One of the cardinal rules you teach children is that everybody is blessed differently.
Each of us has unique gifts and talents, and just because some other kid does something better than you, it doesn’t mean that kid is a better person. Everybody excels in different areas: the kids who make the honor roll aren’t always the most socially well-adjusted; the best athletes aren’t always the sharpest students; and the most popular kids aren’t always the ones who go on to achieve the greatest professional success.
It’s nice reassurance to carry into adulthood as well – the only problem is, I’m not convinced that it’s true.
One case in point was revealed to me in a recent post by the categorically brilliant, immensely talented writer Malcolm Gladwell, who I’ve swooned over more than once in this space. Most recently, I described how reading his work has the unfortunate effect of emphasizing my own limitations as a writer. Although it was a discouraging feeling, I can honestly say I didn’t dwell on it too long … after all, there’s probably something I can do better than Gladwell, right?
Then I found out that he could probably kick my butt in a race, too - at least, he could have at one time.
In this short post, Gladwell tells the story of how he once defeated a future "greatest Canadian miler of his generation" in a 1500m race, in a time that most of us would die to run. He also unleashed this awesome picture upon the Internet:
In case you didn’t recognize the coif, that’s him on the right. His 1500m time was roughly 4:05, which is even more impressive when you consider the enormous drag coefficient coming from the top of his head. Given that Gladwell’s such an "outside the box" intellect, I’m somewhat surprised he didn’t think to wear a swim cap when he ran; you could make a pretty compelling argument that with a more streamlined profile, he might have dipped under four minutes.
But that’s mainly just me being petty, and even more discouraged that Gladwell has accomplishments in both writing AND running that I can’t even hope to emulate. And he’s intelligent and financially secure and is probably the life of every party he attends. He’s like a prom king who also turns out to be a straight A student and a completely nice person to boot – an outlier, if you will. Knowing all of this doesn’t cause me to admire him any less - but occasionally it makes me look even harder for something to stake my pride on.
I suppose I’ve got more manageable hair – and for now, I guess that will have to do.