There is indeed such a thing as Beginner’s Luck – we all know that.

Wikipedia says,

Beginner’s luck refers to the supposed phenomenon of novices experiencing disproportionate frequency of success or succeeding against an expert in a given activity.

Nothing else can explain the fact that the very first time I made aviyal in my life, it tasted great – so great that I assumed I was already an expert, perhaps a genius, and that I had a natural knack (coupled with a natural lack-of-interest) for cooking. Forget the part that the second time I made it, it was a disaster and was saved only because my Mom was around.

Every week, my son has to learn words for his dictation in school, and it is my painful duty to teach him. Sometimes I tell him to “just write, let me see how many words you already know.” He ponders for long over each word, applies phonics, thrusts his tongue out for effect and comes out with a result. I look at it, and am amazed – the word is perfect. English is a crazy language, as I always say. Nothing in English is as it seems. There is no clear rule for pronunciation, sometimes it is this way, sometimes it is that. For instance, I taught my son that if ‘e’ comes after ‘g’, it is pronounced like a ‘j’, example: strange, damage, danger. He pointed to ‘belonged’ and read it as ‘belonjed’. He asks me why ‘Ocean’ is pronounced as ‘oshen’, shouldn’t it be ‘oseyan’? Anyway, he has his phonics right most of the time, so he gets some of the dictation words right at the first attempt. I am pleased. I don’t bother with those words, and focus on the rest. The next day he comes back with the dictation results and lo and behold – the words that are wrong are exactly the ones he had got right the previous evening.

I firmly believe Wikipedia should devote a page to Second Timer’s Unluck, because such a thing exists as much as Beginner’s Luck does. It is almost inevitable and unavoidable that the second time the smug beginner attempts something, it should fail miserably. Because Sir Isaac Newton has rightfully said, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

The first time, we are careful more than usual, we thrust our tongues out and ponder for long over each step. The second time, we feel it is easy – we have already done it right once, it was no fluke, and it was quite simple, really – and our concentration slips. We are prepared for an Encore. And the second time, we are unlucky.

The first (action) and second (reaction) balance each other out, and from the third time onwards, we are careful enough, we are experienced enough, we are sensible enough and we are balanced enough to get a moderately good (or sometimes better) result.