Is Growth Your Default

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Editorial note: Now that we are just 32 days and 11 hours away from the launch of Smart Growth, and we have a lot of new newsletter subscribers, I wanted to go back to the basics. What is the S Curve of Learning™, and why will it ‘change your life.’ Hyperbole––yes, but hear me out.

We all want to grow.

If you are subscribed to this newsletter, you are motivated to make progress.

There’s a yearning. Deep-bellied.

But maybe you don’t know where to start or believe you can’t start. Perhaps you’re curious and motivated but also too overextended with existing obligations to believe you can succeed at something new. Or maybe you have started––you are already growing––but want to grow faster still.

No matter where you currently are, what I know––for sure––is that you are hard-wired to grow. 

Growth is our default setting.

Not only do we want to grow, but we are also more aware than ever that we need to grow. An Egon Zehnder study reports that 80% of CEOs agreed they needed to transform themselves and their organizations—up from 26% before the pandemic. 

But how?

As my wonderful mentor, the inimitable Marshall Goldsmith, says, “What got us here won’t get us there.” 

So, we need a plan.

And lest we walk in circles (yes, that’s a real thing), we need a map. 

That’s where the S Curve of Learning™ comes in. It is a simple visual model that maps what growth looks like and how we experience it. 

At the Disruptive Innovation Fund, we used the S Curve to determine how quickly an innovation would be adopted. I then had the insight that the S Curve could help us understand the science of how we grow.

Growth is slow and full of effort at the outset, known as the launch point. It’s not that growth isn’t happening, but it’s not yet apparent, so it feels Slow. Encouragement is needed.

That phase is followed by rapid upward progress where growth is and feels Fast: a stretch I think of as the sweet spot. Focus is required.

At the peak is mastery––when work becomes easier, but the curve flattens because there is little left to learn. Growth is Slow, and a new challenge is essential.  

Every new skill learned, every challenge faced, takes the form of a distinct learning curve. We can pinpoint where we are in the growth process and decide our next step.

Slow, fast, slow is how we grow.

I’ve seen it in my own work and life. I know it will make a difference in yours, whether you are growing yourself or want to help others grow.

When you hear someone say, “I’m at the launch point,” you’ll know they are struggling to gain traction. When someone says, “I’m in the sweet spot,” you’ll know they have momentum and are feeling competent. And when someone says, “I’m in mastery,” the message is clear: I know I’m good at this, but I need a new challenge.” When you have a vocabulary and framework to talk about growth, you can be smart about growth and grow faster.

Where are you on the S Curve?

Any a-has, about your life or career, as you read this?

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,

P.S. I’m excited to announce I’ll be joining Michael Bungay Stainer, Pamay Bassey, and Apolo Ohno for the Begin Grow Pivot Learn conference on January 20, 2022! Entry is simple; pre-order one of our books and get a free ticket! And, if you pre-order before Saturday, 12/11 at 9am ET, you’ll get not just one but two tickets. Go to for all the details!

P.P.S. If you have already pre-ordered your book and would like a ticket, hit ‘reply’ and let us know so we can make sure you can attend.

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