Whitney Johnson: Manage your life as a portfolio of S-curves 


Whether you have money in the market or not, you are an investor—and your most important portfolio is your life. 

But how do you construct that portfolio?

A helpful starting point is our S-curve of learning. It’s a simple visual model of what growth looks like. Whenever you start something new, you go through three distinct phases: the initial “launch point” where growth is slow and you may feel out of your depth, the “sweet spot” or rapid growth phase where confidence and competence rise steeply, and finally the “mastery” phase, where the learning levels off and you might begin to feel stagnant or unchallenged.  

By viewing life as a series of these S-curves, we can better appreciate the cyclical nature of growth and decline, understand the importance of continually seeking new learning opportunities, and more gracefully navigate transitions, knowing that the end of one S-curve might signal the beginning of another. 

British neuroscientist Tara Swart explained to me that in adulthood we walk a line between new learning that is demanding enough that we grow, but not so demanding that we are overloaded. “If you want to keep the day job, then [whatever additional activity] needs to be something that is attention intensive enough that challenges you cognitively, and a little bit physically, but not so draining that you can’t actually do the other things that you need to do. It’s a balancing act, what’s going to be helpful to your brain and what’s actually going to distract your brain so much that you can’t do other things that are important to you.” 

We can learn to curate the portfolio to a productive level of cognitive stress. 

Read the full advice column from Disruption Advisors CEO Whitney Johnson about how to better curate your personal growth portfolio.