Drawing and the Zen of Improving the Bad

Are we born with a predetermined set of talents? Do we grow skills from those talents to a certain age and then stop? Are our brains really built with a certain talent set and that core foundation can’t be changed?

If we are good at math, we are good at math. If we are artistic, then we are artistic. If we aren’t good at those things, then we aren’t and there is no changing it.

Or are we not so much skill based but rather we have a set way of thinking? Does that way of thinking, these core abilities influence everything else? 

And is that thinking fixed?

Can we change our core programming?

These questions are very powerful. How we ask them, and what we believe has a lot to say about how we approach learning and self development.

I do believe that we are born and we grow through our formative years with a selection of talents and predispositions. There is a blueprint in our genetics. Then add in some environment and what we learn along the way.

We’ve been asking these questions for a long time, is it nature or nurture? I doubt we will resolve that here. And I don’t even think that it is a binary, one or the other situation.

More than that, it doesn’t seem likely that it is a one or the other situation.

Personally, I believe it is a combination of both.

Similar to what we are just scratching the surface to learn about in genetics. With each new study and experiment we are learning more and more that while we have a blueprint, that blueprint changes over time depending on environment. While there is science to back this up, it also seems logical and fits what we see in the real world.

Personal Bias

It also could be that much like the destiny or freewill debate, I feel better knowing that I have influence over the choices I make, rather than it being written in stone. If life is only an already written, directed, and produced movie where I must play my part and I cannot affect the outcome – then this existence becomes two dimensional.

I know I don’t have control over my life, just over myself and the choices I make. I’m okay with that and it makes total sense in our existence. Anything else, diminishes my role in my own life. And I believe I am responsible for everything I choose to do.

This is why, even after being told my entire life that I’m no good at art, I try to draw. I allowed myself to believe it for a long time. It got in my head, infected me, and I allowed it to define me. I couldn’t even draw a circle so why would I put time into something I was so absolutely bad at.

Except that goes against my core belief system. It goes against how I think about ability and what we put our time into.

Now, I sit down with a notepad,  take out some pencils and have been working at trying to learn to draw better. Any time that I can put pencil to paper, and it’s  recognizable as what I was trying to create, then I’m doing good. I’ve set a very low bar, but that bar is immeasurably higher than it used to be when I wouldn’t even try.

If you believe others stories about you, or your own propaganda than you’ll never do anything differently.

I’m improving at something that I’ve never been good at. And it feels good. I believe in my ability to improve. I believe being good at something because of experience and perseverance means something. It is rewarding.

There is nothing amazing in what you’ve done, if it comes easily. It isn’t a personal accomplishment.

There is no special in being good at something that you were handed. This is merely working to your potential. Surely, we have gifts that we are born with and were developed at a young age. It’s wonderful to be given gifts.

The measure of a person is what they do with what they have been given.

Superpowers are a responsibility, they are not a measure of character. It’s what you do after you get bit by the radioactive spider. You aren’t special because you happened to be in the place to get bit by one.

The bigger test is to go out and work for skills that weren’t just handed to you. I’m never in awe of the kid who doesn’t have to work for their grades, and every test comes easily to them. The born athlete who doesn’t condition, or eat healthy, or workout, or try to grow their ability but who just always does well. It’s a wonderful gift of genetics, but that isn’t anything they did.

Are you naturally skinny, never working out and always eating junk food? Good for you. Be happy these are the genes you were given. You are fortunate and should be grateful. But don’t pat yourself on the back because you didn’t do anything to earn this.

Now the person who has struggled with their weight, who’s parents possibly were diabetic, who watches what they eat but still their body responds with intense cravings even when eating healthy food in moderate amounts, who works out and still is overweight. This person who keeps trying and working for it and fights the urge to give up. This person is showing something about who they are as a person.

So, I’ll keep working on my drawings. I’m okay with not being very good. The fact that I’ve come this far makes me happy.

  • What do you think? I can’t be alone on this one.
  • Do you believe in nature or nurture?
  • Are you in the fixed mindset camp or do you have a growth mindset?
  • What have you worked at that you weren’t very good at or were told you sucked at?
  • What’s your story?
  • Why did you work to get better at this thing that wasn’t a strength for you?

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