Stop Trying to Fit In

A long time learner told me she wants to enroll in a Junior TOEFL program. Given its difficulty, she’s struggling to grasp understanding and proficiency. I told her the test is meant to be difficult. If it’s easy, then everybody would get good scores. When that happens, everyone would be playing a different game with different set of rules.

“What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she replied.

“Do you know what you’re good at?” I continued.

“No,” she shrugged.

“So find that before you do anything else,” I exclaimed.

You know, I was under the same impression as this kid when I was being sold the so-called “American Dream.”

When I was in school, I also took tests. Standardized tests. Graduate tests. Licensure tests. I’ve done them all, and I did well; really well.

Unfortunately, when you keep doing what the world wants you to become, you don’t know yourself. In the end, I’ve merely learned how to master test taking skills, which have no real practical value in life.

I think the first lesson to understand for this young girl is to be aware that what you’re doing is trying to fit in. My advice: stop fitting-in and try to get to know yourself a little better before you do anything else.

But how many learners are willing to do that? True seekers are indeed rare.

In ancient times, when the Emperor had visited the monastery of a great Zen Master, he was astonished to witness there had been more than ten thousand monks living with the Master.

Out of curiosity, the Emperor asked, “How many disciples do you have?”

“Two or three at the very most,” the Master replied.

Serious and sincere learners are difficult to come by these days. Many of them are five minute enthusiasts. Alas, most of them are second-hand pupils; basically conformers.