It lives somewhere where (self) motivation and frustration meet. Obstacles are what it’s about, they are how we learn. The oldie but goodie says to always get back up as many times as you fall, you may change your approach and method as you please, but get up. Look at kids learning things, they might get it wrong hundreds of times before first words or steps, but they overcome. If you ever take a real big bite of something you don’t (yet) understand or know how to grapple with, some frustration is imminent and you just accept it as a fact, as paying the boatman to get on the other side, as a price of getting better, as a toll of growth and self-development… Deep learning, (meaning understanding, being able to manipulate this knowledge and implement it in new creative contexts, using the work and insight of others before you to create what is not yet there and to build upon it, creating  pool of transferable skills…) is very different than parrot like regurgitations of definitions that only exist in a vacuum.

Understanding how things around us work is difficult, challenging and time consuming. In addition, just when you think you’ve figured it out there is something new and a horizon of the unknown opens up again. Then why do it at all? Why know? Sometimes you don’t need to know a thing deeply and “good enough” will provide operational knowledge is sufficient enough so it works in reality. In this case it’s ok to have the nuts and bolts all black boxy and deal only with the end product useful parts of a phenomenon. But sometimes you need to go deeper – be it by your own personal inclination and interest that pushes you to explore the subject further or because reality has shown you that what you know now is somehow lacking and insufficient.

Lifelong learners, this is what we are and strive to be, even through the muddy waters of not understanding, through not knowing where to start or how to continue sometimes, or even what to look for, through trials, being unable to figure it out before a stupid mistake, through all of the aha  and head scratching moments alike. Struggle and overcoming is the story of civilisation, being willing to admit that you’re wrong and that there is more to know to find a better way of doing things. Not all we try will work, but if we don’t try nothing works. So it is worth it? There is no more noble purpose than to try and make things better, make yourself helpful and useful and, in an ideal circumstance, set your life so that it simultaneously provides some stability and challenges that demand growth.

So if you’re a lifelong learner to the bones, always searching and looking and are often bumping your head at walls, doubting the validity of the process as the bump still pulses on your forehead, these few facts might help you as well.

  1. FAILURE DOESN’T MEAN YOU FAILED. It means you’ve found what doesn’t work and you can now eliminate it as an option, making you smarter than you were yesterday. It allows an opening for new lateral thinking inspires creativity and makes you more inclined to go explore alternatives. It pushes you into the blessed state of problem solving, an intelligent use of your time and capacities. Failures are the most valuable lessons if you don’t’ ignore them or wallow in self-pity.
  2. MORE THAN ONE WAY. Life has very few guarantees in its bag of tricks. One of them is that things will from time to time go wrong – even if you do nothing wrong. It’s pretty much a given, unavoidable fact, not a variable. You are the variable, and the only one you can control at that. A reaction to the problem and how you choose to deal with it is more important than the occurrence of one. The only way to get really good at something is to practice it, so how are you supposed to get good at problem solving with no problems around? Be grateful that you have something meaningful to contend with and figure out. Meaning is hidden in overcoming and learning to overcome. There is most certainly more than one way to approach everything and there is more than one way to get to the solution. If you think you’ve tried everything and it still doesn’t work, the chances are far greater that you’re overlooking something or are too locked into a same loop or pattern of thought than that there really is no solution or that a thing is impossible to figure out. Step back, try again, try a different angle.

(to be continued tomorrow)