Math is Hard. And That's OK.

When learning is difficult, you’re doing your best learning, in the same way that lifting a weight at the limit of your capacity makes you strongest.
— Drake Baer

As an academic tutor who works with kids and college students who need a little extra help outside of the classroom, I've come to realize that most people have a huge misconception about how learning should feel. 

When learning starts to feel uncomfortable, many students grow fearful or frustrated. But discomfort, struggle, and confusion is often a sign that you're expanding the confines or your skill and knowledge.

Learning is hard. It can be enjoyable or painful, but it almost always hard at some point. The more complex, meaningful, and interesting a topic is, the harder it is to learn. Mastering something is extremely difficult. It's relatively difficult to be mediocre at most things, too. Just about everything worth doing requires effort.

Can you think of any rewarding job that is both easy to perform well and is also easy to learn? There are a few, but not many. Computer programming is hard. Medicine is hard. Engineering is hard. Entrepreneurship is hard. High-paying roles like these demand years of practice and study to master, and they continuously change and grow in their demands. On the other hand, the most common jobs in the US -- salespeople, cashiers, and fast-food workers -- are comparatively easy and require much less education. They also pay less have have poor job satisfaction rates.

Now, can you think of any rewarding skill that is both easy to perform well and easy to learn? I'm racking my brain trying to come up with one. Mixology, maybe? But even preparing a decent cocktail takes some expertise, a fact that anyone who has ever had a disappointingly saccharine margarita can attest to. If you do think of a skill that is easy to perform well and easy to learn, let me know, because I want to try it.

Becoming educated is hard work. It takes time, study, and repetition.  Unfortunately, at some point in our childhood education, we start to think the opposite. Maybe a teacher rewards us more for finding an answer quickly than for pondering a question deeply. Maybe someone compliments us for our intelligence instead of our hard work. Whatever the case, equating ease of thought with increased intelligence is a fallacy that we must unlearn if we are to learn to learn.

I think the more we internalize the idea that learning is difficult, and the more we embrace difficult tasks as rewarding adventures, the more joyfully and efficiently we will learn.