If you have watched the popular X-men movies or read the comics, then you would know who Wolverine is, if you do not (either because you are an alien from another planet, or you just washed out of the bottom of the ocean somewhere) you can read about him here. One striking thing about him is that because of his healing power, he is virtually indestructible, and as a result is always rushing into danger, with scant regard for his own safety. While this sometimes proves honourable, most times it is foolhardy. For all his age and experience,(he’s about one of the oldest mutants in the comics), he often proves to be little more than a muscle minded tank brain who is totally incapable of learning from his experiences and completely inept at thinking non- violent intelligent solutions to problems.
The thought today is not about wolverine himself, it is about his mentality. The wolverine mentality screams at us from everywhere, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series, the Karate Kid, Kanu Nwankwo’s Peak Milk advert and pretty much every motivational book you’ve read and every motivational speaker you’ve ever heard speak. The wolverine mentality takes the form of a simple message, “You can be whoever or whatever you want, just believe.” or to use even simpler vocabulary “if you can dream it, you can be it,” (never mind whether the dream is hardly achievable, and totally unrelated to your abilities). And then Peak Milk will even go further by adding the maxim “it is in you”. Verily verily I say unto you, this is the most useless bit of advice anyone has ever given since the dawn of the world. It is the sort of mentality that would do nothing but make your life miserable. The advice becomes even more useless when we discover it is the power that “is in him” (i.e. his self healing abilities) that makes him feel he entitled to not use his brain at all.
A few years ago when I was an undergraduate student, a friend of mine and I caught the “need to keep fit” bug, so we took to going to the sports field to jog at least three thousand metres a day. We gradually increased the distance jogged over time, but one thing was that my friend of course always went farther than I did, (as he exercised more than I did and was considerably fitter). So I decided I was going to show him that I could beat him. so that day believing that I could do it, we started, however after fifteen thousand metres my legs gave out under me and I collapsed, unable to go any further, and there was nothing I could do but watch my friend cheekily complete eighteen thousand metres, to add insult to injury, he didn’t even seem to be breathing hard. The realization that I would never be able to beat him not matter how hard I tried, resulted in a frustration that made me quit jogging, but I learnt a valuable lesson, no matter how much dreaming I do, and how much I put in, there are some things I would never be able to do, like beating said friend of mine at jogging. That valuable lesson has made my life much easier
What I want you to learn from my story is how much of a bad idea “believing in yourself is.” No matter how much Rocky or the Mr. Miyagi tells you to believe in yourself. You will learn that belief alone can’t just do everything, like substitute for the seven years of rigorous training you have to go through to become a doctor, or the six you need to become a lawyer. If these things could be achieved by dreaming, I can imagine we’d be all be doctors and lawyers in no time. Popular billionaire Richard Branson had serious problems with dyslexia in his early life, and did he continue have that bullish, gung ho mentality for instance that he could be a teacher or a writer with that kind of learning disorder? No he switched to what he knew how to do best, business. The core of the problem with this “it’s in you” bit of advice is that a lot of the time our aspirations are at variance with our abilities. Ben Carson’s natural talents for instance would have made him a good heart surgeon, but would he have attained the same level of acclaim that he achieved as a neurosurgeon? That is doubtful. Going gung ho is not a substitute for talent. No matter how hard you work, no matter how much self belief you have, if you don’t have a natural flair for something, you may become be as good as the rest of them, but you will never have that spark that makes you exceptional.
There is one thing Motivational speakers and books like to gloss over, and that is the importance of self doubt, self doubt makes you want to get better, it makes you pay attention to your weak points and commit yourself to a serious plan to put it right . Every trailblazer knows that most of the time it is not the assurance of success that brings out creativity; it is the fear of failure. The other mutants know they are mortal, so they have a step by step plan on how to not be killed (and in essence win), Wolverine knows he is indestructible, he can behave so impulsively and insensibly because he can’t be made to pay for his stupidity. So he has no plan, all he wants to do is behave like a bull in a china shop. That is what self belief will do to you. It will turn you into a single-minded and obstinate douche bag, who shuts his ears to the world and regards anybody who expresses any views not congruent with his as a hater. A belief in himself will allow a man to think that if he bangs his head against the wall enough, he can come up with a solution for his problem, while self doubt will make a man conscious of the fact that he could take the easier route of humbly asking more knowledgeable people to help him solve the problem. The wolverine mentality will only make you keep banging your head against the wall with the hope that it will break one day, instead of stopping and looking for the door, and will make you end up ultimately frustrated, because as Socrates said “all I know, is that I know nothing.” And as an old lawyer friend of mine usually says “you cannot give what you do not have.” So verily verily I say unto you. Do not believe in yourself for you know nothing; let self doubt be your companion because it will drive you to surpass your modest expectations. As the bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:12 “let he that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”