It took my youngest daughter longer than her friends to be able to do the monkey bars.
Seeing her now, doing them joyfully, I often wonder why exactly she persisted. How was it that seeing other kids ahead of her was motivating rather than discouraging?
More than most things, the monkey bars are binary. Before you can do them, you’re stuck on one side, hanging and falling, and not really improving. Then, one day, you cross a chasm—from not doing to doing. Once on the other side, it’s deeply self-reinforcing: you’re having a blast with your friends, and you’re getting stronger and stronger.
There are two lessons here:
- Most things are like monkey bars: the act of doing the activity itself is the source of improvement, so the best thing you can do is start.
- One of the most valuable things we can do is to encourage people who are just shy of the starting line, and help them to believe in themselves.