Like Versus Good

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I still keep in touch with my former students. One interesting young man, who is less than 9 years old, would chat with me from time to time. I thought it would be insightful to share our conversation, since it is in every parent’s interest to teach their kids the best. Here is, essentially what we discussed:


“Max, do you know what you are good at? Or what you like to do?” I asked.


“I am good at baseball,” he said.


“How do you know you are good at baseball?”


“Because I like it.”


“What does your coach say?”


“My coach said I learn very fast. By the way, I am not like the other boys on the team. They are from Taiwan, they are good at baseball. Their dads taught them how to play baseball since they were little. But I am from Shanghai, so my parents didn't even know anything about baseball. I had to start from zero.”


“Let’s understand the difference between like and good. When you like doing something, you have pleasure doing it. Sometimes you feel pain when you don’t want to do it.

When you’re good at something, you have equanimity towards pleasure and pain, but you keep doing it, and make progress. More often than not, you progress faster than others. In other words, when you are good at something, what you feel is irrelevant.

In terms of how you learn, when you’re good at what you do, there is very little benefit learning from others. Everything you need is already inside your head. But it is dormant. Sleeping. It needs to be waken up.

When you have natural abilities, the skills you gained are from your Self. They are from within.”


“When l am swimming, l sometimes think l hate the coach, or think it is very boring. l almost didn't like swimming. But l kept doing it and didn't give up. Now l have pleasure doing it. But sometimes when l play piano, l felt nothing even though no one taught me since.”


“It takes time for someone to realize their talent. And once the talent emerges, usually it is identified by someone else. You may find that what you’re good at doesn’t match with what you’ve hoped for. Nevertheless, you’ve found it.”


“Did you find your own talent? Who identified it?”


“No, I didn’t discover my talent. The kids showed it to me. The moment I feel this is my talent then it becomes a like. Good means you have no feeling towards it.”


Sometimes it is difficult for people to identify what they like versus what they are good at.

One thing is for sure, when you like something, you’re chasing after it. You do it because of feeling. A desire. This creates contradiction between pleasure and pain.

Honestly though, what you like is irrelevant, unless it can be used to help others.

Someone who is good at a particular skill is recognized because of his or her effort in helping other people fulfilling their needs. In the process, this individual changed their lives.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is:

  • What you do.
  • The people you help.
  • What people need from you.
  • The way you changed people’s lives.

You do not selfishly declare your talent. Someone will help you recognize it.