It isn’t common for people to become successful without first tasting failure. I’m not sure where I heard this but the quote was something along the lines of “everything is hard before it gets easy”, which means learning is the ugly step sister to mastery’s beauty.
Today I took a calculus test, and although I felt prepared it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. The one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that as I study more and work harder my grades do not always reflect that. I used to be able to sit in class and simply remember everything and do well on tests with minimal effort. Times have changed. I already have a degree (in the social sciences) so sometimes I wonder why I put myself through this torture. Since I am working toward something that is much more difficult the challenges are greater, struggles are more common and failures are grand. Still, I savor the torture, I enjoy working in my room on my white board and working out problems, figuring out what I did wrong, then solving them. When I was in high school I would’ve never dreamed that I would be taking calculus or studying computer science, much less enjoying the challenges. Surprisingly, I actually don’t have to take this calculus course for the associate’s in computer science. I’m doing it because I want to, in part because I think it can only help my eventual career but also because I’m fascinated by it. Working on the same material that Newton and Einstein did, learning the math that was used to get a space ship to the moon is pretty awesome. There is some pride knowing how to deal with the math that most people avoid. I view calculus problems like a puzzle, unfortunately sometimes I have trouble telling the pieces apart but that is where the struggle, and failure comes in. I haven’t failed because I never fail to learn. So next time it gets easier and it is a matter of time and practice that I’ll reach mastery. Until then I’ll keep my sense of humor and keep moving forward.
I received my test back and after a lot of thought I realized what I had done wrong. At the end of my last study session I wrote down some notes to help memorize how the two formulas work and I wrote them in a different order than I had learned them, so during the test I wasn’t getting the answers I was expecting which means each question took longer than it should have and I eventually ran out of time to go back and the necessary corrections. If you learn do you really fail? No, and I didn’t actually fail the test I just didn’t do as well as I would have liked, although anything less than an A is disappointing for me.