My dad has never been that big on celebrating his own birthday. Perhaps it’s because he has two birthdays – one on his passport, the other that his mother swore he was born on. Actually, he felt that the birthdays of the the greats should be celebrated. Though he never failed to celebrate our birthdays, his refusal to acknowledge his own was, I think, his way of trying to inspire us to greatness. “You should want to be so memorable that others will remember your birth.”
I think we all know someone from high school who was always the smartest person in the room as well as the laziest. It’s not a stretch to see that this person never reached his potential, never became great. He may be delivering pizzas or working at a convenience store or just muddling through life. It’s not my place to judge another life but that ain’t greatness.
The recently retired NFL wide receiver Randy Moss will be remembered as one of the top 5 or top 10 WRs of all time. Maybe even #2. But he won’t even touch #1 even though he had more talent than Jerry Rice. He could have worked harder, tried harder, been a better teammate, been less of a malcontent. But he didn’t. It’s a testament to the immense size of Moss’s talent that he had such a productive career despite his malfeasance.
So how do we explain the on-court production of Michael Jordan or the insane creative genius of Steve Jobs? I think exceptions prove the rule here. Talent is as much of a distraction as it is a blessing. Not a burden per se but a distraction. These distracting, detracting behaviors are, I think, the more common reaction of the truly talented. It’s a coping mechanism.
Most of the greats will attribute their success to something like 2% talent, 98% hard work or thereabouts. And therein lies the rub. To rise above the distractions that talent brings, to actually take advantage of one’s innate abilities, to even realize one’s great abilities is something of a miracle.
For every Jordan (who’s lucky his gambling didn’t destroy his career), there are a dozen Vince Carters. For every Lemieux, a dozen Lindros’. For every Steve Jobs, a hundred high school flame-outs. Someone has to deliver pizza after all.
Photo Credit: Flickr