I always wanted to be extraordinarily good at something. Not just as in, “Great job, Jimbo!” No, I wanted to be best-in-class, awe-inspiring, elite good; a world-renowned prodigy, like Michael Phelps (circa 2008), or Mark Zuckerberg.
Unfortunately, my version of reality did not quite line up with this delusional vision. I was a good swimmer, but I peaked at the collegiate State Championships level. My academic record was pretty solid, but I never would have made it into one of those ivy-league schools.
Though I rose to above-average status in a couple areas, the disappointing truth was that I would never amount to anything more than a mid-sized fish in a small pond. God apparently had other plans.
What drove me crazy, though, was the superstar talent thrown in my face at every turn. Some folks just seemed to get an unfair whopping dose of it. Why couldn’t I be like Bernie Williams, the famed New York Yankees player who also happens to be a world-class jazz guitar virtuoso?
Some say greatness is simply a function of putting in the practice time. Around ten thousand hours, to be precise, according to author Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t question the theory of devoting herculean efforts to develop one’s expertise, but it seems that raw talent is equally important. You either have it or you don’t.
I’ve heard that as people approach middle age, their life satisfaction increases because they begin to accept the gap between the expectations for themselves and the reality. After a few frustrating decades of grinding it out without the desired results, we eventually come to terms with how our lives turned out, even if it falls far short of our idealized youthful aspirations.
Hope bends, it seems.