Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cabeza de Raton o Cola de Leon?

Ale spent part of his summer at the Walden School of Music. He discovered that most of the other participants were much more advanced musically than him. It was a surprise because in his own school he felt like one of the most advanced students musically. He told us this realization was both good and bad: good because you can improve a lot by surrounding yourself with people better than yourself, but bad because it can be discouraging to realize you are not that good (at least not yet). Paco mentioned he had a similar experience when he changed soccer teams a year ago.

I suggested that a few factors can tilt these type of situations towards good or bad. If you realize your are not as good as others but you could, say by devoting more time and effort, then it can be quite motivating. But if you realize you just don't have the talent, and wont catch up no matter how hard you try, then it can be demoralizing. Another dimension to consider is the extent to which you enjoy the activity, despite your lack of mastery, and the extent to which you can improve, even if you remain at the "back of the pack".

I shared with the boys a personal example: when I was in high school I thought I was a math genius. I wanted to be a mathematician and was fortunate to get into MIT. But once at MIT I realized I was very far from a math genius. Plenty of my fellow students were an order of magnitude better than me at math. And it wasn't a matter of effort. They understood math intuitively in a way I couldn't. Fortunately, I soon found another discipline in which it was the other way around: I took a class at the business school and discovered that I had an intuitive ease and understanding of the subject that most other students lacked. On top of that, I really enjoyed it.

If you enjoy something, though, it doesn't matter how good (or bad) you are. Take kiteracing. I am pretty bad. But I enjoy it. Furthermore, when I kite near the really fast sailors, I go faster myself (until I fall so far behind I can't see them). It probably does help if you are making progress. I will probably stop kiteracing if I ever feel I am no longer making progress in it.

Mouse's head or Lion's tail.

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