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Hard work vs. reality Wed, Oct 14, 2015
We like to tell young people that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  You can be anything, accomplish anything, as long as you put your best effort and your hardest work into it. 

This is all obviously false.  It's good to encourage young people, because it sets their standards high and motivates them to succeed.  But in reality, you can't be anything.  You should still try hard, and dream big, and work for it.  But there's a really high chance you won't be an astronaut.  You almost certainly won't be a professional athlete, no matter how much you practice.  You probably can't be a professional musician, because you'll die of starvation before you get your first record deal. 

And that's just statistics, i.e. a very small proportion of people who try to become these things actually succeed.  There's also the idea of innate talent.  Some people are born with certain talents that enable them to do certain things.  Some people are born without those talents.  They might be able to work hard to get up to the level of a person born with that talent, but chances are, they'll still be behind the curve because they didn't win the genetic lottery. 

This idea occurred to me admittedly somewhat recently in life -- the idea that I might not be able to accomplish everything I set my mind to.  Two recent examples are embarrassingly trivial, but kay-suh-rah.  The first is bodybuilding.  I've always been a skinny person; it's genetic.  But I've also always been moderately athletic, both from genes and from practice.  I've always wanted to develop bigger muscles, and I've never had much success.  I was told it was my weightlifting style.  I improved it.  I was told it was my diet.  I changed it.  I was told it was calories, carbs, protein type, specific exercises, amount of weight, number of reps, etc.  I've done lots of different things to build strong muscles, and I've completely failed, aside from some slight increases in the amount of weight I can lift.  I've finally stumbled to the conclusion that I'm not genetically built to be a big, strong, muscular person like all the other people at the gym.  That sucks, but at least I've reached a conclusion and can stop being disappointed by my lack of progress. 

The other example is video games.  I've been playing a lot of player-vs-player (as opposed to player-vs-enemy) games, and I'm routinely worse than any of my teammates or opponents.  Even after a lot of hard work and practice, I still lagged behind most people.  Like weightlifting, I came to realize that certain people are just better than me.  In technical terms, they probably have faster reaction timing, better quick-twitch muscle control, and things like that.  It doesn't matter how much I play or how hard I work at it, I likely just won't be as good as other people.  Again, that's disheartening.  But at least I have an explanation for my mediocrity.  And that's better than failure. #psychology

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