Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Born with a wooden spoon and 2 digit IQ

If we scan through any popular print media or watch news channels for few minutes, we would invariably come across the names of people who have excelled in their respective fields. It could be a mention of a sportsperson who has brought fame to his country, an entrepreneur who has sold his startup for a couple of million dollars, an artist who has won a prestigious award, the list is endless. Often, when I read or hear about these people, I am left wondering – why am I not one among them? One thing for sure is that there is no definitive answer for this question, but I will make an honest attempt at getting close to the answer.

On analyzing the super achievers, I observed that they could roughly be placed under four groups– 
  • Born geniuses – These are the people who are extraordinary by design!! These people are gifted with some unique ability and it is tough to answer why they were the chosen recipients for the gift. A popular example would be Albert Einstein. 
  • Blessed with a great lineage – The set of people who have an edge over others primarily by the virtue of being born to super achievers. It is like , in a race, their starting point is quite ahead of others. These people have the much needed guidance and mentorship available at their fingertips and are best described by the phrase ‘born with a silver spoon’. Pick any second generation successful industrialist as an example. 
  • A combination of 1 and 2 above – These are set of people who are gifted with fairly good skills and a decent lineage. Their credit lies in combining it optimally. 
  • The hard worker – The quintessential darling of popular media who makes it to the top by sheer hard work and determination. 

Of course, this is a very broad classification and in most cases, it would be a combination of two or more things in the list in creating a success story. But, more than refining the list, am concerned about the vast majority of us who don’t belong to any of the categories above. By ‘us’, I mean the guy writing the blog and the one who is reading it J let us call this group as the ‘mediocre majority’. The hard truth is that members of this group are not gifted with any extraordinary abilities or born with silver spoons. Adding to the misery, hard work does not bond well with us. It is these people who seem to lead very ordinary lives in comparison to the exciting lives of super achievers. It is these people who spend most of their spare time wondering why are they leading ordinary lives!! During one of these contemplating sessions it struck me that I am missing an important point while comparing myself with people who seem to have achieved too much too soon. May be, the error is that we are just looking at the end result and not the path. It was like looking at two end products and immediately concluding which is better than the other, without doing the background check of what went into making each product. A better analogy would be like looking at two athletes ‘Mr. Mediocre’ and ‘Mr. Extraordinary’ racing against each other and instantaneously concluding who is the winner, without asking some critical questions – did they start from the same place? Did they follow the same track ? Were they given equal opportunities for training ? Are they participating in the same race ? May be, if we really start analyzing along these lines, it would be tough to declare anyone of them as winner or loser. 

In the above example, imagine that ‘Mr. Mediocre’ who apparently looks lagging behind started from a different point in the race and had to train under tougher circumstances compared to ‘Mr. Extraordinary’ who apparently looks like leading the race. Fortunately or unfortunately, the situation of most people in the ‘mediocre majority’ is similar to the situation of ‘Mr. Mediocre’ in the race. With the limited skills and opportunities, it takes time before we accomplish anything substantial [what actually qualifies to be called ‘substantial’ is a different topic in itself]. And due to these limitations, it is quite possible that ‘Mr. Mediocre’ might never catch up with ‘Mr. Extraordinary’. This may sound hard, but this could just be the reality. The motivational speakers would want me to believe that these limitations just exist in the mind, but reality does not always match theory!! 

I don’t mean to discredit the super achievers in anyway, but just looking at the end result and ignoring the process would be a wrong way of judging anything. Considering this, the next time I am tempted to compare ‘Mr. Mediocre’ and ‘Mr. Extraordinary’ and come to a hasty conclusion, it is better to not just look at the end result, but also give a thought to their individual journey through the race.