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June 9th, 2020
Learning in the absence of fun, passion and proficiency always boils down to an endurance test against frustration and emotional exhaustion.
When we are proficient at a skill, it’s much easier to have fun, and with enough time, the fun of practice turns proficiency into mastery and mastery turns a skill into a passion.
But in the beginning, before proficiency and fun, we are left with a brute force approach. Trying whatever combinations and iterations we can imagine and plugging those ideas into reality and waiting for something to light up. As each attempt fails to provoke even the sputter of a spark, the silent feedback from reality grinds on our emotions. Each impotent attempt adds to a building frustration, and exhaustion. All the while, we are inching closer to an answer, to a spark when we find a spot where reality is ticklish.
Our success depends on which threshold is breached first.
Does out exhaustion spill over into a complete abandonment of the task?
Or does the number of iterative attempts needed to find some hint of success run out first?
True failure is determined only by the moment when we stop trying. It’s a bit like patience in that regard.
Staving off exhaustion and increasing endurance is a skill that can be built. Similar to exercise. The first job after years without exercise is going to be painful, but 6 months of daily running is going to make the event far easier to endure – indeed by that point, we’re far beyond frustrationg and exhaustion, proficiency is giving way to enjoyment. But that first run will most likely leave an individual huffing and puffing with their hands on their knees after just a few minutes.
We hear this all the time: just keep going, you’ll figure it out. And while it may be good advice, it focuses on the wrong thing: it’s still referencing something imaginary that we haven’t yet encountered, and it says nothing about that which we are dealing with: namely the emotional experience, the frustration, the exhaustion, the hopelessness that fruitless actions imbue us with.
Perhaps, instead of trying to keep the eye on the prize, that is, an invisible prize, perhaps the experience is an opportunity to renegotiate our own personal response to such situations. Instead of powering through the exhaustion and frustration and trying to ignore it all the while, perhaps we can examine the exhaustion and frustration itself. What if we pause and simply recognize: there are emotions here that are ballooning and gaining strength over me. Merely recognizing an emotion consciously, with thoughtfulness, is often enough to deflate our intoxication with it.
Realize how much more powerful this strategy could be. It would be like going for that first run and managing lactic acid and shortness of breath with the power of mere thought alone. If we can regulate the emotions of frustration and exhaustion, then our minds are free to tinker with a topic for as long as we can stay awake.
The solution is always out there, it’s rarely a question smarts or talent, such things are often just excuses people use when really the issue is people’s own emotions, and how these emotions get in their way. It’s how we get in our own way. We need not fight ourselves in order to move forward. Better to let that frustrated, exhausted part have it’s say, with full attention, and then move forward as one.
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