Beginner’s Luck

Mr Seun – who just graduated college – had his eyes on advanced degree in the United States. One minor problem was that he was required to take the Graduate record exam – GRE – since his first degree was obtained outside the States. Having heard dreadful stories about the exam, in relation to its difficulty, he developed fear for an exam he had no idea about, with regards to it content. He finally decided to take a mock of the entire exam online, and to his amazement he had 60%. His was emboldened by this; “so those people have being lying to me”, he said. He decided to repeat the mock exams a couple of times, but to his chagrin he began to score less – 40% after the next try, 20% after that. Dismay and confusion set in. Mr Seun had lost his Midas touch.

What happened to Seun during the first attempt on his epochal exam – making him feel invincible – has being an inherent phenomenon in human nature since the first men walked the face of the earth. Beginner’s luck, it’s been called. One wonders how they were able to pull off something so remarkable, with only pedestrian or no knowledge of the thing. It seems like a miracle to them. But problem sets in when they cannot replicate beauty the second time. Most people at this time give up and move on to other things; that’s the mistake.

The first time anyone gets involved in a new endeavour, process or act, they do so offhandedly, their minds are not bent on success at what they are doing, because they are no existing neurological patterns in the brain about this new job – that is they are novices. The mind passively searches for ways to get the job done any which way. It is one of the powers of the subconscious. It does not do a master-level job but gets the job done to a good level, the first time. Beginner’s luck, we call this mysterious innate phenomenon of our minds. After the first time, the brain stops being passive about the activity anymore, since there were no patterns already stored in it, and begins the active process of creating a new pattern for this new activity. The random process of the subconscious mind is turned off and the conscious mind is turned on.

From the moment the active part of the brain is turned on, the brain starts forming patterns for this new task, so as to retrieve them anytime they are needed for the task in question again. This is the fundamental process behind how we learn things. We never have to relearn how to drive many times, because of the neurological pathways in our brains that handle the activity of driving. When these patterns in our brain are completely built we discover we do not need to ‘think’ when performing the activity anymore. It seems inborn. It becomes passive. This time we do exceptionally well at the task without even thinking about it. The mind, on its own retrieves the pattern we have actively built for the activity whenever needed. It is at this point we achieve mastery in that endeavour.

The beginner’s luck is a propellant for one to believe that we indeed can learn and do something new. It is a kind of incentive and for the fact that one had a beginner’s luck, a confirmation that there exist in our brains patterns that are of a similitude with the not yet developed patterns for the new activity in question. In essence if you feel this primal experience when performing a new task, then that new task is something you need to do. It’s important not to fear the active state of practice – filled with drudgery, failures, trails and errors, and what-not – because that is the only way the neurological patterns for the new task can be built, if one ever wants to achieve mastery in the task.

Seun would figure this out, and do the necessary practice, until he achieved mastery to take the GREs.


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