Thursday, August 18, 2011
So I’m on Twitter and I see that “Stop Coddling the Super” is trending right now. I'm intrigued. I clicked the link to find that Warren Buffet wrote an article. I say, “Oh… Super-Rich. Okay… I get it.”
I’ll be the first to tell you, I know nothing—I mean nothing—about taxes for the super-rich, or world finance, or things of that nature. (I didn't even read the article.) But sometimes a headline—in this case a chopped-off, misperceived headline–strikes a chord… and I am compelled to write.
So, “Stop coddling the Super.”
This isn’t about TV. But, for a little framework, I’ll tell you there’s a new show on SyFy called Alphas. Can’t yet endorse it because I’ve only seen one episode, but the episode I saw was fun. And I love the concept.
Alphas: seemingly regular people with everyday senses and abilities amped to such an extreme they verge on Super-human.
Their website asks if you’re an Alpha. Now, I hope this doesn’t turn you off, but…
I think I am.
And this brings me to my point...
I have the uncanny ability to do well at nearly anything I put my hand to. Sounds impressive… sounds annoying… sounds “Super”
Actually (surprisingly) it kind of sucks.
When things come to you easily, you don’t feel you have to try hard. If you can succeed—and sometimes actually excel—doing a … um … “halfway” job (or what I like to call the Two-Legged-Donkey Dance) you don’t learn to really excel… unless someone pushes you to move beyond your comfortable, lackadaisical, super-mediocrity. Only then can you live to be truly Super.
It’s true. Some of the most amazing people in numerous areas of life are the people without Alpha skills or Super powers—my wife is a prime example of this. She’s had to work hard and study hard for everything she’s ever gained. And when it comes to organizing things, or who I would want leading my roster of go-getters, would I pick her or me?
She’s amazing! And not because it came easy to her... because she worked hard to become so.
I think of my dad.
Abandoned at 6 years old. Literally left to die thirty miles outside of town. Worked for room and board on a stranger’s farm. Went to school two days a week. Worked the other three. Never once had it easy. Became manager of every place he ever worked. Influenced people’s lives so much they couldn’t say enough about him at his memorial (open mic lasted three solid hours—amazing.) Why? Because he worked hard. He pushed himself to be the best he could be. (And because he loved people more than himself. If he had an Alpha power, that was it.)
There are more examples I’m sure. You probably know them. You probably admire them as much more than the so-called Supers as I do.
People who took their regular Joe (and Jane) lives and pressed hard toward the prize. I Love ‘em. I Pray to be like them.
So again I say, “Stop Coddling the Super”
There was a moment in seventh or eighth grade—I believe it was history class—Daryle Ward (currently playing AA baseball for the Mobile BayBears) sat in front of me. I was doodling away on what should have been my note paper.
Daryle turned around with anger flashing in his eyes and said, “You know [Geno] you really pi** me off!”
Incredulous, I asked, “Why?”
I’ll never forget this moment for as long as I live… “Because! You’re twice as smart as me, and I’m getting better grades than you!” Then he told me I could do better than that... better than him.
I don’t remember what I said. But I remember I completely missed the point. I remember my internal response. He said I was twice as smart as him. See, there’s nothing wrong with me.
You see, I had a deep sense of self-loathing, a fear something was wrong with me, and a general fear of success.
Weird. I was wired for success—wired to succeed at anything I put my mind to—and I never really succeeded. I settled. That day I completely missed Daryle’s point… took it as an ego boost to assuage my self-loathing. (Little did I know it was my two-legged-donkey dance approach to life that was causing a lot of that loathing.)
Not a lot of people in my life have had the … um … I’ll say “courage” to confront me the way Daryle did. I wish they had. I’m forever grateful to Daryle for having the… “baseballs?” to just say it like it was. Not that he’ll ever read this, but, “Thank You, Daryle Ward. You helped me change—even if it took me nearly twenty four years to get the point. It's awesome you have pursued your dreams the way you have.”
I wish I’d listened sooner.
I’m glad my foray into being an author isn’t easy… and that I have people in my life pushing me to press beyond super-mediocrity. I pray I’ll live up to my potential… finally.
All this to say…
For you who have obvious Supers in your life who aren’t living up to their potential, Stop coddling them. They don’t need it, and they don’t deserve it. Don’t let them be a gifted slacker any longer. Stop letting their mediocre be enough… even if it looks better than a lot of people’s good, great, or excellent. They can do even better! Help them learn to be truly super. They’ll thank you in the end—heck… the world might thank you in the end.
And if you’re an Alpha or a Super who’s living as a gifted slacker, step it up. Stop being Super-Mediocre. Say to yourself—as I am now saying—“Self… You can do better than this.”
You could even say, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” And not as a Spiderman joke. As a simple fact of your life… and mine.
Check out my short story:
How to be a Hero: a Precursor to Treasures of Darkness - Treasures of Light
Available from Amazon (only $0.99)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I was struck in my heart today… but before I can explain it, let me set a mental stage.
It starts with this word: Panhandler (or even possibly homeless)
You may have noticed there are those who sit, almost smugly, on a particular street corner and beg for money—every day. I find myself very not inclined to give them money. Perhaps it’s a sense that if they were really trying to do something about their situation, really trying to build a life—instead of just inhabit one—they wouldn’t be there every day, begging... more like expecting.
Then there are those others… the guys I’ll gladly give my money to. You often see them in more metropolitan areas. They’ll rush out—with Windex and paper towels in hand—when you’re stopped at a long light, and they’ll ask if they can wash your window in exchange for a dime or two. I’ve had a pretty stellar window washing by one of those guys. I wondered, how did he do that so fast? I would have taken twice as long as the light was red. Yet he completed a great job in time for me to pay him, allowing him to get out of the street before the light even changed. Like I said, I gladly give money to those guys. They’re offering something. They understand giving. Yes… giving to get, but their approach doesn’t seem selfish to me—just focused.
Today I saw a man sitting on the corner. I’d never seen him before, and looking at him, I could see he wasn’t sitting there because he expected something, but he wasn’t offering anything either. He wasn't because he didn’t feel he had anything to offer. Short on hope, panhandling was his only option. That's how he seemed and how I regarded him—how I’ll remember him. He had a sign. It simply read:
I read it, and involuntarily said, “You and me both, Buddy."
I sensed his desperation, and it roused a similar desperation in me. I didn’t stop. I felt I had nothing to offer him.
As I passed by I whispered my apology to the air. Then I thought I have so much—meaning so much stuff—in essence I’m rich (but not in dollars), yet I have almost nothing to give... at this time in my life definitely no money to give. I thought of how unimportant so many of the things I own are. And how I just needed… this, or just needed to do… that. How so much of what I own serves no valuable purpose. I have a friend who is selling his PS3 to try to buy something more useful. When I asked him why he bought it originally. He paused and said, "To say I had a PS3." He shook his head and added, "It seems so stupid... when I say it out loud." I told him, "Yeah... it does, but a lot of people wouldn't have been that honest."
Sure his PS3 was a waste, but I’ve wasted much too. If I hadn’t, I would have been able to give more, help more, provide for others more often. I feel badly that I didn’t even try to encourage the man on the corner.
That was a moment when my own—self induced—desperation struck me. I Need.
Yes, I need money just like everyone, and frankly need it badly now, but... I Need.
I Need... to be more giving.
I Need... to be less taking.
I Need... to be the man I long to be; who cares for others most; who lives a life of humble service; who asks what can I give? (even if the giving gets me something... am I giving with that intent?) am I living a life I would be proud to share with others...? to say this is how you should live?
I Need... to encourage others... and I will... I can... I have the ability to succeed written into my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual DNA. I just have to keep that in mind.
So to you who might be like me: Think about the man whose sign read “I Need” (send a prayer up for him) and ask yourself—as I’m now doing—even while I need, how can I be better prepared to give?
To you who have it down better than I. Keep it up. The world needs you, and guys like me do finally get a clue.
For this moment this is what I have to give….