A few years ago, I was present at an @AIESECIFE meeting. After going through a few items on the agenda, it was time to hear an alumnus speak on ‘personal efficiency’. To be totally honest, the dude didn’t look the part; he wasn’t even near the most eloquent person I ever heard. If I was going to listen at all, something else needed to capture my attention. In fact, I already wrote the session off as a pellucid waste!
I, however, quickly noted from his outline how different from the popular his approach was. He began by giving a very insightful definition of personal efficiency and proceeded to highlight its two critical ingredients: Biology and the Environment. He then went further to liken personal efficiency to the intersection of those two ingredient-sets. Being, at the time, someone who had barely noticed any remarkable agreement between his Biology and Environment, I was convinced the talk was well-tailored to my needs. So, ‘forsaking all others’, I tuned in.
You see, prior to that time, I had been told (by a rather reliable source) that my IQ was fairly low. From then on, it hard been extremely hard to see anything good in the mirror. To top it all, the haughty Miss Loe Self-Esteem declared herself too good for me and as such, her uglier sister, Noe Self-Esteem, was all I had for company. By my thinking, there really wasn’t much to live for if the ‘elements’ had decided to deny me wit. My life was effectively over before it even begun – or so I thought! Right there, however, was someone telling me that my ‘biology’ was the less consequential ingredient of success (aka personal efficiency). It felt like a soul-cleansing revelation – one as convincing as it was compelling. I quickly understood that it solely my primary responsibility to decide exactly what ratio of biology and environment to include in the mix called me.
The speaker had gone on to explain the environment as those things (like people and habits) we surround ourselves with – that influence, motivate or deter us. He opined that Environment (effort) – not talent – was the real pillar of success. And it all started to make sense as I slowly began to see that the pains on not ‘fitting in’ were just to get me into my own ‘environment’; life’s own way of testing if I had the will-power to become who I really wanted to be.
A lot has been said in the comparison of a good man on a bad day Vs. a bad man on a good day! In my very humble opinion, there’s no telling them apart. Many gentlemen have passed for maniacs on their ‘off-days’ – and many tyrants, for saints on their ‘happy days’. With that in mind, I decided to put in the required work to keep the day (the environment) good; maybe those birth-stereotypes are really just redundant placeholders. Maybe it shouldn’t matter that one was born with “doctor’s fingers” if what really makes him/her fulfilled is conducting an orchestra.
The ‘you-decide’ idea sounded a bit strange – but the relief it brought was overwhelming. Someone had just unknowingly solved the mystery of how a kid who suffered stunted growth could be named the world’s best footballer (TWICE+). I began to understand that ‘natural talent’ was really and truly over-rated; that I just had to pick who/what I wanted to be – and decide to be the best at it. And, that revelation has shaped the idea of me ever since.
24 hours a day stopped being enough long ago; so, please, spare me an extra moment – to laugh sardonically. In that time, I’ll remember all those who said a black man could never be boss in the white house, or that Allen Iverson was too short for the NBA; the same ones who said man could never survive in outer space. Those people genuinely deserve Oscars for how well they play God every now and again; ignoring effort and judging outcome by ‘predictable’ biology.
They often forget how radioactive and toxic sole reliance on ‘talent’ or ‘natural endowments’ can eventually become. How many times have we seen (untapped) potential grind to a shocking halt in the middle of nowhere? How many of our primary school class-leaders maintained their momentum through the university? Truth is, talented or not, nothing – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – can be improved without effort.
Blackburn’s (originally right-footed) Morten Gamst Pederson was never a candidate for success on the left flank. According to ‘experts’, Usain Bolt’s legs were always too long for a 100m sprinter. Very few people gave fresh-faced Tyson half a chance of making it in the heavyweight class, considering how short his arms were. Yet, by gritty desire and relentless hard-work, these people not only made it; they made a habit of making quite a lot of their opponents look silly.
The list of people who had/have no logical chance is endless – but I’ve come to understand that biology-based logic has absolutely nothing on the power of will. Don’t get trapped in that burning lab, sulking at a perceived lack of talent. Work hard, instead, at those ‘little’ things that interest you. Someday soon, those bullies who once looked down on you will swear you ‘took the elevator’ – as they’d have to look high up to see you again!