Ted Talks: Challenges

Generation Z, it has been said, is even worse than the Millennials. We’re a group of impatient, egotistical snobs, who’ve lost the way of greater, older generations. We’re condemned to a life full of triviality and will get nowhere because we simply don’t know what it means to be selfless or to work hard at something other than finding the best selfie angle. Our rallying cry should follow along the lines of “i h8 it when my phone takes longer than 3 secs to load instagram!!! #pain #crying #occupytheinternet.”

These stereotypes, as exaggerated as they are, hold some truth. And I fear that the ease with which we dismiss them is clouding the reality that many of us do, indeed, have an obsession with instant notifications, messages and gratifications. In the process of this evolution, we’re losing out on what it means to work for a goal and gain step-by-step progress in taking on challenges.

I had this fierce internal debate earlier this year when I signed up to take Spanish at Mt. SAC because it couldn’t fit into my school schedule. For the last three years, Spanish had been a nerve-wracking, hair-tearing ordeal for me, with its multitude of verb tenses and false cognates throwing me off. That first day of class, I seriously considered the question la profesora asked each student to answer – why are you here? One answer piqued my interest. In a deep and commanding voice, the man in his fifties politely stood up, saying in a heavily accented Spanish that he was here to learn Spanish, for the challenge and fun. His answer inspired me.

Learning Spanish is still immensely frustrating. Yet recent research from Northwestern University and the Chinese University at Hong Kong have suggested that learning a new language strengthens inductive reasoning, working memory, sound discrimination and task switching. This is a concrete justification that the toil of labors provides tangible benefits. At the same time, taking on this challenge is a statement that the road less traveled isn’t just to fulfill a quixotic philosophical goal, but also to push the boundaries of learning and growth.

So I stuck with the class, even though it was difficult to rationalize the decision when the promise of an earlier bedtime beckoned to me. Having gone through half of the year, I believe even more firmly that it is these self-imposed challenges, which confront our deep-rooted convictions of what we think is possible, that pave the way for us to find own advancement and fulfillment in this constantly growing, changing and innovating society. And if we, as a generation, want to end the negativity surrounding ourselves, perhaps setting aside our instant phones and taking on challenges can be a good start.

By Ted Zhu, Editor-in-Chief

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