The Will To Get Good At It

Seth Godin recently wrote a post with advice for companies who are letting the digital revolution pass them by and haven’t made use of social media or web-based tools. It’s a good practical list for companies, but, for me, the part that jumped out was the last three sentences.

The problem is no longer budget. The problem is no longer access to tools. The problem is the will to get good at it.

These three sentences could apply in a myriad of ways to education, but I was reminded of a story I heard about infamous alum Richard Nixon when I came to Duke Law school.  One of my professors shared the advice someone had given a young Nixon, “To do well here, you need to cultivate the ability to keep your butt in the chair.” (Well, a different word than butt was used, but you get the picture.) The essence of the advice was that all students were smart, but the willingness to put in the effort it took to do good work was what set apart some students.

The enemy of my ability to stay in the chair in law school wasn’t laziness; it was fear. The questions in my head often spun out of control. What if I put in the effort and it’s not good enough? Do I really deserve to be here? What have I gotten myself into? 

One of the reasons, I appreciate Godin’s phrase so much is for what it is not. He didn’t say “the will to perfection” or the “ability to be effortlessly perfect.”

 I’ve returned from NCTE 2009 with a renewed “will to get good” at teaching, to keep my butt in the chair. No day is perfect, but it’s nice to begin to see the results of that “chair time” coming to fruition.


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