What Squash Taught me About Learning

I’m addicted to learning, and as I get older I only want to learn more. This wasn’t always the case, there was a time when I thought that I could only learn so much. I remember running into complex problems and thinking “well that’s as far as I get, I can’t possibly learn… *insert difficult concept here*”. Sometimes I persisted despite my doubts but it was hard and left me feeling unsure about my accomplishments and potential.

It was the same with squash. No one would call me a natural athlete and I’m as far from graceful as they come. So when I decided to try my hand at a racquet sport, it went about as horribly as I imagined. I was hopeless, uncoordinated and instantly in love. So I kept playing and I kept losing… like every single match for a year. I would come home from squash crestfallen and grumpy but for whatever reason I kept going back.

In my second and third years I played a bit more and got a bit better, but I was still losing.. a lot… and it was starting to get to me. I was feeling like maybe I had maxed out my potential and it just wasn’t going to happen for me.

Now years later I know that’s a whole bunch of nonsense. Sure things come easier to some people and there are definitely people who have a natural aptitude for certain things – but if you put the time and effort into something you can accomplish pretty much anything.

So in a last ditch effort before giving up on squash I threw myself into it. I started playing 3+ times a week and low and behold I got better! SO MUCH BETTER! I watched videos of professionals, took lessons, put in hours and hours on the court, asked everyone better than me to play with me and give tips, and I even bought a GoPro so I could watch myself play and make adjustments. The cost was high – in time and effort – but oh my goodness has it been worth it. I’ve already surpassed my earliest goals for the sport and there is no end to my potential.

Squash isn’t the first or the last thing that I have decided to learn and it wasn’t the first time I ran into some serious doubt. It was one of many experiences I’ve had over the last few years that has taught me most of my limitations are self imposed and if I can dream it I can do it. *cough* growth mindset *cough*

These days when I approach a tough problem I feel invigorated, I know that I can master the problem and I’m excited about the journey to get there. There is a world full of resources to help solve any problem I can think of. I just need to spend a little time looking for them, asking for help and of course making mistakes along the way.

Learning how to learn effectively has been the single most valuable skill I’ve developed. It’s opened me up to a world of possibilities and promises that I never need to be bored again.

As I get ready to start my first year of Computer Science at Carleton University I think about all of the challenges I will face, and I know that if I put in the time and effort I can overcome anything it has to throw my way.

Have you ever experience some extreme challenges learning? How did you over come them? Comment your stories below!

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