Thursday, February 7, 2019

Chewable Sizes

A quiet family dinner with Mia and JJ this evening, and JJ was the first to finish everything on her plate. The moment she'd finished, she made the proud announcement, "I'm done!"

I looked at her and said that when she was a little girl, we had trouble "forcing" her to eat almost on a daily basis. It was very difficult to feed her as she had a very small appetite, and we were rather concerned that she was depriving her body of the much needed nutrients for growth and development.

JJ responded that she could still remember whenever she stopped eating after just a few spoonfuls, Mia would take her plate from her and then used the spoon to divide the food into small portions. Mia would then tell JJ to eat just this portion, and then that portion, eventually making her eat a lot more than what she'd thought she was able to eat.

I told JJ that that's essentially what life is all about, really. Every single one of us will have many, many challenges in life, some of which apparently impossible to conquer. But the good news is that it's very possible to conquer many of those challenges.

Additional math or physics, when seen as a whole, can be quite daunting. And losing weight may be something that's impossible to achieve for many people. Racing a marathon, ultra marathon and Ironman may seem like impossible feats for many people. Yet so many people have been successful in conquering those challenges.

I think the main reason for the failures in some people is because those attempting those challenges are taking them as a whole. Looking at additional math as a whole is almost like learning a new language. Trying to lose weight from 90kg to 70kg is just too hard to even imagine. Running 100km seems to require a year to accomplish.

However, those challenges would seem more doable if they're broken up into "chewable sizes". You see, people fail because they expect things to happen overnight. When they want to learn additional math, they'd expect to master the subject after reading the text book a few hours, and attempted some questions successfully. If they want to lose weight, they'd expect to lose something like 2kg to 3kg per week; and some would expect to loose even more than that. When they're racing the 100km foot race, they'd look at the whole 100km, and then come to the conclusion that it's just plain impossible to achieve!

I told JJ that when I learned additional math, I took small steps, one at a time. Never mind how many chapters, how many pages, how many formulas and calculations to learn. Just start with one chapter, learn it well, and then move to the next, and then the next. When there is something that you can't understand, get help from somebody. There's bound to be somebody who'd know the explanation. When wanting to lose 20kg, just focus on losing 1kg or 2kg at a time. Make many, many "pit stops" between the starting point and the final destination, i.e. 20kg. Be patient, and don't try to rush things. When wanting to run 100km, focus on the first 5km only. Finish that first 5km and then embark on the next 5km, and then repeat the process again and again until you cross the finish line.

Whenever I arrive at the start line of an Ironman race, I'd always be worried about having to swim a distance of 3.8km. And because I'm a lousy swimmer, I'd usually swim up to 4km because no matter how hard to try, I can never swim in a straight line. At one time, 4km seemed like an impossible distance for me to swim. But in each race, I'd just focus on the first 500 metres because that feels like a doable distance for me. Just slow and easy, step by step, one at a time; and in the end, 4km is not an impossible distance after all.

Looking at JJ right now, I seriously doubt that she will become as insane as her daddy—I don't think that she will ever attempt even running a marathon in her life. But there will be bound to be many, many challenges—not necessarily physical in nature—which she can conquer by breaking them up into chewable sizes.

So you see folks, valuable lessons and wisdom you can take away from the dining table; precious, life-changing lessons. In conjunction with this Chinese New Year celebration, spend those precious moments with your parents having dinner together. You'd be surprised what you can learn about life from the old folks.