I change the directions of small pieces of metal for a living.

Don't wonder if you are stupid

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I’m reading a book on Mac programming called Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X. However, unrelated to programming at all was this piece of advice on believing in yourself:

While learning something new, many students will think, “Damn, this is hard for me. I wonder if I am stupid.” Because stupidity is such an unthinkably terrible thing in our culture, the students will then spend hours constructing arguments that explain why they are intelligent yet are having difficulties. The moment you start down this path, you have lost your focus.

I used to have a boss named Rock. Rock had earned a degree in astrophysics from Cal Tech and had never had a job in which he used his knowledge of the heavens. Once I asked him whether he regretted getting the degree. “Actually, my degree in astrophysics has proved to be very valuable,” he said. “Some things in this world are just hard. When I am struggling with something, I sometimes think ‘Damn, this is hard for me. I wonder if I am stupid,’ and then I remember that I have a degree in astrophysics from Cal Tech; I must not be stupid.”

I think this is great advice. There have been many times where I’ve been struggling with something outside of computer science (like calculus or my Oceanography class last semester). Just as I start to consider giving up, I remember that I’ve found a way to succeed at some very difficult things; things that are much more difficult than these. It gives me the confidence to continue banging my head against the wall until I finally get it.