Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.
This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”
This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend. Read the entire article.
High School is a great opportunity to try a lot of different things. In the search for a vocation and purpose in life, it might be tempting to specialize too soon, especially if you find yourself fulfilling other peoples' dreams instead of your own. The Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote a terrific blog post on this topic last week, and I just have to pass on part of what she said. Though she is talking specifically about the very best of the very best, I think the principles she discusses are true for the rest of us as well. Successful people in all walks of life pick a specialty that they practice until they get good at it. Choosing that specialty is tough sometimes, and the process of making the choice often takes unexpected paths.
"David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, [writes and speaks] about what differentiates elite athletes and musicians from the rest of the pack.
Practice is a vital piece of the puzzle, says Epstein, but the rule ignores an important prerequisite: to excel, we first must find where we are trainable. If you weren’t born with the eyesight and quick reflexes of a major league pitcher, no amount of training will earn you elite status. If your genes didn’t grant you the wingspan of an NBA point guard, 10,000 hours of practice won’t get you much more than mediocre.
The question we must ask ourselves, says Epstein, is which of our skills are ripe for improvement?
Deliberate practice is crucial, but it must be applied in the right discipline. The only way to find the right discipline is to sample widely.
Elite athletes and musicians aren’t the ones who have been playing a single sport since they were 5 years old: early specialization is fantastic for producing the best 13-year-olds, but terrible at getting the best 20-year-olds. Elite performers are far more likely to be the ones who tried a wide variety of sports, or instruments, before they specialized.
The sampling helped them build general skills, but its most important purpose was to reveal which specific discipline was ripe for specializing. World-class performers must find—through experimentation—the discipline that rewards their specific mix of talent and biology. Specializing early aborts this process, and ensures they won’t reach their potential."
You might wonder why your teachers seem so obsessed with vocabulary. As they prepare you for life after high school, they know that "learning the words is the same thing as learning the concepts." Seth Godin is a marketing genius. If you are good enough and lucky enough, you will work for a guy like him after you build the skill set he is looking for. Part of that skill set is basic literacy: reading, writing, and speaking well. In a recent blog post, he explains why vocabulary matters.
"Here's Randall Munroe's brilliant explanation of how the Saturn V rocket works. The brilliant part is that he illustrated it using only the 1,000 most common words (which, ironically, doesn't include the word 'thousand').
If you are only able to use 1,000 words, nuance goes out the window.
The typical native speaker knows 20,000 words, and there's your opportunity:
If you know 40,000 words, if you learn five words a day for a decade, the world changes. Your ability to see, to explain and to influence flies off the charts.
It's not about knowing needlessly fancy words (but it's often hard to know if the fancy word is needless until after you learn it). Your vocabulary reflects the way you think (and vice versa). It's tempting to read and write at the eighth-grade level, but there's a lot more leverage when you are able to use the right word in the right moment.
A fork in the road for most careers is what we choose to do when we confront a vocabulary (from finance, technology, psychology, literature...) that we don't understand. We can either demand that people dumb down their discourse (and fall behind) or we can learn the words.
It's hard to be a doctor or an engineer or key grip if you don't know what the words mean, because learning the words is the same thing as learning the concepts."