As I sit here scanning the backdrop of last week, a deep, intense sign of relief unravels from my chest. For now, midterm week has come to a close. Negotiating with self to buckle down and focus consistently presents a daunting challenge – especially while the birds chirp out their mantra for the onset of Spring. Absorbing six weeks of article content, copious notes, and class time observations – only to randomly regurgitate on demand (through those unforgiving multiple choice questions) – defies reason. For me, this entire process can be disheartening…consistently netting me “mediocre student” status (in my mind’s eye, anyway). But, I persevere…nonetheless.
For many reasons, these “poor me” thoughts caused me to ponder the recent 2014 Winter Olympics and the anticipated, fast-approaching 2014 Paralympic Winter Games which begin in Sochi, Russia on March 7th. As I browse their website, the concept of “overwhelming odds” fills my thoughts. Not only have these athletes physically made it to these games, but they will be tasked with performing in front of billions on an international landscape. Every blip and blunder is on display – recorded, replayed, and replayed again – for eternity…but then so are their WINS!!
My simple need to maintain my stamina throughout the semester pales in comparison. Several points raised in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath offer insights as we each face our own personal and professional “overwhelming odds.” Gladwell details a concept termed “desirable difficulty.” This concept – conceived by Robert and Elizabeth Bjork, two University of California psychologists – suggests that “not all difficulties are negative.” As examples, he offers the stories of two young men who were dyslexic from childhood…
- First is David Boies…who’s speaking vocabulary was limited; he used small words and short sentences. He was also a very poor reader. As a child, he would memorize what his mother said as she read to him. He learned the art of intent listening. David used this skill to met his challenges (“overwhelming odds”) head on. The strategy he created not only helped him keep up with others…but, allowed him to compensate by getting “good at something by building on the strengths that he was “naturally given.” According to Gladwell, David is now one of the most famous trial lawyers in the world.
- The second individual is Brian Grazer…who “took forever to do a simple homework assignment.” He would “spend hours daydreaming because couldn’t read the words.” In high school, he “challenged his grades” and “learned how to do everything possible” to sell his point. During this process of self-preservation, Gary learned the art of persuasion. Today, according to Gladwell, Brian is one of the “most successful movie producers in Hollywood.
- While indulging with a friend, I also learned of another remarkable individual – Temple Grandin – who resides and operates her school out of my own community:
As Mr. Gladwell so eloquently stated during one of his interviews, the information and stories he offers in his many books are his attempts to “Encourage us to look more closely at ourselves.” He also suggests that “obstacles give one the courage to take chances otherwise not taken. As I cheer on these amazing parathletes and the paths they’ve selected, I know I will be looking more closely at myself – and will be re-assessing those events in life that overburden, distract and debilitate me. May you also find your own techniques for gathering strength to take on any “desirable difficulties” and meet “overwhelming odds” head-on with a renewed/refreshed vengeance as you travel this journey called life.
Crafted, researched and written by: |LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock