Life has shown me time and again that there’s always someone smarter than me. Nothing, however, is more humbling than when the smarter person is still a teenager or even younger. I got a healthy dose of humility while channel surfing last week when I came across an episode of Oprah highlighting kid geniuses/prodigies:
- Daniel Cook—Since the age of six, Daniel has been the host of his own series This is Daniel Cook. Now, at the age of nine, he’s done three tv shows, six books, and five DVDs.
- Akrit Jaswal (I can’t believe he already has a Wikipedia entry)—At 13, Akrit is currently studying for bachelor degrees in zoology, botany, and chemistry. And in case you hadn’t heard, he participated in surgery at the age of seven. His next goal? Find a cure for cancer.
- Mikhail Ali—Mikhail is a member of Mensa. Mikhail’s membership is intriguing because he joined at the age of three with an IQ of 137. He particular talent lies in numbers, leading to the nickname “Human Calculator.” The 5-year-old is now focused on square roots and fractions.
- Gwyn MacKenzie—Since the age of three, Gwyn has been playing the piano and singing. Now, at the age of eight, she has moved on to conquering opera. Foreign language aren’t a problem—she can sing arias in four of them.
- Corinna Draschl—The reigning Junior World Memory Champion memorized 50 names of random Oprah audience members in 20 minutes.
- Jasmine Lawrence—Looking for natural, kinder personal care alternatives, Jasmine started EDEN BodyWorks. This 15-year-old CEO is anticipating negotiations with Wal-Mart later this month.
- Vova and Olga Galchenko––At 18 and 15, Vova and Olga are a brother and sister juggling team. They “[hold] two world records, including one for passing nine clubs nearly 1,000 times without a drop.”
I feel like an utter and complete slacker. At three I was busy tormenting my newly arrived younger brother. At six, I was playing “Red Rover” during recess. At thirteen I definitely wasn’t contemplating a cure for cancer, and it took me until 28 to start my own business.
I feel a little of the same frustration when I go to conferences and hear people relating all the amazing projects they’re working on. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by everything I’m not doing. Shouldn’t I be doing more? With all the resources I have available, shouldn’t I be starting more projects, building more things?
It’s the double-edged sword of our current world—more is possible, but more isn’t necessarily better. There’s a reason why The 4-Hour Workweek landed on The New Yorks Times Bestseller list. (I’m still trying to fit it into my book rotation.) I guess it becomes a matter of acknowledging the amazing accomplishments of others and not continually saying, “I should have thought of that or done that.” It’s the difference between knowing when to push yourself through the next Dip and recognizing that any one person can’t do everything.
I’m still searching for the balance between what I can do versus what I should do. I suspect I’m not alone. Ghandi said that, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world—that is the myth of the atomic age—as in being able to remake ourselves.” (link) Maybe that’s a better way of looking at the equation. The projects we undertake, the goals we set for ourselves, no matter our age, should be about fulfilling the image of who we want to be and not focusing on how we think others want to see us.