Learning Personal Growth

Reframing Restarting as Leveling Up

Bookmarked How to Level Up by David Cain (

“Keep plugging away / get the hours under your belt” is generally poor advice, unless you’re already using a relatively effective approach, which is unlikely if you’re struggling. Plugging away will only make you more experienced at doing the thing in the same ineffective way.

Much better is to rebuild the skill entirely with a different approach, one that directly addresses your perennial snags. Instead of slowly getting better at your familiar, limited way, you embrace the awkwardness of learning an unfamiliar but stronger method, as though you’ve never done the thing before at all.

I think of this kind of improvement as “leveling up” – to start again, with zero experience, on a higher tier of the skill in question, as opposed to getting better at the same limited version of the skill you’ve always done.

Leveling up feels very different than plugging away. On one hand it’s more uncomfortable and awkward, because in a way, you’re starting over. On the other hand, you quickly get the sense of sitting on a more stable track with a better trajectory, already free of many of your usual annoyances and limitations.

“One of the side effects of long-undiagnosed ADHD is that you end up learning to do common tasks in very inefficient ways. That’s because you’re trying to emulate people who don’t have the same limitations, yet you don’t know it, so you make assumptions about how the activity works that nobody else would make.”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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