The Gods only know how much I believe in that theory. I merely believe myself to be the personification of that theory. I have spent, and I am still spending my life learning new things everyday and I know I am not the only one. Learning something you’re not good at requires a mix of perseverance, courage and self-awareness. Most of us are terrified of trying new things, especially those things that seem out of our depth. Usually, nothing is out of anyone’s depth. It might sound like a movie, where extraordinary things happen, yet, that is how life is. No one is expecting others to fly or break mountains in half with their fists. What I am talking about could be learning economics when you hate finance, learning how to ride a bike as an adult, learning to be calmer, learning how to better express your views, learning how to love, learning how to write…The list could go on for eons.
I would like to take a few pages of my own life to try and prove that anyone could learn pretty much anything if they apply themselves. This isn’t a brag or some sort of sick self-validation. It is how I came to learn what I know today. I will simply state the facts of my own story.
First language I spoke was Greek, then the family moved to Burundi and I had to learn Kirundi at the age of 6. Greek and Kirundi are as similar as a dog is to a stone, so that means rewiring a bit your thought process to be understood and speak properly both languages. Grammatically, phonetically, the writing, the tone, the basic sentence construction, well, the two languages have nothing in common. But kids can learn pretty much anything. A big thank you to my parents for talking to us in Greek to this day so we wouldn’t forget our mother’s language and for keeping in touch with Greece and our Greek family. At the age of 12, I had to learn French which must be the most difficult language out there. It has so many goddamn rules and exceptions for anything that it could make anyone dizzy. At 18, I pushed myself to learn English because I moved to Montréal, and finding a job without speaking English, is almost impossible.
How did I learn Kirundi? Thanks to everyone around me, especially my cousins and my neighbors who became my friends but mostly thanks to my dad who just threw my brother and I in a school that only taught in Kirundi. We were speaking Kirundi in less than 2 months. When you don’t have a choice, learning a language is the least you can do.
How did I learn French? By making all the mistakes that you could think of and by being made fun of, which in retrospect was kind of mildly painful. In Burundi, they make more fun of you if you cannot speak French properly than if you cannot speak Kirundi. It is so weird, and I never understood it.
How did I learn English? Watching English channels, watching movies with subtitles in English and subscribing to time magazine. I also bought a Merriam Webster dictionary, not a French-English dictionary which wouldn’t help enrich my vocabulary and I started hanging out with English speaking people, as I made friends along while studying and working at different places.
Today, I write in English and I also could write in French, Kirundi or Greek. There are millions of people who speak more languages than me but, the fact that I am comfortable with these languages has nothing to do with luck, coincidence or blessings from above! I had to learn all that. I decided to do all those things knowing it would be hard and I did it. My own mother learned Kirundi at 36 years old! How she did that, I will never know, and I admire her. My father learned Greek at the age of 21 and speaks it without an accent. Yet another hero of my life.
I am just trying to say that you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. If you accept the fact that you will fail, that you will be made fun of, that you will be discouraged, that things will not go your way, that you will be tired along the way, that you will want to quit a thousand times, that you might cry or scream out of anger and frustration, then things might work out for you. If you accept all these scary and true facts, you might just make it. You will never learn anything if you don’t try. If I can learn those languages, believe me when I say, anyone can learn pretty much anything. I bet that you can remember something you are good at today that used to terrify you and that you weren’t good at a while ago.
Remember how you fought to learn the impossible? Remember how you felt when you failed? I am sure you do. But now, you must remember that you made it, and if you did that one thing, you could also do the next thing. Time and practice, time and failure, time and perseverance, time and resilience, time and improvement will get you to that point of success. You just gotta try and take the first step. The rest will be history.
Just one man’s opinion…
Now smile and go on with your day.