Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Dec 4, 2007

"Smart" vs. "Hard-working"

When you achieve something, are you more proud when it is effortless, a result of "talent", or when you've really dug in and worked hard? This article (HT: Paul Hsieh on Geekpress) points to some interesting ideas on the subject.

Ayn Rand actually commented on this precise issue years ago (in The Romantic Manifesto, I believe) when she said that people, faced with a difficult pursuit (especially in the field of art, which is infested with worship of "talent") frequently ask "can I do it?" instead of "what is required to do it?" Searching for some mystical force that will deliver a novel or a symphony whole into your brain does not accomplish anything. There is no such force. Asking yourself what you need to do sets you up to start working on it.

I've noticed this is a common theme in literature, *especially* in fantasy. The hero is frequently some "special" person with a "fate" or "destiny" or what-have-you that means they are the only person that can save the world. As admirable as such a hero might otherwise be, it is really difficult to identify with such a person. I'M certainly no fairy princess, but boy, even now sometimes I wish I were.

I know from personal experience that it is true that being "smart" (or "talented", name your own poison) is actually de-motivating. Oh, not that there's anything inherently dysfunctional about intelligence, but thinking that learning and progress are a matter of innate talent leads you to balk at challenges. Even as an adult, I have serious motivational issues. While I do learn and grow, I have certainly imposed limits on myself by doing so more like a sponge, absorbing whatever happened to float by, than by any hard, concentrated effort.

A good first task for myself, then, would be to work on developing a growth mindset. I know I am more oriented in this way than I was years ago, but probably not as much as I could be, so that's a good thing to make a part of my conscious plan.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You have just told the story of my life. To use the term you've coined, I have found the "growth mindset" to be the most elusive and difficult part of my life. In some ways, I feel like I've been in a holding pattern because I haven't managed to capture it. The problem with hard, concentrated effort is that it's so hard, and takes so much concentration... and I am so easily distracted. I don't like how keeping my motivation in focus is so on-again-off-again, and yet I persist in being stuck here.

I shall eagerly await any futher insights you may share.

(Meanwhile, where *did* I put my marbles...?)