I’m stacking a math minor on top of my electrical engineering major this year, and after taking abstract algebra and real analysis back to back, I feel pretty comfortable saying that while I’m competent at doing this stuff, I don’t really have any desire to do more of it (unless I need it down the line, of course).
I could push myself to work far harder and become quite good, or maybe even great, in this field, but something about that strategy doesn’t sit right with me. It’s pretty well documented that true math prodigies occur and recur throughout every generation – people with the combined force of extreme talent and an extreme love of the subject that pushes them to work much harder at it than the norm. They often don’t seem willing to admit it, but I think that’s because of the extreme difficulty of the subject, not because they actually don’t have a clear and obvious difference in ability compared to most of their peers.
I think it’s disingenuous to tell people that everyone can do math if they put in the work. It is technically true, but that’s rarely the true issue – the true issue is the amount of work some people need to put in is vastly more than the amount other people do, and most people (reasonably) intuit this about themselves and back off to find more suitable areas.
And that’s all okay. I guess in a “rage against the heavens” sense it isn’t, because it sucks that we can’t yet just reprogram ourselves effortlessly to suddenly not only understand more math, but be able to learn new math much faster, at least once you get past the point where people have decent studying techniques and all.
But it’s not a moral failing to say “Wow this stuff is really hard and I get the feeling my time is better spent elsewhere”. In fact, I think it’s easier to argue that swallowing that gut feeling down and not listening to it, lying to yourself, is a much worse thing to do.