Becoming, Resilience and Risk

“Becoming is better than being.”-Dr. Carol Dweck

“It is never the beginning or the end which are interesting; the beginning and end are points. What is interesting is the middle” –Gilles Deleuze 

“Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it’s very hard to fail completely, that’s the thing that people don’t get.” -Larry Page


I have been thinking a lot about the idea of “becoming” lately, especially as it relates to learning. “Becoming” is an idea I first encountered in anthropology while studying the works of Gilles Deleuze.  To oversimplify, “becoming” is a state that is always in between. It is a state that represents the constant flux of life, whereby we are always both departing from and arriving to. What struck me about this idea, as it relates to learning, is that if we view learning as a process where we are always in a state of “becoming,” it allows us the space to make mistakes and learn.  This notion of “becoming” is interesting because it posits that there is no “end” per se. Whether we are becoming a student, becoming a teacher, becoming a surfer or becoming a runner , the word “becoming” reminds us that we are always works in progress, rather than finished products.

Interestingly enough, Carol Dweck also talks about this idea in her discussion of mindsets.  In Dweck’s view, there are two types of learners learners; those who feel that their ability is “something static” and those who view ability as “dynamic and malleable.”  Learners who believe that their ability is static avoid activities that may expose them to failure.  On the other hand, learners who feel that their ability is more “dynamic,” are open to taking chances and using their mistakes to learn. To put this in the language of Deleuze, those with a “dynamic” or “growth mindset” realize that they are always in a state of “becoming” better.  In this way you can fail at something, without failing “completely,” because something is always learned in the process.

As I was thinking over this idea of “becoming,” I came across the blogs of two friends that also spoke to this idea.  In her blog post on Resilience, Maggie Chumbley points out how resilience stems from recognising that “grand plans may go awry.”  Again, it is the process and the learning that are important, not only the final result.  Similarly, in his post on Valhalla, Rollie Peterkin writes that allowing your “fear of losing to overshadow your competitive drive is worse than losing. It is cowardice.” In the world of MMA you can view your ability as fixed and fight only those competitors you know you can beat to boost tour ego, or you can view your ability as something that is dynamic and use each match to learn and become better.  When we take the view that we are always in a state of “becoming,” it opens us to a “growth mindset,” in which we are more resilient and willing to take risks.  For me, there is something freeing in this notion as it highlights the sense of possibility inherent in each moment.  Once we let go of the idea that there needs to be a  clear end point, we are open to living “in the middle,” a place where we are free to make mistakes and learn.

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2 thoughts on “Becoming, Resilience and Risk

  1. Your post reminded me of a passage I’ve always liked from a book called Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinksy:

    If we think of the struggle as a climb up a mountain, then we must visualize a mountain with no top. We see a top, but when we finally reach it, the overcast rises and we find ourselves merely on a bluff. The mountain continues on up. Now we see the “real” top ahead of us, and strive for it, only to find we’ve reached another bluff, the top still above us. And so it goes on, interminably.

    Knowing that the mountain has no top, that it is a perpetual quest from plateau to plateau, the question arises, “Why the struggle, the conflict, the heartbreak, the danger, the sacrifice. Why the constant climb?” Our answer is the same as that which a real mountain climber gives when he is asked why he does what he does. “Because it’s there.” Because life is there ahead of you and either one tests oneself in its challenges or huddles in the valleys of a dreamless day-to-day existence whose only purpose is the preservation of a illusory security and safety. The latter is what the vast majority of people choose to do, fearing the adventure into the known. Paradocically, they give up the dream of what may lie ahead on the heighs of tomorrow for a perpetual nightmare – an endless succession of days fearing the loss of a tenuous security.

    • That is an awesome passage! It also reminds me of one of my favorite passages from a Roosevelt speech:

      It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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