May 12, 2008

Increasingly, I think that “willing suspension of disbelief” is the key to success. Coleridge may have been talking about literature when he coined the term, but suspending reason (for a little while, at least) is an important part of success in other endeavors.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to today’s Yomiuri News podcast — about 20 minutes of non-stop, high-level Japanese. There was a piece about the plight of typhoon refugees in Myanmar, and something else about attacks in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Now we’re on to the opinion piece, and I’m totally lost. It doesn’t matter — I don’t understand it now, but I know the exposure is valuable (particularly exposure to the parts I was able to follow) and that eventually I will be able to understand all of it. I’m able to shut down the part of me that’s screaming “but you can’t understand it!” because I’m able to suspend disbelief — I am working toward a future goal by taking actions that don’t make sense in the short term.

Progress toward long-term goals, particularly in the beginning, is often glacially slow. Having confidence that the quid pro quo agreement you’ve made with yourself — that work now will indeed lead to a payoff in the future — and the ability to do things that you know are helpful even if they don’t make sense when you do them is critical to success.