I was watching a 3 year old kid play in a yard last week. The 3 year old was trying to wrestle with a bigger kid who was probably about 6 or 7 years old. And the bigger kid kept winning, laughing every time he pushed the 3 year old into the grass again. But the 3 year old kept coming, more determined ever each time, over and over until his dad finally decided that enough was enough and told his son to stop fighting.
That 3 year old kid doesn’t know anything about defeat or failure or giving up. He would have kept trying to wrestle the bigger kid until his smaller body could no longer physically move anymore if no one had intervened. It’s the same way a baby keeps trying to stand and walk until she succeeds.
And we all eventually do — as babies. At that age it’s cute to watch.
So what happens between then and now?
We learn shame and embarrassment. We learn failure from older people who have experienced it enough that it literally weighs them down. We get taught that trying something and coming up short is a bad thing to be avoided at all costs; if and when it happens to you, the more experienced people in your circle pepper you with I-told-you-so’s and now-you-can-try-something-more-realistics. Trying too hard or too many times for anything leads to people advising you to quit, not because they want you to give up but because it’s the only thing they know — and we can only teach what we know.
When you were an infant, you tried and tried and tried to stand, then walk, then talk. No one ever told you that you couldn’t do it or you should be more realistic and stay crawling or advised you to quit after the 57th try. Your plan, even if you didn’t know it, was to keep trying until you succeeded or you died, whichever came first.
And look at you now, walking and talking at the same time. So where did the losing come from?
Someone taught you to accept defeat and give up. You were taught to be embarrassed by not winning the first time. You were conditioned to only do things you were sure you would succeed at because the people around you spent their entire lives doing the same. You were taught to quit after your second missed attempt or the first half-hearted try or before you even tried at all because thinking about what people would say about you was stressful enough.
And every time you come up short of a goal, you’re being given a test. Is that a degree you actually want?