Too many of us fall in this rut: waiting on others to push us forward to full potential. The truth is, if you want to be the best, you have to go out of your way to pull yourself out of directionless space. Fight inertia!
Here’s my recipe for making it through 2010 in a glorious way.
1. Don’t think too hard about New Year’s resolutions.
They’re just for fun. If you’re serious, you write down goals — both learning and performance goals — look at them at regularly, prioritize them and evaluate where you are.
2. Don’t set the bar based on those around you.
You are probably setting the bar too low for your capabilities. You are not them. Whether people around you are overachievers or lazy bums, you should take inspiration from them, but do what’s right for you. Push yourself.
Examples: Middle schoolers should be learning computer science, not waiting for the chance they might study it in college. They should be creating artful masterpieces, not being ingrained with the thought that such is for naturally gifted artists whose talent is already apparent. In middle school, I read about Machiavelli and John Locke and other philosophers that most people don’t touch until college or grad school. Don’t let lack of access to something tell you that you shouldn’t have it or know it. Go get it.
3. Be pregnant with a dream.
We give birth to dreams. And birth means labor and sweat. When your product comes out and your dream is fulfilled, it feels good. It’s a burden lifted and you’re that much stronger for the future. Once on a project, I had to produce a style of writing that was not what I was used to at the time. I spent hours and hours deliberating, writing, crossing out, wracking my brain. Longer than I wanted, but that was how long it takes, and that’s life. It’s a good thing to persevere and not get frustrated.
4. Kick stubbornness to the curb.
The biggest barrier for you and me can be our comfort zone. Our stubborn refusal to be open and experience something new. Think about what stands in the way of what you want. Write down those barriers and attack them one by one. For example, I have a fear of being candid because inappropriate comments often spew their way out of my mouth. I’m working on being more open rather than clamming up completely. This takes studious effort.
5. Don’t feel entitled to genius coming naturally.
When tackling a new project, you may find it’s harder than you think and wonder if you’re not cut out to complete it. Maybe you just don’t have the innate ability, you think to yourself. You may think it comes naturally for people around you, but you only see the surface. Sustained practice is necessary to master anything. More about this in the next post.
In high school, I aimed to study the least to get the best grade. But in my pre-calculus class, the math did not come easily to me. My mind didn’t grasp it immediately. And why should it? This was a new subject. I had to carefully do the homework problems, as expected. But I also had to go back and redo the practice problems we had done in class. I had to reinforce the subject and do as many problems as I could to understand each day’s lesson. That’s what my brain needed. I wasn’t stupid. I wasn’t slow. I just had to study more than others.
In the end, what matters is mastery, no matter how long it takes to get you there. You have to believe in your ability to grasp something with sustained practice.