I Like Spoilers

I like spoilers. Knowing the end from the beginning—this is how I like to enjoy a book or a movie. And a study by Leavitt and Christenfeld, in which they deliberately spoiled stories for people, shows I’m not alone. Others, too, like finding their way to a resolution they already know.

This may be true especially for those of us who are whole-to-part learners. Once we know how the story turns out, its’s easier to get a handle on the details and focus instead on the deeper meaning. The story becomes like a maze, where you put your pencil at the start and your eye on the end and enjoy the twists and turns along the way.

This, in fact, is how I learned to enjoy Shakespeare.

“I’d like to propose a project to you,” my professor in a graduate course on leadership said to me. “Read King Henry IV and analyze the dynamics of leadership you find in the play.”

I came close to rolling my eyes, and he noticed my hesitation.

“I’ve got a way you can like Shakespeare,” he said.

And he outlined a sequence that I’ve used with Shakespeare ever since: watch an animation, read a children’s version, watch a full-play video, and then read the actual script.

This works, I found, because, instead of feeling stupid like I always had when I plunged straight into the Bard, I kept feeling smarter and smarter. Shakespeare’s phrasing was still a puzzle to solve. But with this unfolding sequence, I was able to make more connections, notice more patterns. It was like I had the picture on the puzzle box propped in front of me helping me fit the fragments together to create a bigger picture.

“The smarter you feel, the more you like it,” my professor said.

And he was right.

It can still feel a little like cheating, though, like taking a sneak peek at the back of a math textbook and working from the answer key to figure the strategy.

But I’ve discovered that knowing the answer helps me enjoy the problem.

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