Friday was one of my worst days at Chinese class. Bad days are common for me. Some days I feel I cannot keep up with the teacher. Some days I struggle to speak in response to questions. Some days I want to quit. Friday was one of them.
Struggling in class unfamiliar to me. I was always a good student. But the feeling of failing is a utterly foreign. And most days in this rediscovery of student life I feel that way.
In some of my many musings on dimensions of intelligence I recognize the vast differences in people’s abilities to pick up new skills. Athletes with kinesthetic intelligence quickly master a new sport. Creative savants can piece together fascinating art with unplanned materials. And historically those gifted with language have been the first of their culture to cross geographic divides into foreign lands. Imagine the first European linguists using their genius to decode the strange tongues in North America with zero context or reference.
In language there is surely a continuum of capabilities defined not just by experience but an innate intelligence. It spans from the genius Europeans that first spoke with southern Africans and native Americans to the dullards that cannot imitate or comprehend a strange uttering. I am not so pessimistic as to sort myself completely at the simpleton’s side of this range. But in a class full of people interested in learning a new language, I know I am one of the closest to it.
I recently read Jon Acuff’s Start. His book is a manifesto on movement. An accelerator for action. With a simple premise he calls to action the legions of us that spend years sleepwalking. That idea is this: “don’t wait. Start now.” The book was fine. But one day one particular quote stood out as I read it.
The … secret about purpose is that it usually finds you. Purpose is attracted to motion. Purpose is attracted to momentum. Purpose loves to surprise you mid-stride. Very rarely will it greet you on your front doorstep. More often than not, you’ll encounter purpose in the middle of the road when you least expect it.
Acuff was talking about the purpose that drives many to succeed at what they do. And the lack of purpose that leaves many of us muddling through the work at hand. Acuff is saying that publicly riding your dreams into glory will be seen, recognized, and appreciated by those in your network. I came to a similar conclusion as Acuff. Not just that your networks would recognize your efforts and respond with opportunity. But that networks are often the reason for success. Indeed, I have noticed a common trait in highly successful people: they are highly networked.