at times wild, at times modest

Two kinds of optimism this week:

Wild optimism: the audacious, leap-of-faith kind, the decisions that chart a course for a lifetime or more.

I helped someone in their quest to become an adoptive parent. My projects are usually meaningful, but few are so directly involved in such dramatic life changes—the determination of  one child’s family, one hopeful mom’s child.

Modest optimism: tiny points of light, small things to be grateful for.

M and I rode bikes on the Palisades today. It was a short ride, nothing to brag about—except that over the past few months, my knee has been finicky, aggravated by exercise as well as routine movements like putting on shoes. Today’s ride gives me hope that I’m recovering. It is such a small success, hardly an achievement at all—still, I’m delighted.

Art & Development

Expertise: All in due time

Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence.

—Atul Gawande, “Personal Best.” New Yorker, October 3, 2011.

My first half-marathon, a few weeks ago, was exhilarating and grueling. I’m tackling another 13.1 miles this weekend in Staten Island.

Here’s a paradox: I’ll be better informed, faster, and stronger for this race. Yet I can also perceive more acutely how slow I am. I will, quite realistically and very literally, be at the back of the pack.

But as Gawande reminded me today, this is all part of a process. My unconscious incompetence has been revealed (and will continue to be revealed, I’m sure) so that my incompetence can be conscious at least. Like those clumsy, hairy, adolescent geese I used to see on my runs at Lake Merritt, this is a humbling, awkward phase, where there’s nothing to do but keep going, so that one might inhabit conscious competence one day.