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Learning Through Challenges

One thing I've always thought is that talent or raw ability is either there or it isn't, innate or simply missing. I think this viewpoint can be limiting and that one needs to realize that ability can be learned or grown. A child's first years are ones of intense learning and growth and largely because of the constant struggles and failures that they are willing to struggle through. To have similar growth later in life one must be willing to have failure as one tries to learn and get better at things that aren't innate to ones existing abilities.

Michelle Vandy is a designer that lost much of the user of her hands. Her ability to do artistic work with her nose instead gave me a little more insight into this ability to learn and grow through failure when she wrote:

"You cannot be afraid to be “bad”. You just have to realize your work isn’t finished yet and you need more practice. It takes courage to be imperfect."

What if all talent we had was had from birth? Wouldn't that feel so limiting? Isn't the idea similar to thinking that we can't change how we act? or the way we treat others? It just feels right knowing that we can change and that change isn't limited to our actions towards others, but also gives us the ability to change in our abilities to improve in all aspects of our lives. How refreshing and liberating. The other thing I like about what she said relates to my defensiveness when work I create is criticized. Is any of my work perfect? The truth is that it can always be improved and by so realizing I can attempt to be less offended when work I've created is critiqued in the future.

I recently read an article written by Salman Khan of Khan Academy fame, entitled "The Learning Myth: Why I'll Never Tell My Son He's Smart". The article wonderfully explains how the only way we grow is by trying and failing. We need to try to learn and move out of our comfort-zone where everything is easy for us and we always succeed. As Khan says,

"capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure".

This is how I need to approach things in the future. In fact, to get the most growth I should try an area to learn where I am pretty incompetent. This will lead to more failure but the growth rate will be more significant as well. It seems to be reasonable that each incremental level of growth will take more time in areas where greater expertise has already been reached. It will help me to progress and it will also help me to avoid judging others work with an overly-critical eye.

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