the myth of prodigy.
“Just keep working hard. Talent only gets you the chance. Your success is dependent on what you do with it.” — Tucker Max
If you haven’t read Gladwell’s piece on The Myth of Prodigy you ought to check it out.
I was in a very similar place as Gladwell. I was a bit of a running phenom as a child; running a 6 minute mile in 5th grade. But then it started to slip away.
[Children] “will often strike a pose that is simultaneously rebellious and lackadaisical. It’s a way of staying in place: trying harder brings more risk of failure, which they cannot handle, so they lower their expectations, finding nobility in slacking off and mediocrity. Losing hurts less when they embrace it.” –Robert Greene
As competition grew fiercer, I capitulated instead of fighting it. I accepted my own fate as a novelty. I admitted I was a flash in the pan, that I was nothing special, that it was all a fluke. I didn’t make the jump from 6 minutes to 5 minutes for almost another 7 years.
I’ve learned a lot since then–even as a runner. For years I wasted time reaffirming my delusions–that I hated hard work and I hated running. It was a lie, what really I hated was failure, and that’s what happened when I tried. Your mind likes to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. Addressing the symptoms means correcting an anomaly, curing the disease means admitting you were wrong. I had to step back and be disappointed in myself. Admit that I had been taking a dive because it was less painful than taking a loss.
I’m trying to do it differently this time. I don’t plan on wasting this. That quote I posted up at the top, I try and think of it a few times a day. I think I’ve broken myself of those destructive habits. I worked a little Pavlov’s magic on myself on a treadmill. Everytime I wanted to stop I sped it up a little. Each goal I set–I’ll stop at 3 miles–I exceeded by .1 or .2. I excised those demons (laziness) by refusing to indulge them.
But I figure that just “learning” isn’t enough. I want results this time. Success that I can point to, that no one can ever take away. Is it really impressive to brag about what you almost were, what you could have almost had? Did I really deserve any of it all, if I let everyone down?
And now as I soak myself in sweat every night of the week, running mile after mile, I know what it feels like to have the candle burning at both ends. I can feel my trial period slowly running out, the novelty quickly become more of a burden than an aide. Out of the two roads, I’ve already chosen one, and it led to nothing but misery and self-loathing. This time I think I’ll take the other. The genuine self-awareness followed by hours at the gym.