You’re Not a Slow Learner

Emily Grass
3 min readAug 11, 2022


You were just taught in a shame ridden environment.

Let me know if this sounds familiar…

You were a playful, energetic, slightly rambunctious child, as children are.

You brought your homework to a trusted adult, and you were yelled at for not getting it right away.

When you raised your hand to ask questions, snickers abound.

Our late-stage capitlism society has structured learning into what is best for becoming corporate employees.

Teaching to standardized tests, optimizing only reciting the correct answers, taking out arts, to prepare children for their roles in society, no cuteness or cleverness allowed, only high scores.

You were trained since you had training wheels on your bike, that it was a personal failing to mess up, to need further explanation, to be smart in anyway that didn’t lend itself to rote memorization, following directions without questioning & producing over everything else.

We teach children that it is urgent to memorize, to fall in line, to take some time, which instills a sense of urgency, fear of trying new things, and ‘failing’ into them.


The thing that always struck me as strange when I was studying Organizational Theory, is that it didn’t fit that well with human development.

Fear and acute stress make it wayyy harder to learn. 🙃

Ever have your mind go totally blank when asked a question by an angry cop?


When your central nervous system gets over activated, the part of your brain, your neocortex, literally shuts down.

The part responsible for listening, critical thinking, problem solving.

To compound the issue, the capillaries in your ears shrink, you literally can’t hear that well.

Your breathing shallows, your digestion stops, at the worst end, your body prepares for death.

So if you don’t get the concept right away, you develop an aversion to learning, have to study more, and take more tests, see your friends less, and you might even get teased. Thus, creating more acute stress, shame, and fear. And a bigger aversion to learning.


What a system, amirite?

I have an aunt that’s Head of School for a private one in Ojai.

They teach the children through play.

The kid interested in rockets? They play with all of the concepts to make the rocket take off, chemistry, math, architecture.

Play was the original way that humans learned, so it comes as no surprise that the kids do exceptionally well.

They aren’t taught to fear learning.

They aren’t being sent into fight or flight all the time.

They do better, get into better schools, have more fulfilling careers, take on more challenging roles and risks.

Play is a worthwhile pursuit.

Play does the opposite of fear.

It opens us up to creative ideas, connection, learning, we remember better and create more resilience through play.

Play lights that neocortex, and more specifically, that prefrontal cortex UPPP, meaning that the brain is more efficient at making plans, solving problems, and regulating and identifying emotions, all things required for successful social interactions, and learning.


Play is the antidote to regrettable, emotional responses, feeling triggered, feeling isolated, feeling left out.

Learning doesn’t HAVE TO be painful.

Trying doesn’t HAVE TO be embarrassing.

Falling over & ‘failing’ don’t have to turn into suffering.

Play is a worthwhile pursuit. 🤸‍♀️

Play isn’t determined by the task, it’s determined by our approach to the task.

One of openness, curiosity, and experiment.

It’s unlearning all the crap about how you have to perform by a certain amount of time, that it was worth it only for a certain outcome, that the fastest way is always the best, forget how it felt while you got there, “you’ll sleep when you’re dead.”


My question is…why are we perpetuating this idea of learning as painful, a struggle, embarrassing, in the coaching industry?



Emily Grass

Emily Grass helps service based entrepreneurs understand their audience & book themselves out. Head over to my website for help.