Photo: Martin Yaffe
There are many kids these days, heck, a lot of adults fall into this category as well, who only like to do things they can do well. No one likes that feeling of not knowing what you’re doing, of being clumsy or ignorant, making the same mistake over and over and not knowing how to fix it. Some people can sometimes tolerate that uncomfortableness until they move up the learning curve a bit, and others might avoid this feeling at all costs. And it turns out the costs of avoiding this feeling, are great. Some people seem to be able to do it in one area of their live, like sports, but not with math, or vice versa. But if you don’t climb up the learning curve, then you simply don’t learn whatever it is you were trying to learn, whether it’s learning to read, ride a bike, ski, or any number of important skills. People who don’t want to be a beginner at anything come up with many different excuses. I remember a young boy, age 8, who couldn’t read. When I asked him to read a few words, he said, “I don’t feel like it today. I can do it, but I’m just not in the mood, maybe tomorrow.”
This problem is so pervasive amongst young people, that they have come up with a word to describe the feeling. They call it “rage quit.”
Definition: the feeling of being enraged because you can’t do something, and so you simply quit. I have been trying to help children get over this severe stumbling block to learning anything by showing them the learning curve above. Down at the bottom doesn’t feel very good because you know “nothing.” The reality is that it’s hard to be a beginner at anything. If you’re trying to learn to ride a bike, you are wobbly and out of control. If you’re trying to learn a new language you are as ignorant as a baby. If you get frustrated with the process and give in to “rage quit” then you will never learn. As you move up the curve, you get a little encouragement because you are beginning to learn stuff, but there’s still a ways to go till you get to the plateau part. But once you are at the plateau, you’ve made it — you are riding that bike, skiing down the hill, reading paragraphs and understanding the meaning. So what helps you hang in there, is simply reminding yourself that “It’s difficult at the beginning of anything, but I’m not going to quit and I will get the hang of it, as long as I don’t quit. I can tolerate this feeling. It’s uncomfortable but it’s tolerable. Everybody feels this way when they’re confronted with something new and challenging! “ If you keep reminding yourself of that, you will succeed!