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Home-made Pie!

We lead such varied lives. Families, schools, jobs - or lack thereof - are by no means standard. What one person has been fortunate to learn is likely to differ greatly from that of another. At some point, we expect that by 18 years old a person has finished school, by at least 20 they should have had a relationship or two, at 25 we appear to be adults with a career. Each of those milestones are a rite of passage that just sort of happen. A rite of passage one accomplishes alone. Having acquired a sense of self-efficacy, all the new experiences in life should be tackled alone because the “self-made man” is more honourable than one who asks for help. How lucky that this “self-made” person had every circumstance align so that they didn’t fall down when the training wheels came off.

By now, you may have realised that there is no pie. Do you feel gypped? Well, you're not alone.

We have no way to distinguish between a person’s natural ability and what unassuming experiences taught them to succeed at common tasks. It appears honourable to succeed without asking for help because that alludes to some intrinsic skill. But perhaps some people receive more help than others without asking; they too would appear naturally talented. In both cases, confidence in one’s own ability must be strong. “One’s own ability” in any given task was developed, at some fortuitous time, with the help of someone else.

“Brain training” games that claim to improve intelligence have become very popular. We all want to be generally smarter. To tackle any new experience with greater intrinsic ability. If I play chess three times a day, I must develop my internal skill of strategy. Sadly, the research tells me there is no quick-fix. Solving sudoku in two minutes only means I'm good at sudoku. Each learned experience might have enough in common with another experience that it can count as a transferable skill. But we cannot assume that people, with different backgrounds, cultures, and priorities, are lucky enough to ease into any new task.

All this only covers the positive part of learning ability. If positive, supportive experience helps us to learn, then negative, unsupportive experience inhibits our ability. Little-by-little negative experiences deplete confidence. No matter how much sudoku we do, if we are thrown into our first job and no one teaches us to use the cash register, we may not have the necessary skill and confidence to just figure it out. How much help and time each person needs to equal the ability of another depends on so many things.

Self-made or not, asking for help should be a positive skill. Freely giving help where we can should be a positive experience. We need to do away with valuing being alone in favour of being grateful for our developed sense of self-efficacy. And we need to acknowledge the people who helped us achieve it. Focusing on the unfairness of giving some people free resources and not others, should not be the priority – the difference is that those who haven’t had to ask for free necessities, probably already have them. When all things are equal (which they rarely are) we all desire to feel self-made.

Go forth and share the very best pie -

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