What’s so great about being great?


When I was a lad, I collected baseball cards, read books about baseball and watched baseball on TV when I could (having no professional team in Florida).  I really wanted to be a great baseball player.

I was talented in the outfield.  I ran fast, had excellent anticipation for the ball off the bat and had a strong, accurate arm.  I was also a twig, with power to hit doubles (when the wind was blowing out).  I could beat out a few more hits from quickness, but it was clear I wasn’t going to be a great baseball player.

Also when I was young, I loved drawing.  I was pretty good with a pencil and reasonably good with pen and ink.  I would look at art in everything from comic books to art books.  I took a few art classes with mediocre “success” (if there is such a definition with art).  It was clear I wasn’t going to be a great artist.

The years continued and my love of words developed geometrically.  Between crosswords, Scrabble games and voluminous reading, my vocabulary and articulation increased at a similar pace.  My family was certain I should be a lawyer, combining my keen mind with my sharp tongue.  I even took a few courses early on when I went to college.  What I learned from the books and from the teachers convinced me law was not as romantic as the uninitiated believe (and this was decades before everyone sued for the most trivial things).  It was clear I wasn’t going to be a great lawyer.

My continued working with puzzles and exploration of new ideas led me to be a strong problem solver.  At the same time, I found out that making other people happy and successful made me happy.  So, I thought perhaps I could be a great manager.  A quarter century of Corporate America nibbling away at my idealism convinced me the people who define “great” management are usually the ones with the least understanding of the word.  Short of sacrificing my remaining ideals, it was clear I was not going to be a “great” manager.

I always believed in fairy tale endings…for everything.  So naturally, I always wanted to be a great husband and Dad.  The former never presented itself throughout the years (so far), making the latter improbable.  At this age, tt seems clear I’m not going to be a great Dad or husband (though there’s still hope…).

All throughout my youth I had dabbled at writing.  Short stories when I was younger; newsletters and periodicals in college and professional jobs.  I even started a novel during college (primitive stuff, but energetic). A few years ago I settled down to write my first book.  I was disappointed, though not surprised, about the total lack of enthusiasm from agents about my book.  I enjoy writing and look to continue with more stories.  And while those (few) readers of my book have enjoyed the tale, it’s clear I’m not going to be a great writer.

So.  I’m not great at anything.  I’m ok at sports.  I’m good at drawing.  I’m good at managing.  I’m a good listener.  I’m (by all accounts) a good writer.  But I’m not great at anything.  Jack-of-all-trades but master of none?

I look back across 50 (plus, now, can’t forget that) years of life (ok, so I can’t really remember the first few) and I see a Dad and a Mom who got divorced early, but still loved me and my sister.  I see a youth filled with games and one life-long friend.  I see a working man who managed to hold onto my antiquated ideals and tried my best to help those I worked with and who worked for me.  I see a state which allows people to play outside all year and a life of good health that allows me take advantage of that.

I see a past filled with some memorable people, friends and foes, with more of the former, thankfully.  I have been able to fulfill personal dreams (writing, visiting Lincoln) and survived personal tragedies (10 years last week losing Mom too soon).  And at the end of that look back, I have hope and expectation for a wonderful life to come.

Funny.  I’ve never been great at anything I wanted to be great at…but I’ve had a great life.

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