Leadership Nudge® 386 – The Learning Vector

May 18, 2022by Sandy Wilmer

Activating the learning vector will destress performance anxiety. Here’s David with insight about how this worked during a big inspection on the Santa Fe.


Before major inspections, I would get super nervous. I felt like there was a lot riding on it. And I had this view of this big performance vector. And that was how I measured – how I was going to measure – how I did, how the ship did, how my department did – whatever. And it took a toll on me. It was very stressful. It wasn’t good for my health. I felt nervous. I wouldn’t sleep well the night before. And I learned how to deal with that.  

The answer is not have just one vector where you measure achievement or performance, but to have additional vector, orthogonal to it, where you think about “what am I going to learn?” 

So now I have in these two dimensions. I have, “here’s what we’re going to achieve” (hopefully) and “here’s what we’re going to learn” (for sure). Now, the thing that’s good about this is the learning is something much more in your control, oftentimes, in the outcome. 

And I remember when we had this big inspection coming up, on the Santa Fe, it was about a year into our transformation. And there was a lot riding on this – me personally, my reputation and the reputation of the ship, especially because we were kind of running this experiment. And it was going to be a grade on the experiment. No one cares how good your culture is if the results aren’t good. And I was standing in the control room the night before, we were approaching the coast to pick up the inspection team the next morning. And I was just- there was like this calmness and placidity I felt, which I never felt before. My breathing was regular and deep. And I didn’t have any of that anxiety. And the irony of the whole thing is that permeated throughout the crew. And they had this, almost like, this childlike enthusiasm for what are we going to learn.  

I mean, this is a big inspection multiple days, you take the submarine through its paces. And it’s tight. There’s some legitimately cool stuff that you do. And that destressed everybody, and we got an unbelievable grade. But I think it was linked to the fact that we weren’t worrying so much about the grade.  

So I hope that you can use this technique to get rid of some of the stress in your life. Especially if you get wrapped up with these ideas of “Oh, I got to perform on this meeting” or “in this”. You know, whatever it happens to be. But always augment that with “what am I going to learn?”  

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge. 

Sandy Wilmer

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Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311

Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311

Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311