Saturday, May 14, 2016

Learning to fall

A style of youtube skateboard videos, is to show someone attempting a trick, to fail over and over, often with repeated falling to the ground, until finally succeeding, and with that success come the end of the video. What a casual observer may not know, is that pavement hurts. And yet, here are these guys (really, mostly guys), that seem to be happy to torture themselves, over and over.
 A few years ago, one of my favorite expressions was “no pain, no gain”.  I would work around the clock, I would “take the crap”, and I would optimistically suffer.

 I still do that! But I do not say “no pain, no gain” anymore. Instead I have come to understand that certain forms of learning are mostly about managing failures while pursuing those potential gains. In some sense, learning is like a game of poker: you need to pay to stay in the game, and that hurts, yet you expect to make that back when you win. And so it is with certain areas of learning, like when learning skateboard tricks on hard pavement, or like when working hard over many years to learn a new area.

 There is an interesting aspect to this story: you can shield yourself from much sensation of pain by becoming “one” with your learning goals. Personal experience is much shaped by how we interpret our senses. And a key learning in life is that we can endure hardships and “move mountains” but we must be sufficiently fanatical enough in our approach that we do truly change our sense of perception. The good thing is that this makes life more interesting, as we we focus our mind into new areas, the bad thing is that if you are not careful, that “change of sense of perception” can alienate you, or cause harm to others