comment by ryjm ·
2012-02-09T21:39:40.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The substantial amount of mathematics related posts has encouraged me to emerge from lurker status and post my own 'project'.
I have spent the last 5 months recording every minute of rigorous mathematical practice here in an attempt to test the limits of my modest intellect. I used a stopwatch and paper for the first couple of months, but I have now graduated to Emacs and org-mode (and to tracking all of my time, out of pure curiosity - I like knowing that every aspect of my life is searchable. It frees a (possibly imagined) mental burden).
A (long) background for whoever is interested: I've never been very good at math, and I struggled throughout all of my high school math classes. Toward the end of high school, however, I became absolutely enraptured with something about mathematics, something that I can't really put into words. It's been a kind of a curse, to be honest. I feel like Paul Erdos without any semblance of mathematical intuition; maybe close to how he felt for that week of no amphetamines.
So I spent the summer after senior year with my nose in every math textbook I could find. I have huge piles of paper filled with exercises from Apostol, Rudin, Munkres, that I spent upwards of 10 hours a day on. But it didn't help much... I went to university, took a fairly heavy, but not impossible courseload, and didn't do so well. Not horrible, but definitely not what you would expect from someone who spent every waking moment on this stuff. Same thing happened the next semester.
I breezed through an Analysis course last summer, and that gave me some confidence. It also prompted me to figure out exactly why this was happening to me... Is there something fundamental I am missing? What can I do about it?
So I took another heavy courseload for the fall semester, but this time I decided to track every moment of really vigorous, concentrated practice - no light reading, leisurely thoughts, a skim through a couple chapters; but actual, no bullshit, rigorous mind work. The kind where you get tired after 15 minutes. Lectures were the most brutal - I made it my goal to get ahead of the professor, to ask every single dumbass question that I honestly could not think of the answer to, and even attempted to completely re synthesize as many proofs as possible when there was any downtime. And I recorded it all.
It didn't help. I spent an average (I think) of 40 hours a week on this kind of work. The rest was 'regular' work - mostly math related (I did play skyrim for a bit, but didn't get very far), but not quite so intense. I got three B's and one A-. Disappointing.
Well, here I am now. No happy ending (yet). I took a much needed break for the winter as a test to see whether I was just running on steam. Definitely not the case. By the end of the month, I was itching to get back.
So what have I learned? I don't know. I'd like to blame it on exams - I do very well on the homework, but I can't seem to get in the right mindset for solving problems in such a small window of time, and they practically count for your entire grade. But exams DO test your understanding... perhaps I haven't understood anything deep enough yet.
If you read all this... thanks! I haven't shared this with anyone, and it feels like I'm letting out a dark secret.
Last note: I have almost no problems whatsoever with akrasia. Not sure why... but I would gladly trade it for a modicum of the deeply inspirational intelligence I see here.
Replies from: David_Gerard, Alex_Altair
↑ comment by David_Gerard ·
2012-02-11T00:00:52.576Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm finding it inspirational that you'll work that hard to try to level up in something you're interested in but not sure you have any talent in. This is pretty much how I'm approaching music ... still haven't learnt to actually play an instrument yet, of course.
Replies from: ryjm
↑ comment by ryjm ·
2012-02-12T00:06:54.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Funny that you mention music. My experience with practicing guitar all through high school was what led me to believe that natural talent is dwarfed by hard work. This is a oft repeated phrase, but I don't think it does anything for anyone until they experience the results of it themselves.
You can find my instrumental metal project here.
↑ comment by Alex_Altair ·
2012-04-10T12:50:52.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I would gladly trade [akrasia] for a modicum of the deeply inspirational intelligence I see here.
Don't ever, ever say that. Without the will to act you become akin to a non-person, more like a sentient rock that observes and reacts according to past rules, but cannot move towards a goal.