I’m taking an online Calculus course through an awesome, free platform called Coursera. The course is taught via a series of pre-recorded videos, a downloadable textbook, practice questions, quizzes and tests. I know this won’t sound fun to a lot of people, but I think most people would agree that it’s pretty excellent that the vast majority of human knowledge is catalogued on the internet!

About six weeks into the course, I started to get frustrated. This was no surprise, since the course was a bit beyond my reach. I haven’t taken a math class in a decade, so, yeah, I was rusty.

I was spending hours on practice problems, reading through the class forums, and trying to decipher the textbook. I found myself thinking about limits as I drifted off to sleep, and waking up with derivatives on my mind. And not in a good way. I was tired, and, frankly, I was in a bad mood. I wasn’t exactly wanting to quit, but I could tell that something wasn’t right in terms of my attitude towards it, and I needed to change it.

After a bit of introspection, I realized what I needed to change:

I needed to approach this experience as an adventure.

image courtesy of typejunkie.tumblr.com

image courtesy of typejunkie.tumblr.com

At some point, the Calculus class changed in my mind from an adventure to a responsibility. Granted, it was a responsibility I’d assigned to myself, but it felt like something I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do.

Here are the differences between a responsibility and an adventure:

  • A responsibility is something you approach with seriousness. An adventure is something you approach with levity and humor.
  • A responsibility is something at which you’d like to succeed. An adventure is something you’d be happy to fail (and perhaps have an awesome comeback story).
  • A responsibility requires the appropriate skills. An adventure requires an abundance of curiosity.

Of course, you can approach adventures with a sense of seriousness, a desire to do well, and the necessary skills. But you’ve also got to have the other things, and that’s what’s been missing for me.

Armed with this insight, I think I’m ready to hit the books again. These functions aren’t going to integrate themselves!