I have been blessed to work with many extremely strong math students, who soak up new knowledge very quickly and in great depth. It seems that some people are born with talent for certain things, but talent will only take them so far.
When you are given a problem you have never seen before that stretches your mind, how do you handle it? Some people have the discipline to stick with a difficult problem, deciding ahead of time they will refuse to give up. That is, they continue to make an effort to solve the problem until eventually they do. A famous mathematician said, “A problem worthy of attack shows its worth by fighting back.” So it seems that there is no substitute for effort over time as this is what allows you to develop new skills and learn new concepts.
Mike Babcock, the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs has said that his players need to, “earn the right to feel good about themselves”. I believe he is saying that they only get to feel good about themselves when they have made their absolute best effort. They need to train properly in the offseason so that they look after themselves physically and mentally, and work on developing their skills. Each player is accountable to himself and his teammates for doing his best, and then the team will have success.
So, when faced with a challenge, ask yourself if you have given up before making your absolute best effort. Really, you should continue to make an effort, never accepting failure, until eventually you succeed. You will find that good things happen when you take this mental attitude, thinking of each challenge as a puzzle that will be fun to test yourself on. Learn something from every mistake along the way, pick yourself up after each fall, and then you can be proud of your effort. Remember that you cannot control the result of your effort, but the extra time that you spend will mean more experience and success in the long term.
There is a story in Napoleon Hill’s famous book, Think and Grow Rich that is called, “Three feet from gold.” Basically, a man has been mining gold, when suddenly he is unable to find any more gold. He searches for a while before giving up and selling all of his mining equipment. The man who buys the equipment has some calculations done and finds out that there is gold about three feet away from where the first man had given up looking and makes a fortune!
How will you make sure that you have really made your very best effort? What do you plan to do when you are faced with an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome? What action do you need to take now, so that your future-self can feel good?