Chemistry and a mindset for success and growth

(This post is an extension of my last one, so you may be a little lost if you just start reading it. I recommend reading my last one first ^^)

So sugar is a non-electrolyte. An example of a weak electrolyte is acetic acid. Weak electrolytes conduct electricity, though not as well as strong electrolytes, such as table salt. Table salt’s chemical name is sodium chloride, and its formula is NaCl. There is an ionic bond between the Na and the Cl. That’s because both the Na and the Cl are ions. The Na (sodium) is a metal, and thus a cation (+), while the Cl (chlorine) is a nonmetal and an anion (-). To form table salt, the Na gives up 1 electron–becoming positively-charged (+1)–to the Cl atom, which now becomes negatively charged because it has 1 extra electron (1-).

These newly formed ions of Na and Cl are now attracted to each other because they’re oppositely charged. They become ionically bonded. When table salt is dissolved in water, then all the NaCl breaks down into its constituent ions: Na+ and Cl-. (Na has a + next to it because it has 1 more proton than it has electrons; Cl has a – next to it because it has 1 more electron than it has protons. This occurred because the metal, Na, gave up 1 electron to the Cl.) Because table salt dissolves completely into ions, it is a strong electrolyte.

A non-electrolyte exists as molecules only.

  • We explored sugar, which contains no ions. Its atoms are covalently-bonded, not ionically-bonded.

A weak electrolyte exists as ions and molecules.

A strong electrolyte exists as ions only.

  • Table salt (NaCl), an example of a strong electrolyte, consists of ions only.

While we’re on the topic of solutions, you may have heard of solutions being unsaturated, saturated, or supersaturated. One at a time. Remember that solutions consist of a solute dissolved in a solvent. The solvent exists in larger quantity, and does the dissolving. Suppose you have 3 pitchers of equal volume, and suppose that there’s an equal amount of solvent in each. The solvent is water, in this case. You want to make a powdered drink. You will apply the powder to each solvent to make a solution, meaning that the powder is the solute. The powder is to be dissolved in the solvent. You want to make one pitcher unsaturated, the next one saturated, and the last one supersaturated.

(This is for visualization purposes. Visualization helps me personally understand things like chemistry. Without visualization, I don’t know how I would understand these things.)

The saturation point is the point at which the solvent cannot dissolve anymore solute. A solution that is saturated is one that is capable of dissolving the solute it currently contains–but it cannot dissolve any more solute.

Any solution which can dissolve more solute is unsaturated, because it has not yet reached the saturation point.

Any solution which has too much solute to dissolve is supersaturated. In the last pitcher, you may continue to add solute (the powder) until no amount of stirring can dissolve it. When that point has been reached–when the powder (solute) can no longer be dissolved by the water (solvent)–the solution is supersaturated.

I think chemistry is like math. Things can get complicated if our foundations are wobbly: if we didn’t try hard enough to really learn necessary material, or if we forgot, we can’t keep understanding things past a certain point. I’ve seen my peers give up, and it seems that the common opinion is that math is hard. But it’s not hard to me. And it’s not because I’m talented or special–it’s because I’m hardworking and persistent. Hard work and perseverance can beat talent. It can seem complex–but it makes sense. Every step is logical and can be understood if you have the proper background. Chemistry doesn’t have to be complicated and difficult.

Speaking of hardworking, I agree with the mindset views of Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University. I recommend you check her out. She strongly believes in the importance of a growth mindset, and it’s not an unfounded belief–it’s science-backed. Sal Khan, one of the people I admire, strongly agrees with her on this. Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, an online, informational source. He offers educational videos and readings, all for free. His goal is to make education free and accessible for everyone. But he goes a step farther. It’s clear that he wants everyone to succeed, but in addition to offering people these resources, he tries to change their mindset in a positive way. It reminds me of The Lego Movie, because near the end, Emmett (main character) did something which surprised me. He had no weapons, and was on the verge of being defeated by the villain Lord Business, when he held out his hand and said:

“You don’t have to be the bad guy.”

It turned out no one had ever told Lord Business that he was special. A running source of humor in the movie is how “average” Emmett is. Everyone around makes him seem less special. And yet there is a prophecy, and Emmett is believed (at first, anyway) to be the “Special”. As the movie progresses, Emmett realizes there never was a prophecy, and that it was simply made up. At that moment, he loses all faith in himself, until he is convinced that all he needs to do is believe in himself. When Lord Business is on the verge of taking over the world, Emmett tells Lord Business what he has never heard, which is that he is the Special…

…just like everybody else.

The message of The Lego Movie is that everybody matters, everybody is important. That surprised me, because reading quest stories have accustomed me to there being one person which is the hero, and which matters more than everyone else.

Going back to Sal Khan and Carol Dweck, there are so many people that have fixed mindsets–that believe they can’t do something, and because they believe it it becomes true. I know how much self-doubt devastated me that one day. I became a victim in my mind, helpless. I thought I couldn’t be saved and so it all kept spiraling down. I’m talking about the day–or was it a few days? Can’t remember–that I felt somewhat depressed.

I have a Khan Academy motivational image above my desk that looks like this:

The growth mindset is basically that we can learn and grow ourselves. That children–and people in general I guess–shouldn’t be praised for intelligence but rather hard work, perseverance, etc. Things like that which will carry them farthest in life and allow them to understand that if they fall, it’s not because they’re stupid or are never going to get it, but because we all fall sometimes. It’s important to teach people that falling and making mistakes are part of growing. I also like Hypatia’s words:

“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.”

The growth mindset, and other ideas I have which contribute to my current positive, optimistic mindset, allow me to keep going. I’m not very interested in talking about myself at the moment, so this sounds rushed–but I wanted to tell you because I care about helping people if I can, and you’re no exception.

People who are praised for their intelligence–or simply believe their worth lies in their intelligence–are, according to research, less-inclined and understandably hesitant to challenge themselves. Of course. Everything makes sense in this beautiful world with potential. Those people may be crippling themselves through not wanting challenge. Such people tend to be afraid that they will meet their limits. Except that our limits of today don’t have to be our limits of tomorrow. You have to believe that you have control, and that will empower you. Anyway, they may not want to engage in harder classes or whatnot out of fear that they will struggle and not experience they ease that they think intelligent people would experience. Dweck also maintains that ease to do something should not be celebrated, because then people may be hesitant to do something which challenges them. Studies have shown that this is, in fact, the case, and that people with a growth mindset are more successful.

I’ve done a lot of growing myself. It’s because I’m open to learning, I think–because I’m open to outside information which causes my ideas to constantly change, but I consider this growth progress, so it’s not like it’s an unpleasant thing for me. This constant change is not frightening or unwelcome in the least–in fact it is exactly what I want. It is my desire to grow and feel accompanied that is making me want to go to a more-challenging university. I want to push myself, and I want to be surrounded by people at my level–even if that means I’ll be exposed to people that are better than me.

This is a big blow to one’s ego, to be exposed to people that are better than you. I used to be afraid of this, and this was why I didn’t want to go to someplace like Stanford. Not everyone at Stanford is at my level–but many are, and many are better. It surprises me that it’s not difficult for me to say this. Maybe I’ve accepted it.

I wanted to be the best. Because I wanted to be worthy, and important, and beautiful as a person. But it’s not realistic. And I feel lonely, and I know I’m under-challenged. I’m just stating things the way I see them, and I honestly don’t mean to sound egotistic as I’m sure I may seem to you right now, but of the people at my school I am exposed to, I consider myself to be more mature than most of them. I didn’t say all. And I’m certainly not the most mature. But my point is that I feel lonely. I know I don’t have to feel this way. If I go somewhere where I’m not the sharpest person in the room (not that I’m the sharpest person in all of my classes, just some, from what I can tell), and some people are better, and some people are at my level–well, then I won’t be this lonely. I’ll feel understood, and I’ll be stimulated. It’ll be good for me to be surrounded by people who are wiser and more mature. I will not try to pull them down, because I want to learn from them, not beat them. And I will learn from them. They will challenge me and force me to grow.

I want to be better if I can… and to do this I must sacrifice whatever uniqueness I currently think I have. I must go to a place where I am not the Special, so that I may no longer be lonely, and so that I may be on the “right track.”

I’m so proud of myself for doing this, because my inner compass tells me it is the correct thing to do. There is no destiny I believe in, and I’m agnostic–I’m a scientist who does not hold unfounded beliefs–so when I say “inner compass” I simply mean to say that sacrificing my uniqueness for personal growth and being understood and accompanied aligns with my values.

Bragging or anything like it makes me feel guilty. It goes against my values, so I don’t do it if I can help it. I’m sorry if I sounded full of myself. I was just being honest like always. I always tell you how I see things, even if you don’t like it, because honesty is that important to me. I believe that everyone has potential, and that the people currently less mature than me have potential and can even beat me. I’m just saying I want to surround myself with the people that will allow me to grow the most (and those people are the ones at my level or above)… okay? And if you appreciate my honesty, thank you.

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