Snarky Behavior

Great Success!

July 16, 2007 · 2 Comments

In my previous post I mentioned that I’m taking remedial math and economics so that I’ll be up to snuff by next month when I start graduate studies in a functional concentration grounded in… math and economics.

Clearly quantitative analysis does not come as easily to me as it does others, and it is not what I would consider “one of my strengths” (a short list of activities including: growing body-hair, eating until engorgement, gambling compulsively, sweating profusely and skim-reading). But, if I’m ever to realize my dreams of managing my own business, I’m going to need to be fundamentally solid in financial management and analysis. It’s just the way it is.

They say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I think the assumption behind the axiom is that the formative parts of the brain seal off as you age, limiting your capacity for retention. But, I think the expression is more than just a physiological observation. It’s a question of desire: old dogs don’t learn new tricks… not due to a physical incapacitation, but a mental one.

You see, old dogs reach a point in their lives– when their hip grates out of alignment, and cataracts fog their eyes– whereupon the pat on the head, or bone in the mouth, simply isn’t worth thee measured effort required to even attempt to learn a new trick.

The old dog can never perform something as well as he could in his prime. And he certainly can’t run the obstacle course as fast as a young turk. So what’s the point in trying?

Now, I’m not necessarily painting myself as an “old dog.” In reverse dog years, I’m just over 3 years… pouncing through the undergrowth and humping Tickle-me-Elmo, all day everyday. But I do understand that the greatest stumbling block in learning (or in my case, relearning) a “trick” is finding and overcoming the starting inertia of the initial motivating desire.

Staying in the dog vein, my desire to acquire and hone analytical skills is akin to a Labrador training for a Greyhound race: his limitations and inferior relative abilities are painfully obvious from the get-go. But by training with Greyhounds, the Lab can still become a very fast dog.

The great UCLA coach John Wooden defines success as:

Peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

[Aside: This philosophy used to be encapsulated by the US Army's recruiting motto "Be All That You Can Be." As it turns out, when you're targeting under-privileged minority youth, the implications of that motto are fairly... um, outrageous. "An Army of One" is much more egalitarian, even in an organization based on chain-of-command.]

Rohit is oft to point out that nobody is a snowflake; that we all wander through this clusterfuck [word of the month] of existence assigning meaning where we deem necessary to assuage the hollow angst of being and nothingness. So to some degree, the notion of “becoming the best that you are capable” is, at best, a quaint delusion.

But post-modern existentialism also implies that, in the absence of moral absolutes, stand-by relatives can act as serviceable guides to maximize the exhilaration of mind, body and soul, even without understanding why such exhilaration is truly a desirable end. The self-satisfaction Wooden describes is akin to Maslow’s self-actualization, the pinnacle of human existence, the transcendence of the soul to its purest and freest expression.

And yes… there is still a part in me (and in all of us, I suppose) that is still scared to approach the precipice of my own potential, to put forth the entirety of my effort in the pursuit of achievement. If it the totality of my efforts were to amount to nothing, I imagine, it could be devastating to the ego. Which I suppose, is why I (and we all) sometimes engage in self-defeatist tendencies of distraction and procrastination.

But I also suspect that the potential fall-out of a starkly conducted self-appraisal could never be as depressing, no matter the realities revealed, as the old dog that gets put down, never knowing which new tricks he could’ve picked up had he simply put forth the effort.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Rohit // July 16, 2007 at 11:42 pm | Reply

    “But I also suspect that the potential fall-out of a starkly conducted self-appraisal could never be as depressing, no matter the realities revealed, as the old dog that gets put down, never knowing which new tricks he could’ve picked up had he simply put forth the effort.”

    Absolutely spot on! Even in the worst case scenario, i.e., your absolute best is not even allowing you to achieve mediocrity, there is some (probably self-deluded) satisfaction to be derived in the process itself, no matter the result. Being paralyzed by tragically hip nihilism doesn’t even afford you that.

  • Jon // July 24, 2007 at 1:56 am | Reply

    Also, the unoriginality, or at least the self-absorption, that follows nihilism, is pathetic. I feel like it’s a stage that anybody worth a shit grows out of. It’s part of the enlightened life-cycle, but certainly shouldn’t be the end point.

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