Of course there is no way I can write this column without some reference to our Royals! Out of the many pages of articles on our American League champions, a word that really caught my attention was in an interview with Ned Yost. The manager said that at one point in the post season he had been described in a newspaper piece as a “dunce.”
As far as I know, dunce caps were originally not issued simply as a punishment for poor performance or behavior. There was some belief at the time that by wearing a conical fixture on the head, the thinking power of the brain could be stimulated—like a “thinking cap.” Being told to put on one’s “thinking cap” goes down a little more positively than the part of the practice that involved standing in a corner with the label of “dunce” on one’s head. In time, this 13th century term settled into “fool” or “dimwit.” “Putting on one’s thinking cap” offers hope for improvement; “dunce” is more of a permanent condition.
So, whether in the case of managing a baseball team or running a business, or managing our own lives, being a “dunce” would seem to be a condition rather than part of a process. How quick we can be to label people or ourselves as failures and just stupid instead of seeing lack of insight and poor judgments as part of the process involved in life long learning and improvement. How quickly popular opinion can change its mind and shift from “dunce” to “genius.” Being too quick to judge and giving up on the process is the real meaning of “dunce.”
Everything in us wants to grow. Everyone can learn. Everyone can do better. It all depends on an environment of tolerance and patience for the process to go forward. A little encouragement makes the process go even better. Victories are sweeter when struggle and even failure have preceded them.