I feel like a failure

Posted by: giftedamateur

I feel like a failure - 07/22/22 03:41 PM

First of all, hello to everyone on this forum! I found this place on an internet search a few months ago and I'm glad it exists.

I am probably extremely gifted. I have this specific problem, and I'm increasingly realizing that it all ties back fundamentally to my giftedness and some attributes of my personality. I'm in my early-mid 20s, and I increasingly feel lost and like a failure.

I've tried talking to counselors/therapists about this, and they really don't understand what I mean, and I feel it's impossible to bridge the gap. Because I actually have a lot of achievements to speak of, but it makes me feel more conflicted than satisfied. I am given to understand that many average people feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from their areas of strength and their achievements, but I feel more of a sense of isolation and confusion.

For some background: When I was a child, I was clearly quite intelligent. My first school placed me in an advanced group where they taught reading and math two grade levels above, and I was still very bored and found it very easy. I would time attack the math, solving in 15-30 minutes (for 70-minute tests), doing most of the math in my head, and competing with a few others to try to submit my paper first. I would try to invent math problems, and I figured out mental math to the point where I was faster than all the kids who took abacus classes (as I later got to know) using my own intuitive methods. I would also ask good questions -- for example, at age 8 I asked an engineer (a family friend) whether the size of the infinity on a number line between 0 and 1/2 should be half that of that between 0 and 1. He replied that it wasn't, and that the sizes of the infinities was the same (I got to know why in college: they are both countably infinite.) It's like I was very aware, and had this wondrous world inside my head to which I would escape whenever I had the chance.

I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which is around 750 pages) when I was 7, and I could probably read at 600-800 wpm. I know it's not a terribly difficult book to read, but in general I feel like most books did not faze me past a point unless they had scientific explanations or something which were difficult. I wrote a hundred page story (incomplete though, and it was nothing special in terms of content or plot) when I was 8.

After that, I was not accelerated throughout the rest of school. I still tried to keep up with my initial precocity, but without any guidance or teaching, there was only so much I could do. In high school, I did try out the math olympiad and got to the national level (and did get supplementary math education), but I wasn't really interested and didn't work for it after that. It also made me deeply uncomfortable that other kids seemed to be much slower to understand "obvious" concepts. I rationalized that everyone could actually learn much faster than what was taught in class if they opened their eyes and "saw" the concepts as just putting into words obvious observations, such as the parabolic path of a ball in air -- everyone plays sports, so they know it intuitively, right? It's just a matter of translation...

Another thing: Since 5th grade, I explicitly had this awareness that school and college was a series of hoops. My parents told me that, yes, school was a series of hoops, but the world is like that, and you have to pass through those in order to get into a good college where you can shine. And now, it seems like it's hoops all the way down, and that the world is made for disciplined people who grind and get very good at particular subjects so that they're useful to society, not weirdos like me.

I went to a top math college, but didn't actually like abstract math -- I still graduated, though. It was also during this time that I finally accepted the validity of IQ, because I saw all the studies (CHC theory etc.) and realized that at a statistical level, it was undeniable. But it was a very painful realization. I also got really interested in music, and started playing an instrument, which I got into to the point where I wanted to make it a career -- but at this point it was all self-taught, and by the time I got a teacher, I was two decades behind everyone else who was taking this seriously -- so no matter how good I got, I would still be average because of how late I started in all likelihood.

So now I'm in this position. When someone compliments me on picking up a skill fast, I don't feel anything, maybe some guilt or regret for not actually amounting to anything. Some anger at the world and a sense of isolation and almost discrimination which I can't really convey to people -- I mean, after all, life does suck for everyone, so it's not like I'm being disproportionately discriminated against. I got interested in stuff too late, and didn't have proper teaching, and although I did do very well from what I could (largely) teach myself, I can only help but feel that my life could have been completely different with good coaching and if I trained at something properly since childhood. The closest I got to that was math, and I still feel a bit guilty about quitting it, but how could I sustain it without real interest?

Sorry for the long post. I really hope to get some responses -- no one I know is in a similar situation to mine, and talking to mental health professionals makes me realize that I'm in a very small minority which they (most) can not serve. I actually think that given everything I'm worried about, I'm holding up surprisingly well. And that I do have legitimate grievances, even though no one seems to understand it because on the surface, I am pretty successful (anyone good at math can make a high six-figure salary nowadays if they sell their soul :/). But it gets very difficult to make sense of everything when literally the only person who can help you or give you advice is yourself.
Posted by: aeh

Re: I feel like a failure - 07/28/22 10:07 AM

Welcome!

First, let me affirm that you do have accomplishments--and I refer not so much to the typical career and academic markers, but that you have managed to maintain some level of optimism that this (your existing degree, career, earnings, etc.) is not all there is. The psychic restlessness that you describe isn't entirely a bad thing, even if it may cause you some distress at times, as it has also inspired you to continue growing, learning, and exploring new fields and interests, seeking something more than external markers of success.

Second, I would encourage you not to view pursuits such as music as something in which you are two decades behind. (And I'll note that there are some areas where intensive formal training is not even recommended by all teachers until entering adulthood--for example, many vocal coaches of the bel canto school will not begin formal instruction of male vocalists until they are 18.) Instead of regretting the years when you were not training in a particular area, take some gratification in growth and forward progress in the present, and in the delight of the study itself. Regardless of ability, everyone has the same 24 hours a day, which necessarily limits the maximal development of every potential in a multipotentiality individual. This is not personal failure, just a practical manifestation of being finite creatures restricted in time and space.

Not to mention, the assumption that you cannot "catch up" to those who started in childhood is not necessarily accurate. Amelita Galli-Curci, the Spanish-Italian coloratura, was a conservatory trained pianist, but a self-taught singer until she was well established in her concert career. The Russian composer Alexander Borodin was a professor of chemistry and medicine, but a self-taught composer who began studies with a musician only in his late 20s.

And with regard to "amounting to anything," this is more metaphysical than otherwise. What determines your value? You have already established that it is not your financial earnings or your academic credentials. Respectfully (without knowing your faith, political or philosophical leanings), I would encourage you to reflect on your own values, and to observe those around you who appear to have a sense of purpose and life satisfaction not based on shallow accomplishments. They may or may not be your intellectual peers, but if their experience of success, satisfaction and community arises from something other than accomplishments, there may still be gleanings for you.
Posted by: indigo

Re: I feel like a failure - 07/28/22 10:52 PM

Glad you found the forum, giftedamateur!

You've already received great thoughts from aeh.
smile

I'll just add that gifted persons such as yourself may benefit from consulting with a professional who specializes in gifted issues (and may themselves be gifted with high IQ). The lists and information on the Hoagies Gifted Education Page may be a good starting place: https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/psychologists.htm. A professional who specializes in giftedness may have a better understanding of this large yet invisible part of one's self-identity, the lack of validation and affirmation which many gifted persons experience, its impact upon existential issues, and patterns of thought related to self-improvement, professional development, belonging, self-acceptance, over-thinking and second-guessing.

Hoagies also lists some interesting books by known authors who specialize in gifted.

In my observation and experience, as most people live and learn their interests change and evolve. Which is to say that had someone come alongside you with intense music coaching and lessons when you were younger, your own personal discovery of an interest in music may have been thwarted. Your internal, visceral response to music may have been overwhelmed or drowned out by a system of external rewards for practicing and performing at an early age. Have you heard of Tiger Parenting? (wikipedia link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_parenting ) Related to this is Amy Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and the Wall Street Journal's article discussing the book (wikipedia link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Hymn_of_the_Tiger_Mother)
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: I feel like a failure - 07/29/22 04:46 PM

Aeh and Indigo have eloquently given sage advice - I only have a few peripheral thoughts to add.

Whilst society often celebrates and rewards those who are at the top of their game, it can be personally rewarding to be a ‘Jack/Jill of many trades & master of none’. A more positive term which my son uses is ‘polymath’. He’s never had a competitive spirit, it’s always about PBs and self improvement and so his progress is largely self determined and with access to digital resources, less prone to being thwarted.

Broad knowledge and skill sets are invaluable for problem solving in the workplace and at different levels of society. It is possible to derive great personal satisfaction from being instrumental in solving problems that would otherwise impact lives even without formal external recognition.

It is interesting to read articles on interviews with one of this year’s Fields medal recipients - by his accounts, June Huh ‘wandered’ through high school and undergrad university, spending time writing poetry and developing music appreciation and only started earnestly focusing on mathematics during his postgrad years. His broadened experience seems to have positively shaped his approach to mathematics & life. I’m not suggesting that you should rekindle an interest in maths if you don’t have any real interest, but I hope you find the right interests and opportunities.

I do know several brilliant mathematicians (international olympians, university medallists) who sought senior academic or tenured research careers in mathematics but settled for well paid jobs in the financial sector. I’ve had a number of serious & heartfelt discussions with my son about the different values and rewards of jobs that are productive vs extractive in the context of wider society. I share your discouragement at the lack of apparent opportunities for you to exercise your abilities for mutual personal and societal benefit. I can only urge you to keep your mind open for opportunities to learn, grow and help others.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 07/31/22 07:07 PM

I'm curious what your current interests and experiences include, and what events surrounded your recent interest in music as a career. What steps have you taken to assess your competitiveness in music with objective sources?

As aeh has suggested, life satisfaction comes from living in alignment with our values. It's important to know yours. You might find Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning" a helpful tool in becoming attuned to what gives you a sense of purpose. The Stoic philosophers, like Marcus Aurelius ("Meditations"), are another excellent resource to help you consider your values system.

To an extent, polymaths just have to choose a lane and commit for a time to determine fit (Newton's method for life). In your early-20s, you won't have a sense of the degree to which life is fluid, or the extent to which new paths can be forged (and with what success or difficulty). Many of us here have multiple graduate degrees - and multiple careers. It can be done, and it's common. However, it does require letting go of the idea of being "best", because anything new demands a beginner's outlook. Get honest with yourself about what you're valuing - is it internally or externally mediated? Chances are, it's both.

Suggest you keep a journal of interesting articles you encounter or thoughts that arise. You'll start seeing patterns in areas that are tangential to your math studies that do intrigue you. If music is a fit for you, it will feature prominently.

It's easy when your life has been a predetermined path to find yourself rudderless when the initial offering feels lackluster. You're unaccustomed to having the degree of agency you currently enjoy. Don't shy away from that power.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans are only just dipping a toe into the pool of actualization. The challenge of finding deep intellectual purpose - at a population level - is an artefact of the last 200 years, and even then for only some cultures. Personally, I think actualization can only ever be achieved indirectly in pursuit of our core values, not as an end in and of itself.

How can you make this process easier? Do difficult things every day. Physically challenging tasks that shut down mental chatter and require mindfulness are effective for me. Practice doing something daily that you know you will fail at. Learn to crave failure and the opportunity to do better the next time. When new skills come easily, frustration tolerance is the relatively undeveloped skill. The path you're on will require courage and grit to navigate. You may have to shed the skin you've lived in, or stich together a new one that you would never have imagined would fit. The only way to the other side is through the fire.

You can do it.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/04/22 06:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

Whilst society often celebrates and rewards those who are at the top of their game, it can be personally rewarding to be a ‘Jack/Jill of many trades & master of none’. A more positive term which my son uses is ‘polymath’. He’s never had a competitive spirit, it’s always about PBs and self improvement and so his progress is largely self determined and with access to digital resources, less prone to being thwarted.

I have been that person, to an extent. I always wanted to be able to learn and do things on my own, to a large part because I was self-aware that I was simply not getting appropriate instruction, and I really did not want to stagnate. To be honest, it's nothing special, but I did learn math, could write quite well on my own, figured out table tennis by playing with friends although I didn't really have an athletic talent, learned how to play the piano, and there's a bunch of stuff I don't list because I just passively keep up to date with stuff like psychology or philosophy or some random thing I didn't know I knew until it crops up in conversation. I would say I have a rather passable understanding of philosophy, for example.

It's really hard for me to assess my own ability when it comes to a field, though, and instead, I tend to assume the worst. After all, there's hordes of people with 4-year degrees out there, and it almost seems insulting to them to imply that I have a comparable understanding, so I assume by default that I don't. It's kind of hard to explain -- it's easy enough to read research papers in many fields, and psychology in particular, I find. Since I don't put in effort, I don't feel like I've learned anything, but I probably know more than I let on. I feel more confused than anything about why certain things feel difficult to people, and I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that there is indeed perhaps some part of it that I'm missing by nature of me not having formally studied that subject, which might make it hard.

What I mean to say is that I feel, at least subjectively, that I can pick up most college textbooks, and read and understand them just fine without trying too hard. And constantly reading about stuff online makes it so that I have a certain passive knowledge base and certain skills. I'm rather confident that I can pick up a new subject and sort of learn it pretty fast.

But it doesn't feel like "real learning". College most certainly doesn't feel like real learning -- I am doing a Masters' degree and it's pretty [SPAM] easy. Well, I don't quite know what hard is supposed to feel like. But I can get an A in the classes by going through the slides and assignments a day before the exam (in computer science) without having attended classes. But perhaps college courses are supposed to be easy. I know several others who seem to leave their studying for the last day and still do fine, so maybe the course is indeed very easy.

So, being a polymath of sorts, I start to feel like I haven't done anything with my life, because if only I could dedicate a serious amount of time and study to something, I might be "actually" good at it, and that might feel meaningful. Being a jack of all trades feels kind of pointless. Sure, you could add one more "useless" skill to your toolbox: so what? You could speedrun any number of Coursera courses (which is something I've kind of done before), and you have new "information", but later on you realize that in order to improve yourself, you need a higher level of challenge, not just more of the same. It feels like you're atrophying, like how it would feel if your elementary school teacher simply gave you more instances of a problem you had mastered as extra work to keep you busy.

I wonder if others here share this experience.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/04/22 06:32 PM

Originally Posted By: aquinas
I'm curious what your current interests and experiences include, and what events surrounded your recent interest in music as a career. What steps have you taken to assess your competitiveness in music with objective sources?

Currently, I'm on my way to becoming a programmer (because I haven't been able to figure out anything else in my life, so why not I guess).

My interest in piano started about 5 years ago, although I only managed to get a teacher last year. It started when someone showed me a video of someone playing a song I knew well on the piano, and I was awestruck by the realization that you could play 3 or more different textures/voices at the same time at the piano, effectively imitating an orchestra. I really wanted to learn the piano, but people repeatedly told me it could not be done as an adult. So I figured I had nothing to lose by applying my idiosyncratic way of learning to this new thing, and it worked, better than pretty much anyone I know who's been self-taught.

Then, once I started shopping around for a teacher, it seems like teachers don't quite know what to say or how to react. In general, the consensus seems to be: It's incredible to get so far for someone learning on their own regardless of whether it's a child or an adult, and doubly so for someone who's an "adult" (well, still in my 20s), that I was able to teach myself fairly decent technique but it's certainly not as good as someone who had a very good teacher and foundation. That if only I had started as a child. Because we all know adults can never get really good at the piano.

But I play *poorly* by any objective standard! And this is frustrating me immensely. I get different feedback from different teachers. A teacher said that I was sort of playing at a university level (but I'm not sure if I can trust that). My current teacher thinks that I am indeed a beginner, but I do have some talent, and I've been working on basic technique, while simultaneously working on intermediate/advanced pieces. University professors will think I suck and don't have a foundation and should have started as a child, and ordinary teachers have no clue how to teach someone like me.

Quote:

To an extent, polymaths just have to choose a lane and commit for a time to determine fit (Newton's method for life). In your early-20s, you won't have a sense of the degree to which life is fluid, or the extent to which new paths can be forged (and with what success or difficulty). Many of us here have multiple graduate degrees - and multiple careers. It can be done, and it's common.

It depends on how difficult the careers are. I think most careers are not that hard, someone for example can easily become a programmer in 1-2 years, or a manager if they do an MBA. If you already have a ton of experience in one field, you can jump to a related field.

But it feels like doing anything *interesting* in the world takes over a decade of solid effort invested in something, since childhood. Most jobs seem to be mundane, plug-and-play affairs where your job is to understand a not-so-complex system and do what's already been done.

Quote:

How can you make this process easier? Do difficult things every day. Physically challenging tasks that shut down mental chatter and require mindfulness are effective for me. Practice doing something daily that you know you will fail at. Learn to crave failure and the opportunity to do better the next time. When new skills come easily, frustration tolerance is the relatively undeveloped skill.

I do things all the time I know I will fail at. The problem I have is that there's only so many hours in a day, that I'm not "talented" so I need to put in some 5-10 years of effort to get good at anything. And becoming world class is just not on the cards because I started 20 years too late. I feel like anything "big" I can contribute will already have been done by someone who started way earlier, and anything "small" seems pointless because it could have been done by anyone, so it's not using your talents at all.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/05/22 08:42 AM

I'm going to save you some time by delivering a few hard truths. It would likely take several years in therapy for you to reach this point, as therapists aren't so blunt. Consider this a gift of knowledge that will save you from wasting your young life, not criticism.

1. Talent is only developed meaningfully with significant time and effort. There's no magic bullet. You have to put in the time on task if you expect proficiency in any career or pursuit.

You might have heard the expression "hard work beats talent when talent isn't working hard." A minimum threshold of talent is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. I suspect you have met or exceeded that threshold, so effort will drive your results.

2. As to jobs being boring - many are. The interesting jobs go to the people who create organizations and build new visions, and employees are hired to fill gaps.

Even interesting careers will require some grunt work to develop foundational skills and build relationships. Either decide to invest the time to become proficient or choose differently. The world doesn't lack for interesting challenges to solve. If you stick with a path, even a moderate level of skill will likely give you access to interesting work. If you don't like what's on offer, start your own firm. Life is flexible.

3. I hear a lot of fear of failure in your post, which is a form of perfectionism.

It's not uncommon for very bright people who haven't been challenged to set false binary standards (in your case, world class or nothing.) Statistically, your odds of being world-class at anything in your early 20s are close to zero, so dispense with that unhelpful mindset. Aim for very good.

A common deflection is to dismiss available options as being not interesting or challenging enough. These are ego defenses, not rational thinking. Beginner jobs are for beginners. You haven't earned the next level until you pass through the early stage.

4. You're never going to be a child again, so stop wasting energy lamenting what could have been. If piano is something you value, build a plan with realistic goals and stick to it. Any piano teacher with a BMus can provide this at your level. As you progress, you can get referrals to more advanced instruction, or simply enjoy the fruits of your effort. Both are valid options.

5. As to "big" vs "small" successes: big achievements are only possible through a series of small ones. No one summits a mountain in ten steps.

6. Reading the resources I shared upthread will help you organize your values, which will go a long way to giving you a sense of purpose and direction.

7. Volunteering is another valuable way to build purpose and identify problems you'd like to solve. Brilliant ideas seldom come out of thin air. They're often the product of experience and grinding against systems and processes that don't function well. Getting out of your own head and taking a broader perspective would do you good.

Good luck.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/05/22 11:58 AM

Thank you for your reply, and I think your points are worth pondering over, but, that said, some questions come to mind:
Originally Posted By: aquinas

1. Talent is only developed meaningfully with significant time and effort. There's no magic bullet. You have to put in the time on task if you expect proficiency in any career or pursuit.

I wouldn't mind this so much if the investment wasn't so high. If you need to spend 5-10,000 hours working on something for uncertain reward, even if you're talented, that becomes very difficult to do. Increasingly, it seems like almost every field is like that. And as gifted children, we don't end up realizing this unless we were challenged immensely as kids, and once we're adults, it's too late to put in that kind of effort simply because there isn't enough time left, and I can't help but feel bitter about that fact. Again, I'm passable at a lot of things, I might be able to get into grad school for whatever I studied, and maybe a number of other topics if they didn't weigh so heavily on having a related degree, because I can easily self-study the material, and most fields are not really hard at the Masters level to study on your own if that makes sense. I've had friends doing grad school in math, and I think many of them shared this sentiment.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

You might have heard the expression "hard work beats talent when talent isn't working hard." A minimum threshold of talent is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. I suspect you have met or exceeded that threshold, so effort will drive your results.

There have been studies where they have showed that the top 10% of an already very gifted population does much better than the others. All of these talented people do work hard when they actually get into professions, such as in grad school from what I've seen -- yes, theoretically, they could be working harder. They only spend 2-4 hours a day. But I've tried putting in more hours than that, but I fail every time because my mind does not cooperate with 8 hours of solid effort a day. So I don't see myself out-working them.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

A common deflection is to dismiss available options as being not interesting or challenging enough. These are ego defenses, not rational thinking. Beginner jobs are for beginners. You haven't earned the next level until you pass through the early stage.

From what I've seen, this is not true. Beginner jobs often waste time, time that could be spent learning, and I think your time might be better spent getting a better education, improving your skill set and gunning directly for difficult jobs. I know that you're well-meaning in the sense of it being the way the world works, but I don't think it's optimal is all. Bill Gates went to college, came up with his own algorithm for sorting in freshman year, quit college and directly went into founding a company, for example, and he didn't get into a beginning job. Did he earn the next level, or did he just go for it?

Originally Posted By: aquinas

As you progress, you can get referrals to more advanced instruction, or simply enjoy the fruits of your effort. Both are valid options.

My current piano teacher has a doctorate. It doesn't give me that satisfaction, maybe because I have so much experience being that very precocious kid that I can't get over the feeling that I've lost something. Like my achievements at a younger age were so much more impressive from an objective standpoint. Now I'm realizing that interest or passion is a sham, and can't replace pure hard work. So even if you grow up learning something you hate to a high level, you will be better at that than something you pick up afterwards, even though you hate the former and love the latter.

Originally Posted By: aquinas

5. As to "big" vs "small" successes: big achievements are only possible through a series of small ones. No one summits a mountain in ten steps.

True, but the small successes need to be the right ones, in the right order, for them to build up to something bigger. You need to know which successes to pursue which will actually get you up the mountain, and that is not easy to tell. You often see that successful people have this kind of "insider information".
Posted by: Val

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 09:32 AM

I think the problem here isn’t about hours if practice or beginner jobs or starting something in childhood or whatever. The problem is that growing up is a very hard thing to do.

You’ve been given wonderful advice by every person here who replied to you. The way your responses are written tells me that you need to do some growing up. This means learning to accept that working hard is an essential part of success. It means accepting that the beginner jobs you look down on are actually the foundation of the advanced ones. You may not see this yet because, lacking the essential skills that are gained from working in a fast food joint or in a retail shop, you can’t see their value.

So, the thing here is that you have to grow up. This involves accepting that your future is largely your responsibility. It involves accepting that if you want ever to feel that you’ve accomplished something meaningful, you’re going to have to put in 8 hours a day. It involves accepting that nothing worth having comes easily.

Growing up is hard. It involves throwing away many juvenile ideas in favor of accepting hard truths. This process isn’t easy for anyone. I wish you well.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 11:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Val

You’ve been given wonderful advice by every person here who replied to you. The way your responses are written tells me that you need to do some growing up. This means learning to accept that working hard is an essential part of success. It means accepting that the beginner jobs you look down on are actually the foundation of the advanced ones. You may not see this yet because, lacking the essential skills that are gained from working in a fast food joint or in a retail shop, you can’t see their value.

So, the thing here is that you have to grow up. This involves accepting that your future is largely your responsibility. It involves accepting that if you want ever to feel that you’ve accomplished something meaningful, you’re going to have to put in 8 hours a day. It involves accepting that nothing worth having comes easily.

Growing up is hard. It involves throwing away many juvenile ideas in favor of accepting hard truths. This process isn’t easy for anyone. I wish you well.

Respectfully, I'm disappointed with this post. "Growing up" whenever I see it used seems to me a euphemism for abandoning your passions and accepting the harsh reality of life. The context I see it used by a lot of people my age, is where they have finally realized that going after difficult jobs is pointless, and that what the real point of life is, is to get a decent paying job, start a family and settle somewhere. This depresses me. I will admit that I haven't worked at a fast food joint, but this was by choice, because I was occupying myself with trying to get better at my interests, and because I was confident that I'd be able to get a high paying job afterwards anyway. My problem is that I have a hard time accepting that I'm not special, and no matter how hard I work, I feel like I do not have the intelligence and temperament to become a high-level researcher, musician, writer, etc. and that I'll be relegated as I always have been to "boring" programming jobs. Or other jobs which are equally mundane. You would probably argue, life is "mundane" and you need to grow up and realize it! But if life really is as mundane as I see it now, instead of giving me motivation to work harder, it's only making me depressed.

You might think of this as being an immature viewpoint. But I don't use any of the math I learned in my entire degree. I can't use any of the writing skills I've developed over the years. I can't use my musical talent. However, because I can think logically, I can become a programmer no problem. But so what? It doesn't use any of my talents, and I just see myself atrophying over the years and wishing I was younger so I actually had the chance to find a passion and do well at it.

The problem isn't that I don't put in 8 hours a day. If I could achieve my goals just by working 8 hours (well, ok, more like 4 hours) a day for 2-3 years, I would do it. I'm frustrated that you seem to be blaming my "laziness" to be the issue. I'm not lazy, and I wonder where my posts seemed to convey that I was. The problem is that I'm not getting anywhere no matter what I put in. You can learn any number of "average" skills, but while you might find meaning in the ordinary activities of life, I don't see why you could expect everyone else to do so as well.

The fact that you talk about putting in 8 hours a day makes me think you've not thought this through. Diminishing returns set in pretty heavily after about 4 hours. If you mean sitting around or doing relatively menial tasks (stocking the shelves, answering email) that's fine but I don't see why that would help you attain a level of skill. On the other hand, if you can focus like a laser for 8 hours every day, that is extremely impressive to me, as I've driven myself crazy trying to do just that, but I simply can't. At some point my brain seems to get so fatigued that it becomes hard to string together coherent sentences, and this is probably after 4-5 hours. Not that I put in that amount daily, but I've tried, and it's incredibly hard.

I can't understand how someone could seriously write what's written here after really reading my posts. I showed vulnerability (and trust me, it's not that easy to open up to strangers on a forum) by honestly expressing where my frustrations come from, because these are things I seldom mention to people I know because it would come across as whiny, and no one wants to hear how someone obviously "successful" is oh-so-depressed and feeling like a failure.
And the response: You need essential skills gained from working at a fast food joint, nothing comes easily!!

The problem with telling someone quite intelligent that "all jobs are worthy" is that it trivializes their existential suffering. It's like telling the protagonist in Good Will Hunting that janitors have a worthy job, and that he should "grow up" and be happy about his circumstances. I find it ridiculous, but perhaps I'm too dumb to see the merit in such an argument.

Just to clarify, I really appreciate the other posts in the thread. It's just this one which struck a nerve.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 11:45 AM

Originally Posted By: aquinas

You might have heard the expression "hard work beats talent when talent isn't working hard." A minimum threshold of talent is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. I suspect you have met or exceeded that threshold, so effort will drive your results.

Now that I think about it, I feel like the problem is that I don't think I quite meet this threshold. At the same time, I don't have a single overwhelming interest which I would want to pursue; instead I have multiple I'm interested in to varying degrees. Experience has taught me to be cynical and realize that passion is a fleeting thing. My experience suggests that I could have become world class at something if I had found a "calling", but because my efforts were dispersed, and perhaps because I didn't have any teachers who could teach me about the topics I enjoyed and a complete lack of any peers in my areas of interest, it did not happen and I lost interest after a few years, and somehow accepted that I would have to teach myself everything in school because no one could teach me what I wanted to learn. Which again leads me to wonder whether you should just commit to a path and stick it through, even if you don't like it, because it almost feels like a waste to let that potential slip away.

I feel like this idea of wanting to do something well (near world-class) is so entrenched in my mind that it feels like not striving for something big goes against my very identity. While it might be somewhat unhealthy in a sense, I know just how much more miserable I was throughout school when there was no challenge, so perhaps it's for the better? In a way, I want to make up for lost time, am killing myself for it, but I'm realizing eventually that time lost is time lost, and nothing can be done about it.

Combined with all of this is an insistence on not giving up, and a refusal to accept that there are things that can not be learned. Whenever someone says you can't learn something, I become bent on proving them wrong. And here's the thing, I usually end up learning it fairly well in some way. But the fact that others said it was impossible sticks in my head, and it becomes a moving goalpost. For example, saying "adults can't learn math" (not really true, but stick with me) can mean that adults can't figure out how to do long division, or it could mean adults can't figure out Riemannian Geometry or something if they didn't start as children. When long division comes to you easily, and so does calculus starting as an adult, you wonder -- maybe I'm just average and I misunderstood what it means to really understand math. I don't really understand math, I just know some easy tricks to calculate derivatives and integrals. But in your mind, you still can't get rid of the belief that adults can't learn math.

I know it can be frustrating to hear me ramble about this, because it seems like I'm refusing to accept offered solutions, but I hope I'm able to convey that I'm not countering the suggestions just because I'm trying to be dense, but rather because I would be interested in hearing something which goes deeper and which is more nuanced. For example, it is trivial to state that effort is necessary and we've all heard the proverb since we were six years old, but what should you work hard for? What constitutes working hard? When do you know something is impossible even if you work hard, and when should you quit? It is the setting of priorities in your life which is the really difficult thing to do, and where you would actually need help. I mean, if someone was sitting on the couch playing video games all day, you could ask them to work hard and you'd be justified, but it's hardly reasonable advice for someone already working their a** off and getting nowhere!
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 10:45 PM

Quote:
My problem is that I have a hard time accepting that I'm not special


You've articulated your root issue.

Brene Brown addresses this in her book "Daring Greatly": "When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose."

Welcome to the human condition. Life is difficult. Nobody is exempt from suffering, and most of our suffering is self-inflicted. You are not unique.

A degree of narcissism is a normative condition in adolescence. You're now seeing yourself with some external reference for the first time, with the knowledge that you alone are responsible for what you become, and it's daunting.

Val's advice is excellent.

Go read the books I shared; you'll find them enlightening. If you're hungering for greatness, the wisdom of a prodigious Roman emperor and a Holocaust survivor who birthed a new field of psychiatry are difficult sources to beat. Volunteer at something you feel is beneath you and humble yourself by serving others. These actions will help you develop clarity around your internal value system. You need a rudder.

Or, if you're a maverick, be a Bill Gates and start your own firm. Nothing is stopping you. I guarantee you'll work harder launching a firm than you ever will as an employee.

How do you know a given choice or path is the "right" one? You don't. Life is stochastic, not deterministic. Weight the probabilities and decide.

Also, go back and re-read Val's post with an open mind. It struck a nerve because it was accurate.

You can do this.

Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 10:50 PM

Quote:
I feel like this idea of wanting to do something well (near world-class) is so entrenched in my mind that it feels like not striving for something big goes against my very identity.


The sooner you abandon this unhelpful mindset, the better.

Somewhere in your upbringing, you've been taught some combination of the following:

1. You are what you do
2. You are loved or valued when you produce
3. You don't exist when you are anything other than the best

You now know that this messaging is damaging to your taking concrete action and sense of well-being.

Excellence is a worthy goal, but not absent a larger purpose that informs and defines *why* you are striving. Humans live best as vectors, not scalars.

Values sorting
https://www.thegoodproject.org/value-sort

Strengths inventory / ranking
https://www.viacharacter.org/character-strengths
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/08/22 10:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Val
I think the problem here isn’t about hours if practice or beginner jobs or starting something in childhood or whatever. The problem is that growing up is a very hard thing to do.

You’ve been given wonderful advice by every person here who replied to you. The way your responses are written tells me that you need to do some growing up. This means learning to accept that working hard is an essential part of success. It means accepting that the beginner jobs you look down on are actually the foundation of the advanced ones. You may not see this yet because, lacking the essential skills that are gained from working in a fast food joint or in a retail shop, you can’t see their value.

So, the thing here is that you have to grow up. This involves accepting that your future is largely your responsibility. It involves accepting that if you want ever to feel that you’ve accomplished something meaningful, you’re going to have to put in 8 hours a day. It involves accepting that nothing worth having comes easily.

Growing up is hard. It involves throwing away many juvenile ideas in favor of accepting hard truths. This process isn’t easy for anyone. I wish you well.


Excellent post. This could have been mailed to every one of us on the cusp of adulthood, and we would all have benefited from it.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:44 AM

aquinas -- I don't want to be hard on you because your sentiment is appreciated, but this is remarkably trite advice. I don't feel heard because my ideas aren't being responded to directly, and what's being responded to instead is a hypothetical idea of what I am, perhaps driven by your own experiences. I hoped for something more substantial.

Brene Brown (I don't trust her, she has an agenda and is promoting something; I would not take it at all as an unbiased source: I agree with several of the Reddit comments here: https://www.reddit.com/r/CriticalTheory/comments/qml0tt/why_do_i_hate_brene_brown/).

You're seeing yourself from an external standpoint for the first time... presuppositions -- I've had these kinds of thoughts ever since the beginning of college.

1. You are what you do
2. You are loved or valued when you produce
3. You don't exist when you are anything other than the best

I was never taught any of this. My parents never talked about my academics and tried their best to avoid it completely. I was the one who pushed myself.

Welcome to the human condition. Life is difficult... again, stating the obvious and patronizing, assuming that I had actually not thought about this five years ago (I did, everyone hammers it over your head anyway.)

Humble yourself by serving others... again, why the hell am I pronounced guilty of arrogance by default?! And who says I haven't served others? Well, I know I've helped a lot of people online -- I suppose that doesn't count because I wasn't directly interacting with marginalized sections of society.

All in all, the tone comes across as extremely condescending, and you've made a lot of assumptions about me, without bothering to check, which are untrue.

Val's post is useless. It asks me to accept "hard truths" without explaining how, and what kinds of truths we should accept. It could mean anything from asking you to accept you won't become an Olympic runner, to accepting that life is pointless. It proposes "getting a job" as a magical solution to seeing the value of essential skills I've missed, which seems to me a very American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. (Plus, I have gotten a job before right out of college, just not at a fast food joint or something, but I suppose that doesn't count.) It insinuates that I'm not working hard enough, somehow ignoring the fact that I've been working harder than most people I know. And I find the "work harder" rhetoric to be very toxic, because you can then always conveniently blame the victim for their situation where they weren't working hard enough. Why won't you work 6 hours a day? 8 hours a day? 12 hours a day? I mean, come on!

And you guys constantly refuse to respond to any explanations I try to give, perhaps as rationalizations unworthy of being contended with seriously (if you think they are, have the courage to say so openly!). Way to go, Sturgeon's law never disappoints.
Posted by: spaghetti

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 06:40 AM

If this is the way you treat people and their thoughts in real life, no wonder.

Instead of criticizing responses from people who are taking the time to engage with you, could you consider asking questions? For example, if you feel you're being judged arrogant, ask if that's true.
Ask if people find you arrogant and what leads them to that thought?
The way I see it (as a parent of young DYS adults), the something you are looking for may not be found at this time in your life, and as a probably complex person, may require a lot of hard personal work on understanding yourself.
You've shown an interest in doing the work by coming here. That's a great start. One kind of therapy we've found successful over here is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). "The Happiness Trap" is an associated book.

People have been willing to engage with you and try to assist, and I urge you to not look for reasons to dismiss, but reasons to fully understand what has been said to you. Really, life can be that hard.

Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 08:07 AM

Giftedamateur,

What you're currently doing isn't working, otherwise you wouldn't be here asking for advice.

Instead of lashing out, which prolongs the suffering, sit with the discomfort and be honest with yourself.

You have articulated your problem:

Quote:
My problem is that I have a hard time accepting that I'm not special


Quote:
It is the setting of priorities in your life which is the really difficult thing to do, and where you would actually need help.


See the resources shared and avail yourself of them.
Posted by: Val

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 08:29 AM

Quote:
"Growing up" whenever I see it used seems to me a euphemism for abandoning your passions and accepting the harsh reality of life. The context I see it used by a lot of people my age, is where they have finally realized that going after difficult jobs is pointless, and that what the real point of life is, is to get a decent paying job, start a family and settle somewhere.


Growing up means accepting that hard work is an absolute entry requirement for success. It doesn’t guarantee success. It’s just a requirement — even for getting a decent job, starting a family and settling. Personally, these are not things I’d criticize.



Quote:
Val's post is useless. It asks me to accept "hard truths" without explaining how, and what kinds of truths we should accept. … It insinuates that I'm not working hard enough, somehow ignoring the fact that I've been working harder than most people I know.


A person can have a passion for theoretical physics, but s/he’ll never become a theoretical physicist without spending a lot of time learning very difficult mathematics. The passion for physics doesn’t replace the fact that a lot of the work of that learning is drudgery. It’s the same in pretty much any field, from running a restaurant to raising a child to running a business or making a movie.

If you want the thrill of making a scientific discovery or a critically acclaimed film, you need to put in an enormous amount of effort. And a lot of that effort is dull drudgery. This is even more so if you start a business on your own: you make the decisions, but until you raise cash, you also do the cleaning and the filing and everything else.

This is a hard truth. Accepting that success requires hard work, and then acting to achieve excellence, is the kind of thing that separates those who actually succeed from those who only think about succeeding. Stop thinking about your wings and fly.*


Quote:
They only spend 2-4 hours a day. But I've tried putting in more hours than that, but I fail every time because my mind does not cooperate with 8 hours of solid effort a day.


Unless you have a condition that limits your ability to work (and I’m not asking you to reveal that if you do), if you’re putting in 2-4 hours a day, you’re not trying. You’re pretending to try.

Your future is yours to shape. It’s your responsibility to make things happen. While your childhood shapes who you become, it doesn’t have to define it. So you didn’t get to learn piano as a kid. Okay. If you want to learn to play, it’s up to you to make that happen, now.

*Paraphrased from Middlemarch.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 10:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Val
It’s just a requirement — even for getting a decent job, starting a family and settling.

It's not so necessary for getting a good job in my experience. Again, I got a fairly good job by winging it at their interview, I graduated college (which was a top college) again while putting in less than an hour each day and skipping all of my classes because I preferred to teach myself, and because I kind of disliked the study material. I see most smart people getting into jobs without working too hard. Even at jobs, if they are smart enough, they can afford to be lazy. You might be correct for the average person, but this absolutely does not hold if you have some level of giftedness imo. Which is precisely why I picked this forum, lol.

Originally Posted By: Val

A person can have a passion for theoretical physics, but s/he’ll never become a theoretical physicist without spending a lot of time learning very difficult mathematics. The passion for physics doesn’t replace the fact that a lot of the work of that learning is drudgery. This is a hard truth.

This is not a hard truth, it is obvious. And I have no problem spending time. The problem is the sacrifices, the lack of forming relationships etc., the opportunity cost, and despite all that, the fact that I don't succeed. The hard truth is that you will never get there, that it is impossible, and that you can burn yourself and ruin your present chasing the wind. This is the hard truth I'm trying to face. I don't nearly have the numbers of hours in the day to give for everything to work out as well, so I constantly need to figure out what I'm willing to give up.

Originally Posted By: Val

Unless you have a condition that limits your ability to work (and I’m not asking you to reveal that if you do), if you’re putting in 2-4 hours a day, you’re not trying. You’re pretending to try.

The perils of being honest. This is the response everyone gives me when I tell them how hard I work. So instead, in real life, I lie about how much I work, and the results "speak for themselves" so people are none the wiser. Maybe you have never worked with the kind of intensity I'm talking about. Maybe I have a problem with concentration which limits my ability to work, and I have wondered about this when all sorts of people claim to work 8-10 hours a day. But are they honest? They almost always have nothing to show for it. On the other hand, in those 2-4 hours, I get more done than most people get done in a day, by far, because I try to *actually* work hard, not just sit at my desk. It's actual intense mental work, which most people, and from what it looks like, you as well, don't seem to understand. I don't know if I can explain it to someone who doesn't know what it means. It's actual deliberate practice. You can do grunt work for much longer.

Originally Posted By: Val
If you want to learn to play, it’s up to you to make that happen, now.

Feel good advice, because I cannot *make that happen now*. If I could, I wouldn't be posting here. I can get okayishly good at it, and teachers say I'm moderately to very talented depending on who you ask, but I started too late, so playing piano at a high level can not happen, by all accounts. Still, I can't help myself but try, but this is interfering heavily with my life because I need to start earning, at which point it will become even more impossible to try to learn the piano. So the question is, I suppose, should I "grow up" and accept the harsh reality that it's too late, and that I should just start earning and become your average productive member of society?
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 11:13 AM

Quote:
I don't nearly have the numbers of hours in the day to give for everything to work out as well, so I constantly need to figure out what I'm willing to give up.


You have 24 hour days, just like every human.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 11:14 AM

You want to be "world class" and this is your work ethic.

Quote:
It's not so necessary for getting a good job in my experience. Again, I got a fairly good job by winging it at their interview, I graduated college (which was a top college) again while putting in less than an hour each day and skipping all of my classes because I preferred to teach myself, and because I kind of disliked the study material. I see most smart people getting into jobs without working too hard. Even at jobs, if they are smart enough, they can afford to be lazy.


Quote:
So instead, in real life, I lie about how much I work, and the results "speak for themselves" so people are none the wiser.


Posted by: Klangedin

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 12:02 PM

I'm someone who's put a lot of weight on my intellectual prowess and been proud of my ability to do things with ease.

I've been put in a rather strange position where my talents where completely overlooked. I was deemed very low functioning despite my intellectual "strengths".

What happened to me was that I started going to a "daily activities" where people had all kinds of disabilities and I was forced to adapt to that circumstance. I knew I was smarter then everyone there by IQ standards. I knew that since I was so intelligent I would learn things well if I gave it the time.

And guess what, today I'm not a badass intellectual with success in any topic but Im a holistic human being that puts other's well being ahead of being "Right" or "arrogant about my intelligence".

What I've learned and is trying to convey is that intellect isn't that important to me anymore. I no longer care about being the intellectual giant that's always right because I've grown out of it. Val said it, do something that is intellectually meaningless and grow other capacities then intellectual ones.

Healthygamer on youtube recently did a video about how gifted kids grow up with a "gifted kid identity" and that these kids over-focus on their intellectualism and that this hampers them in real life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQC0jfH_rrM&ab_channel=HealthyGamerGG

This guy has developed a coaching program that has a focus on eastern meditation and philosophy combined with western knowledge about psychiatry. It's about getting started in life and doing the things that are important to you instead of trying to maintain the self-image of being gifted.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:33 PM

Originally Posted By: aquinas
You want to be "world class" and this is your work ethic.

Quote:
It's not so necessary for getting a good job in my experience. Again, I got a fairly good job by winging it at their interview, I graduated college (which was a top college) again while putting in less than an hour each day and skipping all of my classes because I preferred to teach myself, and because I kind of disliked the study material. I see most smart people getting into jobs without working too hard. Even at jobs, if they are smart enough, they can afford to be lazy.


Why the hell do you keep twisting my words out of context? I didn't study in college because I wasn't interested enough in the material.

In the quote, I was countering your claim that you need to work hard to get a stable job etc. Family, yes, but a lot of that is unavoidable -- like, you need to spend 30 minutes if you want to cook, or 1 hour if you want to go to the gym every day. This is not real intellectual work, it is work which keeps you busy for X amount of time.

You also completely forget the part where I said I'm working hard for 2-4 hours a day to try to achieve my goals. And diminishing returns set in after a while -- you would know this if you ever worked hard in your life. I know a professor, and he agreed with me that 4 or 5 hours was the most he could work productively in a day. Andrew Huberman said on his podcast that he worked 3 hours a day.

Okay, how about this? Define "work". I'm talking about deliberate practice, without distractions, constantly aiming to get better at a skill or trying to solve hard problems, not repeating the same stuff ad nauseum.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:40 PM

I've seen enough. Here's your issue.

See Table 1.
https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14060723#
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Klangedin
I'm someone who's put a lot of weight on my intellectual prowess and been proud of my ability to do things with ease.

I've been put in a rather strange position where my talents where completely overlooked. I was deemed very low functioning despite my intellectual "strengths".

What happened to me was that I started going to a "daily activities" where people had all kinds of disabilities and I was forced to adapt to that circumstance. I knew I was smarter then everyone there by IQ standards. I knew that since I was so intelligent I would learn things well if I gave it the time.

And guess what, today I'm not a badass intellectual with success in any topic but Im a holistic human being that puts other's well being ahead of being "Right" or "arrogant about my intelligence".

What I've learned and is trying to convey is that intellect isn't that important to me anymore. I no longer care about being the intellectual giant that's always right because I've grown out of it. Val said it, do something that is intellectually meaningless and grow other capacities then intellectual ones.

Healthygamer on youtube recently did a video about how gifted kids grow up with a "gifted kid identity" and that these kids over-focus on their intellectualism and that this hampers them in real life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQC0jfH_rrM&ab_channel=HealthyGamerGG

This guy has developed a coaching program that has a focus on eastern meditation and philosophy combined with western knowledge about psychiatry. It's about getting started in life and doing the things that are important to you instead of trying to maintain the self-image of being gifted.


I respect that. However, I judge myself and value myself on my creative and intellectual output. I want to do stuff that is not trivial, and admittedly, this is a preference. I could teach piano and I'm sure I could be quite successful at it, but I don't like the idea of pushing the barrel down the road. My parents said that given what I knew now, I might let my kids take piano lessons so that they might grow up to be good pianists. I am admittedly selfish and have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about not having opportunities as a child to advance and actually become competitively good at an area of my interest. I followed HealthyGamerGG for a while. He has fairly good advice, but imo it's all tailored to above average or moderately gifted children. I also don't like his lack of intellectual rigor -- and dislike the fact that he mentions concepts of theology/Orientalist philosophy such as non-dualism as if they were fact. It's self help, nothing wrong with that but a lack of rigor comes with the territory.

Most highly gifted kids I know got into fairly good colleges and did well without really trying -- those who were able to follow their interests or get into situations which used their intellect are somewhat satisfied; those who couldn't are usually rather unhappy. Many went into research. It is a sort of intellectual hunger or curiosity which is not sated during ordinary life. You can't just tell them to find the happiness in everyday chores like doing the dishes imo, and accept their boredom and lack of any sort of companionship as a fact of life, imo. Man, have you ever felt your mind wasting away from disuse? It is a terrible feeling.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:55 PM

Originally Posted By: aquinas
I've seen enough. Here's your issue.

See Table 1.
https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14060723#

Diagnosing people with narcissistic personality disorder for talking about their struggles with giftedness on a forum board explicitly meant to talk about issues with giftedness, makes perfect sense doesn't it?
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 01:59 PM

Struggles with giftedness are normal and welcome.

What you are experiencing isn't a problem of giftedness, though you may tell yourself it is.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 02:26 PM

Originally Posted By: spaghetti
If this is the way you treat people and their thoughts in real life, no wonder.
Instead of criticizing responses from people who are taking the time to engage with you, could you consider asking questions? For example, if you feel you're being judged arrogant, ask if that's true.

Hey, I missed your post! Again, thank you for responding -- it's not all the responses I have a problem with, just a few, and perhaps it would have been better in hindsight to simply accept that some of it was really bad advice and to not engage with it. But if you saw the comments above my post, they were tone deaf in that they kept implying that

In real life, I am polite to people, but I don't really engage with their arguments honestly, because I know I will be shot down and misunderstood in almost all situations, which is what I hoped wouldn't happen here. For example, my friends believe in something like astrology, and if they ask my opinion I will not tell them I think it's bullshit because I've seen double blind studies which have convinced me so, because I know pretty much exactly how the argument will pan out. Is this arrogance on my part to assume they are incapable of rational discussion on the topic? I would say it's simply being pragmatic. Online, I don't feel such a need to "dumb down", admittedly.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

Ask if people find you arrogant and what leads them to that thought?

The comments were constantly telling me to "humble myself" by working at fast food joints, and to realize I wasn't special etc. despite me stating that I had worked jobs, and that I was simply disappointed that I'm relatively unsuccessful regardless of how hard I've tried. These are loaded statements -- telling someone to humble themselves and realize that they aren't special is presupposing they are being arrogant. And I am nowhere an arrogant person, in fact people who know me say I'm considerably better than I give myself credit for.

You would expect the advice to change a little based on the fact that I've been putting in so much effort into things, simultaneously working on school, other interests and so on, but again it was misinterpreted because I put out a figure saying that I worked 2-4 hours a day. When I said I coasted through college and that it isn't necessary to put in a lot of hard work to get a decent job etc., this was misconstrued as saying that I have a terrible work ethic and need to better myself. It feels like I'm being given self-help kool aid, honestly.


Originally Posted By: spaghetti

The way I see it (as a parent of young DYS adults), the something you are looking for may not be found at this time in your life, and as a probably complex person, may require a lot of hard personal work on understanding yourself.

Do you often encounter the situation, however, that by the time complex people work their stuff out, too much potential is wasted, due to decline in neuroplasticity etc.? There's stories I've heard where someone in their mid-50s found out they had a near-photographic memory in some respects and great talent for painting. Aren't they somewhat justified in feeling upset that their potential was wasted?

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

You've shown an interest in doing the work by coming here. That's a great start. One kind of therapy we've found successful over here is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). "The Happiness Trap" is an associated book.

I will look into it. That said, have you had the experience in these kinds of therapy where therapists often tell you to change your worldview in a certain manner, and you resist it because it feels like indoctrination (i.e. my thoughts are my own!)? Then they ask you to go along with it even if you don't agree with it, and it doesn't work out.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

People have been willing to engage with you and try to assist, and I urge you to not look for reasons to dismiss, but reasons to fully understand what has been said to you. Really, life can be that hard.

I appreciate your response, and I'm not trying to dismiss the advice people have to offer. I looked back and read the first few posts people made and to which I responded, and I wasn't really dismissing advice. So no, I just want to clarify what's going on and ask questions so as to hopefully get some solutions and experiences which people have had in this kind of scenario.
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/09/22 06:05 PM

Originally Posted By: giftedamateur
I respect that. However, I judge myself and value myself on my creative and intellectual output. I want to do stuff that is not trivial, and admittedly, this is a preference. I could teach piano and I'm sure I could be quite successful at it, but I don't like the idea of pushing the barrel down the road. My parents said that given what I knew now, I might let my kids take piano lessons so that they might grow up to be good pianists. I am admittedly selfish and have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about not having opportunities as a child to advance and actually become competitively good at an area of my interest.


It usually does require talent, effort and opportunity to become world class and many who have reached this level appear to have stepped up on the shoulders of others (parents, mentors, coaches) who have already navigated the pathways and were thus able to give the next generation a head start. I can understand why, as a plurally gifted individual with a lot of potential (still), who would have been willing to put in effort if appropriately motivated, you mourn that you haven’t received such an opportunity. That is valid, and it’s possibly a regret that some of us, and likely many others, have also experienced, but won’t, by itself, help you progress forward. I suspect that a lot of advice here comes from the wisdom of hindsight, of ways that mature individuals have navigated different pathways to other successes which we now feel are equally, if not more, fulfilling, but are not regarded, at least not by the general public, as ‘world class’. I don’t think the teen version of me would have appreciated my current values as someone who would now prefer to be at a dinner table conversing with jacks and jills of all trades who have led productive lives, rather than with monomaniacs (not that all world class achievers are necessarily such).

For both maths and music, some of my experiences may be relevant to yours. One of my parents led a carefree childhood and excelled at many sports (including selection into a school aged national team as an amateur) but regretted their lack of opportunity to learn music and so started me at a very young age. I was obedient and diligent, so with an early formal start, appeared precociously ‘talented’. However, as Indigo alluded, the regimented discipline my music teachers tried to enforce completely drowned my personal enjoyment and interest in music, such that after investing some ten years in practice and preparation for AMEB exams, when my parents allowed me to discontinue formal lessons in favour of spending my time on school studies, I stopped playing altogether. In contrast, I loved maths but received parental encouragement only so far as to achieve high marks at school. I borrowed books with Olympiad problems and worked through them myself and, like you, made it to the level of national finalist solely on my own steam. From what I observed of the backgrounds of other finalists, I believe I might have gotten further if I had been given support and earlier opportunities, so I am no stranger to the thoughts and feelings you’ve expressed.

I resolved to offer opportunities but not impose any expectations on my kids. They’ve all preferred to take their own routes of self-discovery and declined tutors of any kind although they’ve been happy to receive material resources such as instruments and equipment to pursue their interests, so with aptitude, effort and offered opportunities, they are choosing paths with many scenic detours rather than speeding to destinations. A recent experience highlights the benefits of this - DS, a self taught musician, performed at an eisteddfod and gained second place. The pianist in first place, who was clearly classically trained and played a well known, technically difficult, piece to perfection, bounded up to DS afterwards and asked him where he got the ‘awesome arrangement’ of the popular piece he played, hoping to download the manuscript. When he understood that the piece was DS’s own arrangement, he expressed surprise. The other youngster’s performance skills could potentially become world class if he continues to apply himself, but he was quite apparently impressed with the skills of a ‘Jack of all trades’. Whilst you have mentioned the possibility of performing and teaching, I wonder if you have considered exploring composition, as it is an area of music which others tend to enter later and one where innate musicality, creativity and other mental abilities are of greater consequence than commencement age.

BTW, DS is aiming to study R & D engineering to try to develop and eventually put his STEM skills and creativity to good use, but also intends to use his YouTube channel as an outlet for his interest in music composition and has taken up decathlon training as it appeals to his approach of continually aiming for PBs rather than aiming to be world class in a single event. He generously helps his less academically able classmates and reliably undertakes menial household chores, even often his sisters’ shares. I will consider myself to have been a successful parent if he doesn’t ever need to struggle with feelings of regret which previous generations have had to resolve.
Posted by: spaghetti

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/10/22 07:28 AM

Originally Posted By: giftedamateur
Originally Posted By: spaghetti
If this is the way you treat people and their thoughts in real life, no wonder.
Instead of criticizing responses from people who are taking the time to engage with you, could you consider asking questions? For example, if you feel you're being judged arrogant, ask if that's true.

Hey, I missed your post! Again, thank you for responding -- it's not all the responses I have a problem with, just a few, and perhaps it would have been better in hindsight to simply accept that some of it was really bad advice and to not engage with it. But if you saw the comments above my post, they were tone deaf in that they kept implying that

In real life, I am polite to people, but I don't really engage with their arguments honestly, because I know I will be shot down and misunderstood in almost all situations, which is what I hoped wouldn't happen here. For example, my friends believe in something like astrology, and if they ask my opinion I will not tell them I think it's bullshit because I've seen double blind studies which have convinced me so, because I know pretty much exactly how the argument will pan out. Is this arrogance on my part to assume they are incapable of rational discussion on the topic? I would say it's simply being pragmatic. Online, I don't feel such a need to "dumb down", admittedly.

Thanks for clarifying. Here, I see a judgmental vibe. While you need to be discerning and judgmental at your age while you figure out yourself and your place in the world, it seems like "push back" when you "argue". As a parent of an arguer, I get it. It helped to learn how to check with people on what they are looking for in a conversation. While some enjoy arguing, many are not looking for an opinion or an assessment of their thoughts. So, for example, it doesn't matter what you think of astrology. Staying quiet is one way to go, and it avoids being "shot down". But it also does not do anything to embrace and celebrate the other person. Another way to go is to ask questions to get to know more about the person, how much astrology is a part of their life, how it may or may not play into their decision making, etc. It can be fun to get to know people AND as I tell my child all the time, it makes you more approachable for the serious stuff and opens the door to real discussion, and even employment opportunities. That's just one way to go. I realize you aren't looking for social niceties here, and instead life advice, but I think it still holds.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

Ask if people find you arrogant and what leads them to that thought?
Originally Posted By: giftedamateur

The comments were constantly telling me to "humble myself" by working at fast food joints, and to realize I wasn't special etc. despite me stating that I had worked jobs, and that I was simply disappointed that I'm relatively unsuccessful regardless of how hard I've tried. These are loaded statements -- telling someone to humble themselves and realize that they aren't special is presupposing they are being arrogant. And I am nowhere an arrogant person, in fact people who know me say I'm considerably better than I give myself credit for.

You would expect the advice to change a little based on the fact that I've been putting in so much effort into things, simultaneously working on school, other interests and so on, but again it was misinterpreted because I put out a figure saying that I worked 2-4 hours a day. When I said I coasted through college and that it isn't necessary to put in a lot of hard work to get a decent job etc., this was misconstrued as saying that I have a terrible work ethic and need to better myself. It feels like I'm being given self-help kool aid, honestly.


Thank you for sharing why you thought you were considered arrogant. You still didn't ask if that was the intention of the responder, but I will share what may seem a bit arrogant to me. I have an arrogant young adult in my life and I supervise young adults in my employment. I see this kind of arrogance. It's not so much a straight forward "I'm better than everyone else" or "I'm better at this task". It's more "when I listen to you, I see how it works with my current thought structure before assigning it validity" type of thing. One way to convey this is word choice and one example (of many) is when you say "constantly telling me to 'humble myself'". Is it really constant? And is there room for another interpretation?
Suggesting humbling yourself does not (to me) necessarily imply arrogance. It means (to me again) a willingness to look for places to learn from others. For example, if you find yourself comparing how what people say and do comports with your framework of thinking, with what you know, with your experiences, consider this. One way to go is to explore their framework and understand how it works for them-- totally separate from how it compares to your framework. I don't think I'm describing this well, just trying to convey a broader interpretation of the words arrogance and humbling. As far as your interpretation that your work ethic is terrible, I will leave between you and Val, but I did not pick up your interpretation from her words. I saw it more about goals and working toward them, and how it takes time, effort, and work, and less about how much time a person puts in for a particular job. But I could be wrong and would suggest you ask her what she meant.


Originally Posted By: spaghetti

The way I see it (as a parent of young DYS adults), the something you are looking for may not be found at this time in your life, and as a probably complex person, may require a lot of hard personal work on understanding yourself.
Originally Posted By: giftedamateur

Do you often encounter the situation, however, that by the time complex people work their stuff out, too much potential is wasted, due to decline in neuroplasticity etc.? There's stories I've heard where someone in their mid-50s found out they had a near-photographic memory in some respects and great talent for painting. Aren't they somewhat justified in feeling upset that their potential was wasted?


That's not what I was trying to say at all. I was more saying that it may take more effort for complex people. Some people seem to just drift through life doing what's expected. School seems just right for their level of curiosity. Work seems fulfilling, etc. But complex people may have a tougher time of it, and have to work HARDER than what it seems others are doing. But to answer your concern: It's not so much time wasted as it is working on the stuff right now that's important right now. In my mind, achieving a specific level of performance-- music, art, etc. is not so cut and dry. You can lay the ground work at any time. Having had a photo and audio graphic memory myself and losing it with age, and having a young adult with it, you use it while you have it in ways that work now-- just as you suggest. You will be different at the age of 50. What you accept or regret at that age is more a function of who you are at 50 and not what you do now. Very gifted people can have a lot of potential in a lot of areas. You can regret not developing them all or, as hard as it is, consider that you don't need to reach an arbitrary potential, and embrace who you are right now.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

You've shown an interest in doing the work by coming here. That's a great start. One kind of therapy we've found successful over here is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). "The Happiness Trap" is an associated book.

Originally Posted By: giftedamateur
I will look into it. That said, have you had the experience in these kinds of therapy where therapists often tell you to change your worldview in a certain manner, and you resist it because it feels like indoctrination (i.e. my thoughts are my own!)? Then they ask you to go along with it even if you don't agree with it, and it doesn't work out.

As my kid explains it, it's not about changing your thoughts in order to change your world view (positive thinking, reframing, etc). It's more about accepting that you WILL have negative feelings, including feeling like a failure. That's part of who you are, and you work on moving forward with acceptance. But please look into it yourself if you are interested as I may be way off. I just know it was helpful for my young adult.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

People have been willing to engage with you and try to assist, and I urge you to not look for reasons to dismiss, but reasons to fully understand what has been said to you. Really, life can be that hard.
[quote=giftedamateur]
I appreciate your response, and I'm not trying to dismiss the advice people have to offer. I looked back and read the first few posts people made and to which I responded, and I wasn't really dismissing advice. So no, I just want to clarify what's going on and ask questions so as to hopefully get some solutions and experiences which people have had in this kind of scenario.

I saw your posts as dismissive, and you are dismissing my perspective, saying "I wasn't really dismissing advice". I get that you say you were clarifying, but it's hard to engage when your response is that no you weren't dismissing. I perceived it as dismissive. That could be a wrong perception. But wouldn't it help to understand how others perceive your communication? Rather than "that's not what I was saying" try "I was really trying to clarify and understand the responses I received, how might that have been conveyed in a way that didn't seem dismissive to you?" It doesn't mean you need to agree with my perceptions.

Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/10/22 10:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

It usually does require talent, effort and opportunity to become world class and many who have reached this level appear to have stepped up on the shoulders of others (parents, mentors, coaches) who have already navigated the pathways and were thus able to give the next generation a head start. I can understand why, as a plurally gifted individual with a lot of potential (still), who would have been willing to put in effort if appropriately motivated, you mourn that you haven’t received such an opportunity.

Thank you for understanding!!

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum
I suspect that a lot of advice here comes from the wisdom of hindsight, of ways that mature individuals have navigated different pathways to other successes which we now feel are equally, if not more, fulfilling, but are not regarded, at least not by the general public, as ‘world class’.

I sometimes wonder how much of this is a coping strategy of some kind. Putting it in those terms can bring about a visceral response denying it in some people, but what I mean is that you can't constantly live in deep dissatisfaction with the current state of your life, so sooner or later, your mind will come up with strategies to mitigate the pain, and your conscious brain may come up with rationalizations that are motivated by that goal. You may not realize that your thinking in such situations is clearly biased and motivated by that desire. I feel like spirituality is often one such outlet, for example, which makes people come to false epiphanies and then everything "suddenly makes sense" when in reality, it's a nested chain of rationalizations which become hazier as you go down to the point where you start believing it's reality -- I have often observed this in people's thinking, and I feel intelligent people are more prone than others to fall for this sort of line of thought, because it seems apparently very logical at the surface, and so you can quite easily think yourself into believing that it is reality and completely miss the questionable assumptions that implicitly underpin it.

I'm not sure how to express this, but I think while I do understand what you mean when you say that mature individuals, having navigated various pathways to personal success, come to such realizations in hindsight. It is similar to what my family tells me, that once your 40s and 50s, you start to realize what actually matters in life. But I am skeptical, and wonder if this is an illusion, a coping strategy to make yourself feel better. For example, mentorship and building infrastructure for the next generation tends to feel very satisfying at that age for a lot of people, and it makes them feel they are making an impact. However, you have to wonder -- teaching/mentorship and infrastructure has always existed in the past for those motivated to seek it. And I get it, in this instance, altruism feels good, and feeling good can be considered an end in itself and it is certainly better for your mental health than chasing something unattainable or regretting the past, but I am a bit cynical about the true motivation behind such beliefs.

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

I don’t think the teen version of me would have appreciated my current values as someone who would now prefer to be at a dinner table conversing with jacks and jills of all trades who have led productive lives, rather than with monomaniacs (not that all world class achievers are necessarily such).

Interestingly, I've found that world class achievers very often aren't monomaniacs, but there are certain traits like perfectionism which they have pretty often. Since it goes along with general intellectual ability, they tend to have a lot of ideas and opinions of the world around them. But others who cannot emulate that level of talent often end up working themselves and obsessing to the point where they become monomaniacs. I have found that high achievers tend to generally have more diversity of thought, but often get trapped into certain modes of thinking, so it is indeed interesting to meet someone who is thoughtful but isn't trapped by those lines of thought.

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

For both maths and music, some of my experiences may be relevant to yours. One of my parents led a carefree childhood and excelled at many sports (including selection into a school aged national team as an amateur) but regretted their lack of opportunity to learn music and so started me at a very young age. I was obedient and diligent, so with an early formal start, appeared precociously ‘talented’. However, as Indigo alluded, the regimented discipline my music teachers tried to enforce completely drowned my personal enjoyment and interest in music, such that after investing some ten years in practice and preparation for AMEB exams, when my parents allowed me to discontinue formal lessons in favour of spending my time on school studies, I stopped playing altogether. In contrast, I loved maths but received parental encouragement only so far as to achieve high marks at school. I borrowed books with Olympiad problems and worked through them myself and, like you, made it to the level of national finalist solely on my own steam. From what I observed of the backgrounds of other finalists, I believe I might have gotten further if I had been given support and earlier opportunities, so I am no stranger to the thoughts and feelings you’ve expressed.

I suppose one of the things I'm frustrated by is that it's much more difficult to get by in music on your own steam than math. I know several people who studied pretty seriously for six months or a year and got into national/international math Olympiads. I suppose it requires talent, but even with talent, you will not see comparable achievements when it comes to musical instruments. I do understand the flip side, where kids end up taking lessons and lose interest. There isn't an easy solution -- a good teacher will try to ensure that kids don't lose interest, but getting such a teacher is a roll of the dice. Nowadays, I don't think the way most piano teachers teach is good for overall musical development, and I think they are steeped in conventional thinking, and this is something high-level teachers have agreed with me on. That said, I feel like pretty much all teaching at the school level tends to do is kill your interest in something, and so back in school, I tried to learn whatever I wanted on my own so that I could keep it interesting. But this is not the case with good teachers/mentors who know how to keep that spark alive and tailor their teaching, but such teachers are relatively uncommon.

Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

The pianist in first place, who was clearly classically trained and played a well known, technically difficult, piece to perfection, bounded up to DS afterwards and asked him where he got the ‘awesome arrangement’ of the popular piece he played, hoping to download the manuscript. When he understood that the piece was DS’s own arrangement, he expressed surprise. The other youngster’s performance skills could potentially become world class if he continues to apply himself, but he was quite apparently impressed with the skills of a ‘Jack of all trades’.

I know exactly what you mean, because I've been in very similar situations myself. Classically trained pianists often overestimate how difficult it is to arrange or improvise music haha, I've even impressed university students with my improvisations because it's just a skill they haven't trained for and are sort of envious of!
Posted by: aquinas

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/10/22 11:00 AM

Quote:
I suspect that a lot of advice here comes from the wisdom of hindsight, of ways that mature individuals have navigated different pathways to other successes which we now feel are equally, if not more, fulfilling, but are not regarded, at least not by the general public, as ‘world class’.


Also, individuals who have achieved at that level and have direct knowledge of what is required.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: I feel like a failure - 08/10/22 11:09 AM

Originally Posted By: spaghetti
While you need to be discerning and judgmental at your age while you figure out yourself and your place in the world, it seems like "push back" when you "argue". As a parent of an arguer, I get it. It helped to learn how to check with people on what they are looking for in a conversation. While some enjoy arguing, many are not looking for an opinion or an assessment of their thoughts. So, for example, it doesn't matter what you think of astrology. Staying quiet is one way to go, and it avoids being "shot down". But it also does not do anything to embrace and celebrate the other person. Another way to go is to ask questions to get to know more about the person, how much astrology is a part of their life, how it may or may not play into their decision making, etc.

My point is that while I'm all for social niceties, I'm being blunt here on a discussion forum (and not in real life), because in a way, I respect the people here enough that I'm willing to actually engage and trust that my point will get across. If it doesn't, there isn't much lost.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

Thank you for sharing why you thought you were considered arrogant.

I was saying that his line of advice presupposed my arrogance. It's like telling someone who's trying to become more successful at dating to "go to the gym" -- the advice presupposes that they are not fit in the first place. It has nothing to do with whether or not the person giving the advice actually thinks that way; the presumption is there in the advice itself.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti

Originally Posted By: giftedamateur

Do you often encounter the situation, however, that by the time complex people work their stuff out, too much potential is wasted, due to decline in neuroplasticity etc.? There's stories I've heard where someone in their mid-50s found out they had a near-photographic memory in some respects and great talent for painting. Aren't they somewhat justified in feeling upset that their potential was wasted?


That's not what I was trying to say at all. I was more saying that it may take more effort for complex people. Some people seem to just drift through life doing what's expected.
[/quote]
I know it's not what you were trying to say. I was thinking a step ahead, of a possible consequence of it taking more time and effort to find your place and understand your potential, which is that once you figure it out it may be too late, and wondering what you thought of that possibility.

Originally Posted By: spaghetti
But wouldn't it help to understand how others perceive your communication? Rather than "that's not what I was saying" try "I was really trying to clarify and understand the responses I received, how might that have been conveyed in a way that didn't seem dismissive to you?"

Well, I did push back against some of the advice, but that was because it was cliche and poorly thought out. I understand the responses for the most part just fine, it's not hard to understand something which is a literal restatement of advice which pretty much every counselor gives out (such as to check out Brene Brown, for example).