outside vs. inside

i’ve been contemplating measurements today. How we measure ourselves. In a note to a friend I remarked that from our earliest moments we’ve typically been judged against externals (usually our peers). This most obviously happens as a by-product of the mainstream education system. And that’s a faulty system. Or at least one that leads to large amounts of frustration. Ultimately, while we all have similar skills, everyone has certain predispositions towards certain things and biases towards others. When it comes down to it, we’re not created genetically/biologically/mentally/psychologically equal.

The real goal would be to be judged against our own potential. But that’s a lot fuzzier. And frustrating. I mean there is no easy way to gauge one’s ultimate potential. And most attempts to come up with standardized methods for testing potential (to my knowledge) have been dismal failures, most likely doing more harm than good (see IQ). Even if there was a method, there’s an argument that potentials can be increased through effort (or conversely decreased through lack there of).

All of this leads me back to the need to teach ourselves to measure ourselves against who we were yesterday. And do that in light of who we will be tomorrow. And that’s difficult, at least for me. I mean, I still often get down when I see a beginner make cognitive leaps in the Martial Arts that took me years. And in that moment, I ignore all the progress that I’ve made. I’m told that’s a pretty normal thing to do.

And sometimes, around all this, I wonder how much further along we could be as a species if we just were able to internalize wisdom the first time that we heard it: that we were not programmed, for some unknown reason, to only be capable of learning certain things through experience and through pain.