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The Neverending Struggle for Mastery

In “A Quick Note on Getting Better at Difficult Things,” Ta-Nehisi Coates shares this lovely observation about learning French:

Studying French is like setting in a canoe from California to China. You arrive on the coast of Hawaii and think, “Wow that was really far.” And then you realize that China is still so very far away.

I’ve been there. When I was living in Germany, I was thrilled every time something went right: a phone call, an appointment, a shopping trip. Those little moments when I succeeded at communicating. And then I would have a conversation that left me befuddled and frustrated, and I would see that immense gap between the German I knew and the German I needed to know, and I felt like a failure.

But it’s really about celebrating those successes, as tiny as they may be. Enjoying the moments when you feel you’ve finally done it (whatever “it” is) and letting those moments carry you as you struggle onward.

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