53 Comments

110% agree

Same parental attitude here.

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Jul 10, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

I totally can relate. I was a notorious school skipper. When I didn’t go to school I was reading books, taking walks in the forest and playing video games. Still I exceeded all my peers.

That was also because I knew what I wanted and I went for that without listening to teachers and other adults that told me I couldn’t do that. Without school skipping my personality would have been crushed and I never would have gotten anywhere in life.

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Jul 10, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

I'm planning on having kids in the next 5-10 years, so I love reading your stuff about raising kids. Great article!

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Agree wholeheartedly here. I think I'd even go so far as to say that *any* hard thing counts, as long as it is giving you the sense of accomplishment and the understanding that you can overcome any obstacle you set your mind to.

Naturally, there are some hard things which are not only harder but also more important than others. Learning to code/program has a significantly better return than learning to solve a Rubik's cube in one day. Nonetheless, I think they both achieve what you're aiming at here.

The adage of "Do hard things." will forever be good advice :)

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When my babies get older, I wonder if one of the hard things for me will be encouraging them to do hard things—to develop "mental callouses" as Mr. Do Hard Things David Goggins puts it. I guess I could send them to bootcamp if all else fails. But they might resent me for that. So maybe the challenge is finding practical and useful hard things you revel in—and helping others do so, too?

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Jul 17, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

Great article

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Loved this, Nat. My undergrad was in financial math and it become so convoluted and complex (removed from the real world) by fourth year I almost dropped. But it taught me I could do hard things. And with effort and time, I could go from feeling helpless to hopeful.

Always brings a smile to my face to get your writing in my inbox. Awesome work :)

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Jul 12, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

I’m going to use this with my nephews when I’m marketing being a nerdy engineer to them. I like the fact that you reframed the reason for learning calculus into a personal return. My first thought was the traditional mathematical model answer “Calculus allows you to model stuff and thus get conclusions that allow you to predict to some extent how a real system would behave”, but that’s an external, less personal motivation.

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Jul 11, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

Really great issue. Don't have kids but a good note to self.

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Jul 11, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

Exactly the right message for a personal situation... my matriculating calculus-despairing student.. Thank you

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Jul 11, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

Really dig this breakthrough, you've put a Name to the Known. As a 'wayward' teen who focused more on mastering Beatles songs on the piano instead of algebra, this sings to me.

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Jul 11, 2023Liked by Nat Eliason

In order to go to medical school you have to complete a year of organic chemistry in college. It has little application to actual medical school but it does let you prove to yourself you can do something very hard. And it whittles down the application pool

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Great stuff.

The challenge with this is illustrated in the famous ""Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" which is NOT from Einstein.

I've 2 children 19 and 15, and both have excelled academically through a very complicated international journey, involving Montessori as well as "mainstream" education, and some radical homeschooling (1.5 years living in a secluded cabin in the middle of a national forest).

I've also worked as a maths (and STEM) teacher, at several levels (from elementary to uni), in all sorts of context including an atoll in the Pacific ocean. And It is evident that not everyone faces the same difficulties, or even comparable levels of difficulty, when dealing with calculus, or any other subject. And I disagree with for instance "https://education.macleans.ca/feature/why-we-should-forget-einsteins-tree-climbing-fish/" which advocates that "everyone can learn anything is they work hard enough".

Research in neuroscience have shown different capabilities in different persons. Neurodivergence is now a sort of "threshold" that identifies when these difference are "beyond statistical variability" - but obviously there a lot of people who are "on a spectrum" of some sort even if they are not far enough to be "diagnosed "with anything.

Like calculus, it can be said that "orthography" is difficult. And that - for most people, hardwork can make it "easier" - or, at least - can bring them up to the point of not feeling this difficulty in their everyday life ; yet a vast majority of people would still fail miserably at a spelling be competition.

Now take dyslexia. Is there any point advocating from someone with dyslexia to "work harder on their orthography lessons" ? To some extend, a little bit of work there may help them indeed - but there is point - pretty low actually - above which any time they spend "working hard on their orthography" is more damaging to their mental health.

Note also the flip side of this:

A lot of "high achievers" are naturally gifted for calculus and many other subjects that are considered "difficult" for our average human. A lot of these high achievers will be professionally, and even in their social standings, rewarded for their "hard work" - even though they may have been slacking through their whole education and have just been lucky that their 'natural skills' were fashionable at a given time.

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Nope. If you're going to do something hard, it needs to have a payoff besides confidence. Pick something that does. Learning calculus is even more pointless than mastering a video game for most people.

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Jan 1·edited Jan 1

This is such a cope, imagine saying "just exercise your brain and prove it to yourself" about calculus, this huge field. And the primary justification for learning was just that. That just speaks that this subject is useless for most students. And imagine calling a student who questions things "annoying". I guess you prefer to crunch numbers like a robot and self-cope that it's for "proving yourself" something. What a joke.

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Time spent on reading this article has added a new perspective to look at hard things !

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