit!

If we decide instead to stay the course of where we are, it’s easy. We’re comfortable. It feels good. In other words, we can “do it in our sleep.” But we also miss out on learning new things, opening up possibility, and even discovering something we might love or be really good at, that we had no idea of before.

Anytime I come up on something new – it could be a job opportunity, realizing I need to develop a skill, or fixing something in my house ­– I think about The Learning Curve and weigh my options: Do I really want to do this? Is it worth it? What’s the worst-case scenario?

Sometimes I decide not to take on the challenge, and I pass on the potential promotion, delegate the task, or call that plumber. That can feel really good – and necessary. But sometimes I decide to step up, stretch myself, and I go for it, I take the leap, I DIY it. And there’s a thrill in that too. Even though it brings pain with it, which it is certain to do!

What new thing are you learning these days? How’s it going?


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 




Authenticity: Knowing Yourself and Letting Yourself be Seen

Authenticity: Knowing Yourself and Letting Yourself be Seen

authenticAuthenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s something we practice – a conscious choice each day of how we want to live, show up, and be real in who we are. It’s about letting our true selves be seen. And for me, it can feel resonant, exhilarating, and terrifying all at once.

When I think about authenticity, I think about how we are drawn to deeply real people. In my work as a leadership development educator and facilitator, I often see this in the classroom. Just the other day, my co-facilitator was delivering a part of our program on organization change. He shared a personal story about leading a major change initiative for an international Fortune 100 company. As the group listened, I imagined that some fully expected an account of how well it went – of how he did all the right things, executed critical steps in perfect text-book form, and everyone came along with the change.

While some things did go well, much of what he shared was about the missteps…of what went wrong, what he wish he’d done differently, and what he learned from the complex navigation of change across a large global company with competing divisions, goals, and priorities.

What I witnessed in our participants was a building in the level of engagement, belief, and trust. This guy could have told his story so differently. He could have pointed out the positives and insulated himself and his leadership by jumping over the tough spots and failures. To do so would have created a divide with the participants and resulted in a missed opportunity to connect and exhibit vulnerability.

Before writing this post, I reviewed in my mind the characteristics I’ve observed in the most authentic people I’ve met. Most of the qualities come directly from being rather than doing. Here’s my list:

  • Knowing yourself and being comfortable in your own skin
  • Being vulnerable – Letting go of what people think and embracing who you are
  • Having courage – Being willing to move out of your comfort zone, take risks, and play it unsafe
  • A willingness to admit to and learn from failure
  • Being honest – Choosing being real over being liked
  • Compassion
  • Gratitude
  • Expressing your own creativity

What characteristics make your authenticity list? How do you recognize if you are accessing your own authenticity?

“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody-but-yourself means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – and never stop fighting.” E. E. Cummings


photo credit: Ara Pehlivanian via