A Tale of Two Calculus Students (And All The Stuff You Should Stop Doing) - Christine Kane

I have a friend who doesn’t know how to type. She can get by, yes. And she’s turned “hunting and pecking” into an art form.

But she never learned how to think in terms of “a-s-d-f.” Or “j,k,l, semicolon.”

Personally, I think typing is the coolest skill ever. Sometimes when I’m typing, a little observer in my head marvels at my brain machinery, and that I can do this complex finger dance that makes actual words come out on a page.

I shared this with my friend, and she looked longingly at her keypad. “No one ever told me to sign up for typing,” she said.

Me either.

In fact, I owe my typing talent solely to the fact that I was an utter failure at calculus.

My senior year in high school, I entered Calculus with my friends. We had all been in the same math classes together for years. I had now advanced to an “AP” class and wanted so much to be able to impress the adults.

But Calculus nearly killed me. I wrestled with it. I got extra help. I tried and tried. My ego wanted me to stay in Calculus. So did my parents. And my teacher.

But I dropped out of Calculus.

And I enrolled in a class that was on the other side of my high school. Deep in the hallways where they taught stuff like Shop and Home Ec. Where the loud noises of saws and sewing machines and IBM Selectric II’s wouldn’t bother the smart kids as they worked on logarithm equations.

I walked into typing class a failure.

And I ended up learning how to do the thing that would ultimately become the source of much of my work and success: writing with a machine.

I shared this with my friend. She told me she too took Calculus and scraped by with a D.

I laughed and asked no one in particular: “Guess which class got me further in my life?”

Which brings me to the point.

Too many of us approach our businesses the same way our parents wanted us to approach school: Be good at everything. (Then, stick with everything in order to prove that you are good at everything.)

Even many books on business waggle their fingers at readers, giving them all kinds of lists of stuff to get good at in order to be able to run a business.

It’s a losing game. And an outmoded one at that.

This isn’t to say you won’t have to develop new skill as you build your business. You will.

But there will come a point when, in order to grow any more, you will have to drop out of Calculus. You will have to hand over something that feels utterly un-hand-over-able to you and your ego…

…the accounting, the books, the website design, the invoicing, the customer service, the late night emails from your clients, the one-on-one phone calls. It might even make you feel like you are giving up, or failing in some way.

But your Upleveling is often more about what you say no to – what you stop doing – than it is about new things you start doing.

So, what do you need to drop out of so you can focus on the thing that brings you joy and success?

  • Don Downs

    What a fun story! As an electrical engineering major, I had several levels of calculus in college. And yeah, it’s kind of geeky, but I enjoyed all but the first one. But I’ve got to admit, as a computer programmer for many years, and now a business owner and coach, I’ve probably used that one semester of typing I took in high school a lot more than I have calculus. And to think I only took that course because I needed a one semester course to balance out Driver’s Education…

  • Abdul Hameed

    All what you said is truth , and Do not forget that we are teachers of our sons and daughters and their are the teachers of the new generation, and they are teachers of the next generation. This is the life cycle.

  • Dr. Janet Crain

    I f you are a true people pleaser, as I am, to say”no” I want to do it my way seems almost impossible. I am the person that will sacrifice my well being to achieve another person’s expectation of me. It was Physics 2, not calculus that I could not grasp. Years later, I realized the emotional price and scars I paid for taking that class. On a road trip with my adult children, they began to discuss the 3rd ,4th and 5th dimensions. I couldn’t follow past two dimensional. All the feelings of failure, stupidity, not good enough and self hatred came rising to the surface. I forgot my strengths and began to sob. My kids did not know what was going on. The good news is after 20 years I finally was able to let go all that toxic energy and hopefully, calculate the emotional price of continuing.

  • Shelly Herman

    Yes I struggle with handing things over. I know I need to hand over my quick books and web design personally I suck at websites. Quick books I can handle I just don’t have that extra time. Thank Christine

  • Patty Deschaine

    I LOVE this post! I fought taking typing all the way through High School because my mom was trying to pigeon hole me into being a secretary like her, instead of a RN like I wanted to be. I finally took a 9 week class at the Junior College during my senior year of high school – just the basics. Mom won, she refused to let me go to the school I was accepted at for nursing, and I earned a living typing for the next 30 years – not as a secretary, but typing none the less. I feel that magical feeling when I type that you express too. I am only starting my business, but I am already contracting out my accounting (after learning how to do it myself,) and will continue contracting out everything that isn’t my genius work in order to allow me to concentrate on the main objectives of the business.

  • Embee

    I have pointed out to my kids that the only thing I can do fast it typing. I am a magical typist. I also love math and did well in high school Calculus. I enjoy checkbooks and spreadsheets and statistics. What I despise and am awful at is housework. I am slow as molasses and incredibly inefficient. It’s the dreariest thing I can think of ever doing. Also gardening. And lawn work. And household tasks of any kind: like hanging a picture on the wall. Or choosing a picture to put on the wall in the first place. I would pretty please like to drop Housework and Household Maintenance class and switch to Creative Writing class, if there is an opening, instead.

  • Valerie

    This is the best post ever. I’ve been trying to work through this sort of thing for about a year; living me for myself & not for others (especially my family).

    They don’t mean any harm, of course, but the impact it’s had on me has been too heavy & overwhelming.

    Christine, thank you for this!

  • Ramona King

    Love this post. Just thinking about this yesterday. I spend a lot of time on a lot of things I think I HAVE to do to be good enough for the service I provide others. In the meantime, my business is in stagnation because all of the “HAVE To’s” are weighing it down.

  • Geri

    I laughed at your post. I fought with my academic parents to take typing in high school…which they thought was only for non-college secretaries (which they did not want me to be). Typing I’ve used nearly every day since high school, and I have not used chemistry, biology, and the rest. Utility! 🙂 Great post.

  • Sara Chlian

    I’m dropping out of massage, which I’ve done for 15 years and doesn’t resonate with me anymore, to be a coach and do workshops! I’m trying to allow the right path to come so I can be inspired to action instead of left-braining everything.
    It’s hard to ket go of all the negative junk that takes up time and energy, but I’m committed to raising my vibration more than anything! Go me!

    • Christine Kane

      Sara – as someone who “dropped out” of being a well-established songwriter, i totally understand what you are going through… but a calling is a calling – and you can’t live your life for others’ expectations!

  • Nancy Darling

    Ha ha! Calculus was my only D at Duke University. (Actually I had a D in golf too come to think of it. I’m left handed and had to share clubs)
    Anyway-this made me feel much better! Thank you. And as soon as I can I’ll hand over all the real estate transaction and closing nitty gritty paperwork to an assistant!