At Douglas Corner Cafe
Music City is apparently the popular kid in class these days due to its unique combination of live music, yummy food, Southern hospitality, and distinctive attractions. The Grand Ole Opry is an experience all by itself. I was told that you never know what you will see at the Opry, and when NFL Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw and NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip took the stage to sing an Eagles song, I had to admit that I never saw that one coming.
It was good to see several old friends during my recent visit to Nashville like Caleb, Ken, the entire Walker family, and my old buddy, Jon, from Arkansas. Jon is an accomplished musician, and since he wasn’t touring I also had the special opportunity to see him in action at a singer-songwriter night at the Douglas Corner Café (pictured above). It was great to see these friends, but due to a limited schedule I missed many other friends who now live in Nashville, too.
In fact, it is hard to know who lives there now since lots and lots of folks are moving to Nashville. I went for an early morning run and noticed the new and cramped residential construction and heard somber talk of sharp increases in housing costs and the terrible traffic accompanying such rapid growth. It is the next Atlanta, they say, and if the speaker is really in a bad mood, maybe it is a future L.A.
Nashville is a cool city, but the collective concern is that it might have become so cool that it will inevitably lose its special appeal. It seems that contentment is an elusive virtue, so it is hard to blame anyone. It is the human condition to take something good and then push for more until it isn’t so great anymore.
But personally and ironically, I don’t want to be content with the inability to be content. Try that one out on your therapist.
The end of November launches a holiday season in these United States, but for those involved in formal education it is also a season of papers, projects, and examinations. Thanksgiving break does provide a break from classes, but not from work, as our youngest daughter bemoaned on her short trip home from college. There is no rest for the wicked. There are turkey sandwiches, sure, but no rest (yet).
Law school is particularly relentless. The killer combination of a single grade-determining final exam and a pernicious grading curve that pits all-star students against one another for a handful of A’s produces a motivation that is not helpful for proper digestion. If you want to experience stress with all of your senses, visit your neighborhood law library.
During this season of final exams, popular metaphors include heads down, noses to grindstones, shoulders to wheels, and so on, but not much related to actually looking up. Unless looking up information or in desperation count. From my seat in a law school, while I strongly recommend long hours and hard work, I also advocate periodically looking up for a little perspective. Specifically, the following perspective:
Carol Dweck famously teaches the advantage of a “growth mindset” as compared to a “fixed mindset.” For the latter, final exams are personal evaluations (i.e., I am good at this or bad at this; smart or stupid; etc.), but for the former, the exams merely reveal information helpful for growth and improvement (i.e., How can this make me better?). And in case you are wondering, growth mindset leads to greater success than is ever possible with a fixed mindset.
This is a season of giving—professors giving assignments/exams, and students giving their very best effort—but the frenzied effort from the students is misspent if motivated by fear of failure as defined by a letter or number. Instead, everyone is better off if the heroic efforts are motivated by the capacity to grow and learn.
Study hard, my friends, and look up long enough to remember that you are here to learn and not to be graded like cattle. And learn well. A real break will be here soon.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged carol dweck, education, examinations, finals, fixed mindset, giving, growth, growth mindset, holiday, law school, learning, mindset, season, thanksgiving