We all start out believing we are invincible. We believe we are smart, valuable, rare. It is this naivety that provides us with the energy to begin. Then we start and action tells us otherwise. Meeting challenge after challenge, our confidence soon ruptures. And our self-talk switches from thoughts of invincibility to thoughts of inability.
Time teaches us that by nature we monkeys are one and the same. What separates us is experience. Whether it is a brush with danger, a first love, a mind-bending trip or a discovered truth. Each experience bends us into shape. It is why there is nothing more important than good friends, good family, good books, good questions. They teach us, support us, better us. But this doesn’t make us special. It makes the experiences special.
Genius and IQ are nothing but ego. A child who excels in standardised testing is not exceptionally gifted. They are exceptionally standard. And we don’t have children with learning disabilities. We have adults with teaching disabilities. Awards of exceptional talent are nothing but narcissistic distractions, temporary tattoos masqueraded as battle scars. Those who go on to achieve exceptional things aren’t talented or clever. They practice hard work and humility. They don’t say, I’ve seen the coalface. They wear soot across their face.
Seneca, Moral letters to Lucilius
No prize fighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary’s charge, who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.