Saturday, May 21, 2011

Self-improvement and the Culture of Elitism

I found this article thought-provoking. Long, but worth it.
The mark of superior people, in Ortega’s sense, is that they consider themselves inferior to what they may become. Self-improvement, for all that it smacks of the self-help shelf at Barnes and Noble, is also, in this way, the rallying cry of the only kind of elite worth having.
Every day, I try to make myself better than I was the day before. Fretless bass, working out, reading, thinking, being a decent human being.

Doing anything well requires some hard work. Daily practice, usually, and a focus on the process rather than the outcome. Science has shown people don't value things that come easily to them, and that even modest effort increases perceived value.

Yet our society has evolved to venerate those who are simply gifted, rather than those who put in the work. Somewhere in the 80s, the hard work became a short montage set to a pop song.

Malcolm Gladwell's recent book "Outliers" pushes the idea that 10,000 hours of practice are required for expertise in something. That may be simple to understand, but it also underscores that it is not easy. That kind of time investment requires passion and discipline.

If my previous post was about not taking others for granted, perhaps one can see this one as saying "don't take yourself - your core self - for granted, either."

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