The Botereid

Monday, October 18, 2004

attitudes for improvement

I think this is one of the most helpful attitudes you can have if your goal is improvement:

Karl Popper, Unended Quest

Schlick examined me mainly on the history of philosophy, and I did so badly on Leibniz that I thought I had failed. I could hardly believe my ears when I was told that I had passed in both examinations with the highest grade, "einstimmig mit Auszeichnung." I was relieved and happy, of course, but it took quite a time before I could get over the feeling that I had deserved to fail.

Our culture strenuously resists this kind of thinking today. We want to do our utmost to keep people from "feeling like failures." Well, guess what. It wasn't until I started feeling a bit like a failure that I really started to push myself in my work. I didn't go back to college because of that feeling; in fact, I started sheerly out of interest. But it was its emergence, the feeling of always being at least a bit dissatisfied with my work, that has put me where I am today.

Sometimes I get criticized by my family, and some friends, for how I compare my work to the work of great writers and thinkers, and come away unhappy with my own product. But how else to join them?


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