The Analogy of Growth

…or the inevitable truth about the learning process!

I bet you have made the following experience so often in your life that you even stopped counting:

Let’s say you wanted to try something and failed completely to do so at the first time.

  • You tried to learn an instrument
  • You tried to learn a certain kind of sport 
  • You tried to learn a new language 
  • You tried to learn a special skill
  • … take whatever you want that goes along that line!

After you failed, you came to the conclusion that this type of thing was not right for you, that you had no talent for it and in the worst case you thought to yourself that you are a complete failure.

I see, hear and experience this attitude almost every day. It’s the most common mistake we make as human beings when we try to learn something - we give up although we did not even try! 

As children it is most likely that we learn this behavior from our parents: We try to jump or run or drive dangerous maneuvers with our bicycle - then we fall - we get hurt or injured - but instead of being told „Try it again, you can do it!“  we are told „Don’t do this again, it’s too dangerous, you could get hurt so take care!“

Off course our parents always have the good things for us in mind. They try to protect us, they try to save us from harm and want us to be safe and secure. And there is nothing wrong about that in general. But what happens here is that we start to say „I can’t do this!" after we failed trying something for the first time. 

Its not uncommon that we are educated to be perfect and free from failure right from the start and especially that we need to have talent for something  if we want to be great at it. The thought that you can break through every obstacle with enough willpower, persistence, consistency and enduring effort gets lost along the way and the biggest and most important factor - time!! - gets completely forgotten!

 

Look at many of the Hollywood movies (in my eyes they take a lot of the responsibility for so many misconceptions in our nowadays society): 

  • People there seem to learn and master things that in real life would literally require years or even decades (!) in the period of a couple of weeks or months. There are plenty of these stories…
  • The protagonist is an untalented fighter, then he trains with some mysterious master for a couple of weeks and then wins against the world champion…

The untrained and undisciplined sports team after having some magic realization trains for four weeks and wins the championship...

 

There are hundreds of these stories around, and to be honest - they make me sick because they are plain lies corrupting the heads of the people watching them! 

Have you ever watched a martial arts movie and afterwards have been so on fire that you decided you want to try Karate or something similar? You started with full enthusiasm but after a couple of training session reality kicked your butt pretty roughly… you realized you won’t be Jean Claude van Damme and break trees with your shin in the course of two weeks!

 

So the bad thing here is - you did not become Jean Claude van Damme (well… maybe for some people thats actually a good thing)

The good thing is - I am 100% sure you can still become one (or at least something similar) and here is what you have to do in order to achieve this:

 

 

Accept every learning process as a process of growth!

Think of trees. How do trees become these huge, strong, life giving solid miracles of mother nature? 

 

Did they pop out of the ground and were there over night and no-one saw them coming? Did some magic happen and *popp* there was the tree? Did they grow huge over the course of a couple of weeks? Did someone just put them there?

…Certainly not!

 

The tree had to fight hundreds of different battles in order to become strong and solid.

It had to fight its way through dirt in order to find sunlight, it had to suffer from thirst because it did not rain for weeks, it had to withstand heavy rainfall and storms, parasites and other animals doing harm to it. There were winters where it had to fight to stay alive in spite of the frost, snow and temperatures so low that parts of its roots froze away. It had to fight against other plants to get its proper share of necessary nutrients from the earth. There were certainly dozens of more threats which it had to face on the stony way towards becoming what it is today.

Nevertheless - in spite of all these struggles it never stopped to do the most important thing - it grew steadily! Every single moment of its life the tree grew in order to become big and strong. It grew from day to day, from week to week, year to year, decade to decade and sometimes even from century to century!

 

Now if we compare our own personal development in any area of our life with the growth of a tree, how could we possibly come to the dead wrong conclusion that we can master something after we tried it for the first time? How can we dare to think that we can become a genius  in any field of life without putting years of constant work, struggling, fighting, falling, getting up again, falling again but never giving up into it? It’s simply impossible - thats it and thats why most people fail to become great. They don’t accept the reality of the continuous learning process that requires a whole lot of time, endurance, commitment and persistence!

 

Now here is what I suggest you to do if you want to avoid being on the losers side of giving up everything you started after a while. Here is what to do if you strive to become the best version of yourself and aim for mastering any aspect of your life that requires a longterm learning process:

Start to think of yourself as a tree that grows slowly and not in huge steps at a time but rather with steady tiny steps each day, facing all the struggles with dignity and never stopping to grow even in the harshest months of ice cold winter. 

Every time you fall, struggle or face problems that seem unsolvable, think of the tree and its  gentle continuous effort to grow and then ask yourself if the issue you face right now worth giving up the journey towards greatness. Would the tree give up if there was a storm trying to tear it out from the ground? 

Also see this journey as an enjoyable one because you are given the opportunity to celebrate every single step of action along the way as a small victory on your side, even if it is so small that it seems to be insignificant. How many inches do you think does the tree grow per day?

In the long run the sum of thousands and ten thousands of small victories and even more failures will build up towards your true greatness. In the meanwhile there is enough reason to celebrate each single step of your growth like the tree celebrates his growth simply by being something absolutely amazing and inspiring!

 

If you follow that advice and keep in mind the image of yourself being and growing like a tree, you will realize that you will feel more relaxed, more confident and that it helps you to stay grounded in many different situations.

You will find peace and fulfillment in this thought because it releases the stress you feel every day and helps you to see the longterm course of your personal journey.

You will find enjoyment and happiness in many possible situations you had not thought of before.

And in the end, if you keep up this image in your head, you will become the person you truly desire and deserve to be.

 

By reading this article you have done one little step that you already can celebrate. And now is the time to take action!

I hope you enjoyed reading and wish you all the best on your journey towards greatness!

 

 

This article was written for James Maxwell, founder of the northvilleguitarlessons.com music school.