I think I can, I think I can...
May 11, 2009 12:38 AM   Subscribe

You know the feeling you get when you succeed at something you initially thought you weren't capable of? I want to feel that way more often. What things, big or small, do you do in your life which give you the joy of proving your inner pessimist wrong?
posted by embrangled to Human Relations (48 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
I think the answer to that question is highly individual. For you or I, talking to a stranger might not be a problem. For someone suffering from social anxiety, they might experience sheer terror at the prospect.

It's commendable that you seek this feeling. It takes courage.

Recommendation: make a list of all the things that scare you. Not like snakes or fear of heights, but achievements. Order them from least to most scary. And then do them.
posted by dualityofmind at 1:10 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Continuing my PhD every day. It doesn't sound like much but for grad students out there, I'm sure you'll agree, it's always a surprise.
posted by Augenblick at 1:11 AM on May 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Making my bed every morning when I wake up. I start off each morning pretty crabby, so it's actually a bit of a challenge to stick to the routine. Tucking in sheets is obviously insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I enjoy starting each day with the 'mini-accomplishment' feeling.
posted by :-) at 1:25 AM on May 11, 2009

For me, it's been, recently, tackling things that I've wanted to do for a long time. I'd thought about learning the bass on and off since I was 15. I finally got one at 29, and played a couple songs live at a bar the next year. I still love it, and keep at it.

Just now, I came in from gardening, from trying to set up a lawn from the absurd little squares of turf they sell in Japan. Between making my house look like I want it to, with my own hands, and growing my own herbs makes me feel good. Even with all the crap that I haven't yet done, or feel like I can't do, I feel like this is something real that I can, and have, accomplished.

If you want instant gratification, stay away from studying a language for a sense of accomplishment. It takes a while.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:31 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Winning a basketball game.

I don't know if there's anything in life that I feel like I'm 100% in control of -- except for what I do on the court. Winning, especially against bigger or more talented players, is especially satisfying.
posted by the NATURAL at 1:36 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This feeling is the fountain of much joy in computer programming. You set out to surmount a difficult problem, possibly one that is beyond your capabilities, or even one that's physically unsolvable in your lifetime with current hardware. And, if you succeed... ah, then you feel like the smartest primate on the planet. The only thing that ruins the experience is unforeseen and tedious debugging after you thought you were done.

It's a routine feeling in building software. Most hackers I know constantly take on projects they're technically unqualified for--that they literally aren't capable of--and then will educate themselves from illiteracy in the subject to a fully functional solution to the problem. It really does feel stupendous.

We (hackers) have a name for it even: codegasm.
Yes, I know I linked to "progasm". But, that's not what anybody I know calls it. Besides, this is a prograsm.
posted by Netzapper at 1:36 AM on May 11, 2009 [8 favorites]

Stepping out of your comfort zone is highly rewarding experience. Try painting, music, or anything else you are not comfortable with.
posted by leigh1 at 1:45 AM on May 11, 2009

Cooking does this for me quite a bit. I'm easygoing and confident when it comes to chicken and pasta and basics like that, but when recipes call for red meat or seafood, or have a number of steps that must be done in precise order, I get neurotic.

I think cooking is a good realm for this kind of experience because there's always another recipe or technique out there that is slightly more intimidating than the last.

There's nothing quite like pulling your first successful loaf of bread out of the oven, then devouring it instantly and glowing with justified pride.
posted by itesser at 2:08 AM on May 11, 2009 [8 favorites]

I put together sentences in another language. They're usually silly -- "the girl is sitting on the dog", "I ate a cheese sandwich" -- but I feel accomplished when I can assemble the random words that I know into a grammatically correct sentence.
posted by transporter accident amy at 2:11 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Winning Internet arguments.
posted by querty at 2:13 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Taking control of a little Cessna 150 during an intro flight. I'd always hoped to learn to fly someday, and those precious few minutes behind the controls filled me with an amazing sensation of freedom and possibility. Super cheesy, I know, but I spent the next few days grinning from ear to ear.
posted by betafilter at 2:23 AM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: I got that feeling for the first time when I moved abroad and survived for two years on my own. I remember filling out all the paperwork, applying for financial aid, networking for a job, listening to French in Your Car CDs. I remember thinking I was crazy, but working hard at it anyway because there was something pushing me to do it. I come from a small town and nobody (including myself) thought I would actually go, let alone thrive and succeed.
The second time I felt it was when I got my first "big break," again the feeling that all the hard work paid off.
Both times, it was the pride from my family that I had accomplished something against the odds that gave me the feeling. So now I seek out those kinds of things. I never take the easy route, because I know if I put my all into it, I will succeed.
More recently, I got a really good job that I thought I wasnt good enough "on paper" for. But there again, if you want something bad enough, the universe tends to align with you on it I suppose..
I'm back in university now and about to graduate after a long period of academic floundering. There it is again!
posted by osloheart at 2:42 AM on May 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yeh, when I took my first Masters in the mid 90's I purposely entered the most difficult programme this particular University offered - an 'MSc Quantitative Finance'. I took this degree part time while working at Detusche Bank and even now I remember it as the best of times, the worst of times.

Either I was working on the trading floor or in class or studying. That's it, for two years. Even managed to take two extra economics classes as I'm genuinely interested in the material. Sixty plus hours at work per week, plus class two nights a week (6PM to 9PM) and then, of course, assignments, lab exercises and, of course, finals.

And after all of that, I had to crank out about 20K words backed by primary research for my dissertation. Even so I loved every minute! Fantastic sense of accomplishment, especially so as I got a Merit (roughly equivalent to US cum laude) and less than one third of my class made it to the end including many full time students who weren't working a demanding investment banking job.

In 2005 I noticed I was getting dulled by the sixty plus hours and incessant travel (200K miles a year) my position entailed, so I started an Executive MBA. Classes once a month, Friday 1:30PM to 7:30PM, Saturdays & Sundays 9AM to 7PM, and I felt more than a little trepidation at the outset since I'm a Quant by education and profession and yet I purposely chose a General Management and not finance track for my MBA.

You see I felt this need to stretch myself in ways that work or my personal reading wasn't providing. Taking a Doctorate in Finance was clearly an option, the easiest in fact but it wasn't going to broaden my knowledge. And an MBA is a very, very flexible degree, offering lots of opportunity for customisation. I got two exemptions for finance related topics but even so had to take fourteen classes and in topics I knew absolutely NOTHING about - Human Resources, Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Strategic Management, International Management, Operations and more - all topics I'd heard of but wasn't interested in. At all. And now idiotic me went ahead and dumped £15K on a degree I'd never realise unless I not only learned but gained a certain degree of mastery over those topics. Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute of this degree as well. Fantastic opportunity to learn and broaden!

I'm now on the final path of my MBA and this time around hopefully will complete with Distinction (summa cum laude rough US equivalent). I'm currently writing my dissertation while completing two remaining case studies but even so I'm looking for the next challenge.

So a short stint at French Cooking School is already planned, as is an extended push into Modern Cinema, for starters.

And then there is my long standing goal of climbing a certain mountain in Africa which will be mounted.

I'm both a curious and restless sort, and I understand precisely that feeling you seek.
posted by Mutant at 3:47 AM on May 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Making my hair look awesome even on humid days.
Hitting it off with little kids and solving their short-term behavioural problems.
Any time an employer asks me back (I work freelance, so they never have to see me again; I take it as a huge compliment when they seek me a second time).
Stifling my inner brat and being mature and efficient in annoying situations.
Getting all my errands done fast, without doubling back.
Writing a kickass blog post that gets emailed around- especially if I didn't belabour the writing of it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:25 AM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: RUN.

When I see my mileage increase and as the activity becomes easier, my confidence grows each time.
posted by BearPaws at 4:38 AM on May 11, 2009

running 10 miles last weekend. or, running 6 miles yesterday and not even being the least bit sore today.

being able to play guitar songs that when I first started I pretty much just put my guitar down saying "yeah, right, my fingers will never be able to do that" and now here they are doing that!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 4:56 AM on May 11, 2009


(And more personally, making my marriage work and keeping my house clean.)
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 6:04 AM on May 11, 2009

Writing something I'm proud of, whether it's a chapter in a novel, a really great page, or something here on mefi that seems to make people laugh.
posted by sugarfish at 6:23 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by alligatorman at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, so many great answers already. I can't wait to read more!

Just to keep us out of chatfilter territory, I'm interested in situations or activities where you've experienced success despite initially believing you would fail. Bonus points if hard work and tenacity were involved. Not so much looking for general lists of cool things you've achieved through luck or innate talent, although I congratulate you for your success all the same.
posted by embrangled at 6:45 AM on May 11, 2009

Pretty much any love of working out is bulit around this. With swimming, it can happen in practice when I make a set I thought was impossible—either by suffering through something long or going crazy fast—or in a meet where I go faster than before, and then all the suffering at workout seems so worth it. And you still have to struggle through plateaus and bad meets, so there is plenty of that tenacity you are looking for. But like I said, that is me, and that is swimming: for another type of working out it will be both different and the same. I've read a number of sports books and so far cycling, running, crew, basketball, soccer: they all possess that appeal for their partisans.
posted by dame at 7:03 AM on May 11, 2009

I don't play the piano.

I bought a cheap MIDI keyboard, and found a video tutorial of someone playing Radiohead's Like Spinning Plates. I am learning it slowly. I started with the first chord, hovering over the keys and playing oh-so-slowly. It took the first evening just to get the order of which finger to press after which correct.

The second evening I had to re-learn the fingering a little because it had slipped out of my brain. By the end of the second evening, I could play the first chord at half-speed.

The next day I was all fingers and thumbs again. I reloaded the video and played and played and played, and by the end of that evening I could play the first two chords, at about half speed.

Every day for the last week I start the session less coordinated than I ended the last one. Every evening I pass my previous best in note knowledge or fluency of play.

Tiny gains, over and over. There's at least one moment evey evening where I think 'Dude, I'm doing this!' That's an exciting feeling.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 7:08 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Lifting and serious strength training.

Over half a year ago I began Olympic-style weightlifting seriously, 4-5 days a week. I cannot explain how it has so completely changed my life and conception of myself. I grew up an incredibly nerdy, unathletic child. My parents didn't attend the majority of the games or meets of the few sports I tried out; plus I displayed absolutely no athletic talent whatsoever. I figured I was doomed to be an unfit, unathletic person.

I had worked out on and off just doing "cardio" or machine-stuff, and a little bit of Crossfit, but never committed myself seriously to any athletic endeavor for any period of time longer than a month.

I got into Olympic lifting however, and immediately fell in love. I still don't have any athletic talent. Every kilo I add to my lifts is born entirely of hard work and scrappiness. But that is kind of what makes it so great--I'm finding myself stronger and fitter and faster and more powerful than I've ever been in my life. I have speed! I have reflexes! And in the past few months people who don't know me say I look like I'm fit. It is impossible to understate what a revelation this is.

If you want the feeling over overcoming strictly through hard work, take up lifting. Olympic lifting, Strongman, powerlifting, whatever. Record your workouts and weights. Then six months later when you're deadlifting you'll realize your warm-up sets are above what your max was when you started--and you will know it is the blood, sweat, and tears that went into that number and into that bar.
posted by Anonymous at 7:09 AM on May 11, 2009

Learning guitar definitely fits your criteria. I got my first guitar 5 years ago, and progress was very slow at first--going over simple songs over and over, practicing chord changes for hours, very tedious and not very rewarding, for a long time. I quickly learned basic chords, but moving between them smoothly, at the pace of a song, seemed insumountably difficult, something I'd never be able to do, especially because right-handed guitarists must do it with their left hands. The idea of being able to twist my fat fingers into those contorted chords just didn't seem possible, literally--I couldn't see ever being able to do it.

I'm still nowhere near perfect, but I can now do things on guitar that I truly believed would be impossible for me, and now feel that further improvement, complex finger-picking, barre chords, things like that, are perfectly achievable, with enough practice and commitment. I'm very much looking forward to the progress I'll make in the next few years--even the concept that I'd be playing "in a few years" isn't something I used to think about. I now see this as a hobby that I'll be working on for the rest of my life, gradually getting better, until, one day, I'll be really good.

We're going on a festival camping trip in a week and a half, and I've publically comitted to playing in front of others (other than my relatives and a few close, non-critical friends) for the first time. I'm nervous and scared, but also confident and very excited about it. This feeling would have been inconcievable to me when I first began playing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:20 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I get a huge feeling of accomplishment by doing stuff myself especially around the house. So, lately, I've been volunteering on two build sites for Habitat for Humanity and it's a lot of fun, you learn a ton of stuff and there's a great feeling of accomplishment when you stand back and you've built a wall, sided a house, put down a floor. I recommend!
posted by amanda at 7:48 AM on May 11, 2009

Rock Climbing wouldn't exist without this feeling.
posted by thenormshow at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2009

Doing stuff that you've been avoiding or putting off for a while. I can usually find one or two of these a week and I will do them, first thing in the day, before I read emails or the news or anything else. It feels fantastic.

Remain alert to anything that you contemplate doing or taking on and then dismiss as impossible (every catch yourself thinking "s/he is amazing, I wish I could do that"). That's where you'll find your next hit.
posted by gwpcasey at 8:12 AM on May 11, 2009

I took an acting class this spring and it got at this feeling. There wasn't really a specific "success" involved, but I wasn't as terrible at it as I would have expected. Mostly it was really fun to try something that I don't have much of a natural aptitude and to exercise totally different mental muscles than the ones I usually use.
posted by yarrow at 8:16 AM on May 11, 2009

Lifting and serious strength training.

This. A year ago I had never touched a barbell. Last June I struggled to squat 90 lbs. A few weeks ago I squatted 305 lbs. The feeling of looking at a bar that weighs significantly more than my body, thinking "I don't know if I can do this," and then doing it, is exactly what keeps me coming back.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2009

We have seen how people describe the common characteristics of optimal experience: a sense that one's skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear cues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.

- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
posted by MesoFilter at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was the youngest and tiniest and weakest of 4 kids. My older sibs were great at everything and eventually I stopped trying new things because there was no such thing as "hey, good try!". It was always, "ha ha, you suck."

So now that I am mid 30's with kids of my own, I get a chance to try new things as they do. And when I whack a baseball, or get up on water skis, it feels like that inner voice of "don't bother trying, you probably won't be good at it" gets a big fat "How you like me now??"
posted by agentwills at 9:11 AM on May 11, 2009

Not being scared of cycling in the city.

I got a bike about 10 years ago and rode it for a couple of years, but I never felt confident, especially after someone I rode with once spent 5 minutes berating me for unsafe riding downtown, pulled ahead of me, and was promptly hit by a left-turning car at the next intersection. He was barely scratched up, but after that, I found it easier to stay on the lakeside bike paths and avoided the roads as much as possible. And eventually I stopped riding. It was always set aside as a special athletic expedition: had to have a water bottle AND a Camelbak, had to have Clif bars AND bananas, and had to ride in spandex cycling shorts. It didn't feel like a natural part of my life.

But last year I got my old mountain bike in decent repair and started riding again. I wear street clothes and a helmet, and pack only a single water bottle. Nobody is ever going to mistake me for a bike courier, but I'm able to ride in traffic that I could never have faced before. And I've only fallen off twice.
posted by maudlin at 9:45 AM on May 11, 2009

I studied viola in another country, in another language. My brain was scrambled the whole time - my entire mode of thinking was forever changed.

I didn't approach it with expectations of success or failure, but soon discovered I had hit the outer limits of my abilities (which was maddening, motivating, and exciting). I decided to study music over math during that time because I thought that math would be "too hard" in another langugage. This was, of course, wildly incorrect because math isn't that dependent on language, whereas music is difficult to describe and wrapped up in cultural assumptions.

These were the things that made it hard/interesting:
-- The frustration and isolation of being unable to communicate well in the new language
-- Going deep into music theory, which was challenging for me (learning piano, having to sing, composing 4-part harmony, ear training, etc)
-- All the neurological mashups that happen with sweeping changes (particularly music and language)
-- Playing in ensembles (good for the ego - "i'm just a piece", but also good for a sense of belonging - "I am a piece!")

I wouldn't really say that I succeeded. I never became great at the language, and still have the inferiority complex of a violist. I just had a lot to work against. It's that bigbig feeling when you see the vastness of room to improve, and you have a pretty good sense of how to get there, or at least how to start. It felt so good to spend hours and hours in practice rooms, and staring out the windows on the bus ride home actually feeling smarter.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2009

Losing weight. And not to be flip, but many of us have trouble keeping the weight off, meaning we have the opportunity to experience the thrill of that achievement more than once ...
posted by troywestfield at 11:56 AM on May 11, 2009

Even though it has never been remarkably difficult, I have always felt that travel gives me this kick. I remember finding myself in the supposed geographic center of Asia and feeling a mixture of accomplishment and "what next". It's still fun to go to places that are well traveled, but going to someplace that's genuinely in the middle of nowhere -- figuring out how to get there and making it -- is really satisfying.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:58 AM on May 11, 2009

You already bested Netzapper's answer, but I must second it. I started out with no coding knowledge whatsoever about a year and a half ago, and am still pathetic, but being able to hack together a bespoke program to alleviate a problem is an incredible feeling. I recently automated a set of reports (copy from Excel, paste to Word) that took my predecessor a month to complete. I do it in 2-3 days, using only open-source software. The first time I let that Python script rip and watched as scores of PDFs started popping up in my folder... damn.

Somebody made a hoodie with a camera built into the hood that takes pictures when your heart rate rises. If I wore that at work, it would only ever take shots of code.
posted by McBearclaw at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2009

Someone earlier mentioned learning how to play the bass – and I agree. I'm 22, but have never taken a music class since 4th grade and had never touched an instrument besides a recorder until 2 months ago, when I decided to try to learn how to play bass. In just two months, I've gone from knowing nothing to being surprisingly pleased at how well I can at least play other people's music. Which is surely not that well, but the feeling of gratification is great – I feel like I'm getting better each time I play.

I'm sure this feeling won't last – I know everyone plateaus for a while at some point, no matter what it is you're trying to learn. But the built-in reward system of finding new songs to play and learning them—let alone writing your own stuff—means that even if you're stuck at a particular skill level there will never be any shortage of new songs to conquer. So that's pretty awesome.
posted by a bad enough dude at 12:52 PM on May 11, 2009

For my first professional programming job, I was hired as a Lotus Notes application development expert despite almost zero programming education (does WATFOR77 count?), let alone any Lotus Notes development experience. I spent the first week struggling/bullshitting at work, then going home and cramming an instructional book. But I eventually got the hang of it. I've been doing this professionally for nearly 15 years now.

I started amateur auto racing in earnest two seasons ago with a basic, reliable car that I just hoped to get on the track and have some fun in. (I even named it "Slowpoke".) Ended up getting third in the championship!

Outdoor rock climbing is pretty great this way -- even a technically simple climb (5.6-5.7) looks downright impossible to a layman. Then you get up the wall, look down, and go... huh, I had no idea I could do that! (And I used to be deathly afraid of heights!)

My latest obsession, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is fun like this too. The first few classes you'll get utterly dominated, but then you start learning basic principals, some simple moves, and eventually you get that sweet tap-tap-tap of your first submission... yeah, that's pretty great.

My adult life has been a more or less constant string of these -- pick up something seemingly impossible, get pretty good at it (with a few notable failures!), then lose interest and move on to the next. The up side, aside from sating my ADHD maw, is that I feel like I can do just about anything I put my mind to. The down side is the knowledge that if I don't succeed, it's probably because I'm just too lazy.
posted by LordSludge at 1:16 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got another tattoo this weekend and sitting through the pain gave me the feeling you're talking about. About an hour into it I started to think I would fail and not be able to complete it but I did and in the end was glad.

Nthing Cooking. For me it requires a dinner party type environment for me to really get that feeling you've described. I love to cook for my partner but it doesn't feel like as big of an accomplishment as entertaining a bunch of people does.

Some other things that do it for me: Camping, Laundry, Making a new friend, finishing a big craft project like a quilt, Building Anything!, crossword puzzles, logic games, helping a friend solve a problem.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:09 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went on a trip to Scandinavia alone, in extremely short notice. I was accepted to a Kaospilot workshop and had less than a week to prepare

This involved:
* Applying for a Schengen visa in a record time of less than a week - which is remarkable considering I have a Bangladesh passport
* Buying airfare using much of my savings because I needed it booked by the end of the day for visas
* Booking my own hostel rooms
* Arranging a stay with a CouchSurfer in Denmark
* Booking my own travels between Stockholm, Copenhagen, Aarhus, and back
* Navigating Sweden and Denmark on my own, having never been there before
* Doing all this without telling my parents until the very last moment
* Flying from Brisbane to Stockholm via Sydney, Tokyo, Amsterdam, who knows where

My dad always told me that I would never be able to get a visa without his help as Bangladesh passports tend to get a lot of grief. I proved him wrong. It was nervewracking and stressful (especially the return flights, with 10-hour layovers each, delayed flights, and a rejection notice) but I'm so glad I did it - it showed that I could do international travel on my own.
posted by divabat at 5:26 PM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Completing an Ironman. (That's a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run).

Hands down the hardest (and longest) training I've done. The doubt in myself early on was immense. Starting triathlon I never thought I'd be fit enough to compete in, let alone finish an Ironman. It still gives me strength, a year on, and I don't doubt for many years to come.
posted by WayOutWest at 6:26 PM on May 11, 2009

Late to the game, but... juggling! I taught myself how to juggle despite an almost comical lack of coordination, and man, was it sweet. Plus, it's another of those situations where you can repeat the feeling by trying new tricks once the old ones become too easy. Pretty much everything I can do now I once thought I would never be able to figure out. It is a never-ending fountain of fun, then frustration, and then fun again.
posted by christie at 6:51 PM on May 11, 2009

i recently took up Yi Quan Kung Fu. It's been amazingly gratifying to see, just in the course of a few months, my strength, speed and endurance improve beyond measure already... not to mention that movements and forms that first seemed utterly bewildering to me are now deeply ingrained into my muscle memory as second nature. what at first was daunting is now a pleasure, and i notice improvements in my competence day to day.

what's more, i now handle myself a lot more confidently in the world outside, and feel... well, safer and more self-assured.
posted by Philby at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2009

I've had an incredible year of improbable triumph: I sang at Carnegie Hall; I won an Appeal against the government for Autism funding for my kids (it's not my first win, but I only won this one because I won the first one that I thought was not winnable); and I watched my autistic sons each play on a sports team by himself and thrive for the first time without aide supports!

But that's not the point. I think the real trick is to teach yourself how to recognize, feel and enjoy your successes, no matter how small, no matter how large, no matter how improbable. Once you give yourself that opportunity and foster it, then what you find is that in fact that sense of victory and triumph that you're asking about, that it's not about the feat itself, but about your ability to find and savour it.
posted by kch at 10:18 PM on May 11, 2009

Also: I started circus training this year. I did a class last year but this time I have the opportunity to pursue it free for a year (tho I'll be away for a few months). I was FINALLY able to do forward rolls, trapezes, and handstands. Even spent a few minutes on the stilts. OMG WHAT A RUSH.
posted by divabat at 10:31 PM on May 11, 2009

Learning a language takes a long time?!?! Doesn't give you that feeling?!?! No way!

I learned Chinese by myself. And here in China, the expat community is ridiculous. I'm sorry if this sounds cocky, but 95% of these people don't take the time or put their heart into the language. And that makes them sound wooden, ineloquent, juvenile, and, well, retarded. They sound like stroke victims.

I don't. My Chinese obviously isn't perfect, but I have spent 5.5 years sharpening my tongue on books, movies, technical manuals, websites, whatever you want. And I'll be god damned if I haven't learned to talk so you'll remember me. I got the accent, the pitch, the slurs...man, I can switch from the Tianjin 嘛 to the Sichuan 晓 and flip it back to the Hunan n-l then throw down some Shandong 俺. I can outtalk fools known to be fast talkers, then cut it up with a cardiac surgeon talking about angiographic contrast agents.

Man, if you want that feeling every time you open your mouth, learn you an exotic language and use it. But I learned this language by brute force, not through a guided course. I mean I picked up a book, opened it, and stared (I looked at a dictionary a lot too) until I understood it. Then I just kept reading. You have no idea how gratifying that is. Every new sentence is an "I get it!" moment. And it never stops! There's always more to learn.

And then! I use Chinese to learn other stuff! Learning PHP is ten times as awesome when you do it in Chinese, and you feel it.

Normally I don't brag about it, but I swear on my life, I get that feeling all the time, every day. Man it's fun.
posted by saysthis at 11:25 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

saysthis, learning a language does indeed give you a wonderful feeling, but it takes a hell of a long time, and to be honest (feel free to check my questions for this part) there are still so many times in language learning where at least I, though I imagine it happens to others, encounter a situation or an issue that reduces my confidence and ability to feel good about my Japanese to almost nothing.

That said, going back to the comment about basketball, I'm 5'8", and not remotely slender. In Asia, that usually means I play power forward. I'm horrible at basketball. My shooting is tragically bad, and I can't dribble with my left hand. On the other hand, if you're willing to put in the work, playing defense in basketball, and rebounding are primarily effort. There is a lot to learn, of course (shunting the person you're guarding towards the direction they don't like to drive in, footwork for boxing out) that will help you a lot, but in the end, having the desire to shut the other guy down, and keeping after loose balls long after your legs want to give up, that feeling can't really be beat. No matter how bad I'm playing, or how poorly I'm shooting, there's nothing that makes me feel as alive as playing basketball, and nothing that makes me feel as good as managing to get a steal off a guy who has memorized the moves from an And1 video.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:19 AM on May 12, 2009

My company has downsized from 60 employees in the last few months to 10, and I've only been working there since October of last year. By working hard, I've managed to maintain my position.

When my position was eradicated, I was offered a position in our sales department, something I have no experience in. My new boss told me she had "no expectations" of me in this position, so initially that discouraged the hell out me.

After a few weeks, I'm actually doing pretty well in my new position, so not only am I giving her the big "fuck you," I'm doing something I didn't think I could excel at.
posted by faintly macabre at 9:08 AM on May 16, 2009

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