A great post by one of my favorite writers on the internet, Ta-Nehisi Coates, on learning. In his case, he is learning French, but the lessons translate to all of human endeavors, including smashing the bloody pulp out of a standardized test. The best bit (for this blog, at least):
One of the things I’ve noticed in my studies of French is how much it resembles my studies of athletics. Predictably, I struggle in both athletics and foreign language. But one of the great lessons of my childhood was that no one has the right to be naturally good at anything. More there’s a particular pleasure that comes from becoming good at something which you kind of naturally sucked at. I played the djembe as a kid. I had a pretty good ear for rhythm, but no physical coordination. I could hear what I wanted to play, but my imagination exceeded my abilities. For the first year I did it, I sucked.But after a year of practice in my parents garage I came to suck a lot less, and by the time I gave up the instrument I had risen to the ranks of the “Merely OK.” But I didn’t feel “Merely OK.” I felt like a king, because I knew from whence I came. I knew that great distance (and it is great) between “Utter Suckage” and “Merely OK.” So while I believe in natural talent, I’ve never seen much point in talking about it. Generally if I decide I want to acquire a skill, I don’t see much point in talking about “aptitude.” I have chosen the road. Now it’s time to walk.
For those of you who don’t know Coates’ writings, he is a college dropout — and not of the “I’m too busy making money at my internet start-up” variety. He is also a guest professor at MIT and a published author. Success comes in all forms, and is there for the taking (or, better put, the exploring) to any and all who seek it out.
And while I am on the topic of success, you should take the time to watch J.K. Rowlings’ Harvard commencement speech on the fringe benefits of failure: