Monday, June 23, 2008

There is no Charge for Awesomeness...or Attractiveness

By Rich Bordner

I saw KungFu Panda last week. It was a very well done movie, quite entertaining, and quite funny.

As a teacher and a coach, I also appreciated one of the themes. Sometimes, the temptation of teachers and coaches is to be enamored with the ones who show great potential right from the start. We can readily see these talented individuals becoming champions, so we focus our time on them, to the neglect of the not-so-talented. This was Shifu's error. He did not see the awkward, fat, incredibly-out-of-shape, over-eating Panda's potential, so he completely ignored him.

However, there were some themes in the movie that we should guard against. The Oprah-New-Age stuff, of course, was problematic ("you just need to believe;" "there is no secret ingredient, only you."), but that's for another blog. It's the whole "believe in yourself and follow your dreams" bit that I'm addressing here.

You see, as a culture, we've created a bit of a monster. We tell kids that if they just believe in themselves, they can do/accomplish anything they want.

There's nothing wrong with a healthy bit of confidence in one's training and hard work, and there's nothing wrong with having dreams. The problem is that we spout these unqualified aphorisms out at them ("believe in yourself, follow your dreams!"), then we're surprised when they take us at our word and show up on American Idol without a hint of training and thoroughly embarrass themselves. When the judges give them a harsh bit of reality, more often than not these types turn up their noses and self-righteously march out, saying "What do they know? I'M A STAR! They're just jealous." Never mind that Simon, et al have been doing the talent scout thing ever since the stone age, and they've seen it all.

This just goes to show that we need to stop with the aphorisms and sprinkle our words with a dose of reality. This is not pessimism; this is just a plea for balance. It's good to have dreams...but not all dreams are equal (The dreams of fame and fortune are very much inferior to the dreams of starting a soup kitchen for the poor.).

It's good to believe in yourself...well, not really...you're not all that hot.

Yes, you can do it...but success will come only after decades of slow progress and much failure.

And in the end, if you find yourself entertaining delusions of grandeur, put the mic down and focus on getting that engineering degree that your parents have sacrificed so much for...William Hung, this means you.

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