Dance Dance Self-Improvement

This weekend I’ve been playing off-brand Dance Dance Revolution with my boyfriend. He’s pretty good at it, and I’m terrible. The experience of repeatedly failing at novice-level songs has made me realize — once again — how profoundly uncomfortable I feel when I’m not good at something immediately. All those fifth-grade kickball games must have scarred me. (I’m not actually that bad at kickball, but I was petrified by the whole exercise.)

Photo by Rasmus Olsen.

Typically I just don’t do things that I don’t have a knack for, like sports or friendship. But I wanted to share in my boyfriend’s joy, so I bravely stepped along to weird pop songs from the ’90s. I’m only half-joking about the “bravely” part! This sounds ridiculous given that we’re talking about DDR, but it’s legitimately scary for me to be incompetent in front of other people.

Now imagine a world where I can download skills into my brain instantaneously, a la The Matrix. After quickly skimming the training module, I can spar with the experts, no problem. What effect would that capability have on people’s character growth?

Running up against frustration and having to work through it is key to developing maturity. Life is nothing if not perpetually disappointing, and if you can’t cope with initial failure, you’ll never achieve later success. (Unless you’re a bizarre statistical outlier!) That said, the current system means that people avoid activities they’re bad at — at least weak-willed people like me, and I suspect we’re the majority.

So is there a downside to the skills-direct-to-mind idea or not?

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