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Why talent isn't relevant. Or: why would you ever call yourself stupid?

“Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.” — From ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert

I used to believe that I had talent. For something. I wasn’t sure what my talents lied in. So I went into each of my school subjects with anticipation for being talented. I expected to find it somewhere. Like when I was 13 we did orienteering in the woods for the first time ever, and I thought that yes: this might be it. I might be super good at it.

Well. I didn’t suck. But I also didn’t win by magical means.

That’s also how I became convinced that I’m no good at mathematics, or perhaps any of the natural sciences, coz they didn’t really come to me automatically. Sometimes I even struggled with languages (aus, ausser, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu).

In Uni however, for some reason, I pursued engineering, and technical physics of all possible subjects. The first years of engineering is always just mathematics and natural sciences. I had to struggle a lot, and actually work for it. BUT in all that work I realised something. Even if algebra didn’t come naturally to me. And actually getting the vectors right in mechanics was even tougher. Nonetheless, I was able to understand it… I remember sitting in a lecture in second year where we walked over Fourier transformation:

And I was amazed at how well I understood it.

There’s my main point. Things we learn do not come god-given. Competence and understanding is a result of hard work. If the subject doesn’t please our mind as much as something else (mathematics vs literature for me) then we’ll just have to work against the stream. But if I can understand Fourier transformation and ace the test in Nuclear Physics, then anybody can learn most anything.

What with instagram, we see people at the top of their pyramid, so to speak. CrossFitters who’ve spent their childhood doing gymnastics, and then 5 to 10 years of CrossFit and they make it look so easy. Or bodybuilders who’ve spent a decade working on each muscle and honing in on their dietary needs. Of course it looks like magic.

Only, we forget that 10 years is a long time. We totally overestimate what we can do in 3 months. And as a result underestimate what 10 years can do. In any field. Not just fitness.

I love watching “Chef’s Table” on Netflix, because it tells the story of some of the absolutely best chefs in the world, and NEVER do they say that they started out good. They had passion for food. They worked hard for it 10 years or more.

Or like the toilet paper analogy: when you go to the toilet you don’t notice any difference form one time to the next in how empty the paper roll becomes. But over the course of the week(s) you empty it. That’s how workouts are. You won’t notice the results from one workout to the next. But over the course of the weeks, months and years, the magic you’re looking for will come.

So never ever call yourself stupid! Just because we haven’t got experience in one field doesn’t make us dumb in it.


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