New neural connections fire up braincells and the broader and wider the neural circuit, the more learning takes place. This applies to all learning, from cooking, to playing video games, to doing math or sports. Once a first neural connection has been made, the circuit it has ignited will be reinforced by repeating the action, leading the brain to build a fatty layer around this brain-circuit so that the signal can move quickly through it, not unlike a good electrician would protect their electric wiring with casing. These established circuits eventually become skills, created by repetition. Is anyone ever good or excellent at something the first time? Would you know how to play the piano, solve a math problem, speak a foreign language, or learn how to skateboard the first time around? No one does. But by doing it, practising and repeating it, the brain builds more momentum and ‘flow’ along with establishing new circuits.
When teens understand how their brains get wired up and learn, they will be able to understand too that when they do something for the first time, they will not immediately be good at it (rare exceptions excluded) because they lack the brain circuit to support that skill. If you want to be good at something you must be prepared to spend the time; you have to actually ‘learn’ that skill. And the teenage brain has vast resources for learning anything new, its capability only slowing down around age 25.
Positive learning supposes that you do not believe that you are either ‘good’ or ‘not good’ at something without trying properly. Adults telling you the opposite are doing you a total disservice, says Carol Dweck in her (now very famous) book ‘Mindset’. The teen brain is in a state of heightened neuroplasticity. It wants to grow. It is not a given, pre-set, quantity.