When I was a kid my mom had a way of keeping me "grounded" when it came to my moderately above average accomplishments. Making honor roll was never anything to celebrate. A supporting role in the spring musical meant "you'll have to try harder next year for a lead" and when I graduated 23rd in my class it was "too bad I hadn't made it to the top ten percent". Perhaps a few more words of encourgement and a little less criticism would've propelled me further forward, but frankly, I doubt it. And now that Im grown and out here in the big bad world Ican't help but feel greatful not to be saddled with delusions of grandeur. And oh what delusions they would be, as I have discovered since graduating from my, apparently substandard, top-tier school.
My first job out of school was as an assistant at an investment firm wall-papered with ivy league diplomas and wreaking of that long-term stable success us underachievers are terrified of. No dot com bubble burst, big government bailout failures for these folks, unh unh. By my calculations, their achievements were due to 1 part luck, 3 parts favorable government policy and 8 parts SUPER SMART PEOPLE. Mostly super smart people pretending not to be super smart, possibly so as not to frighten the dingbat (me) handing them the weekly report. Still, I wouldn't have realized what a slacker I was had it not been for their across the board outside the boardroom, high flying achievements . Nauseatingly, everyone seemed to be some combination of varsity athlete/trend-setter/philanthropic dynamo; or, as I liked to call them, sample resumes on steroids.
I was too dumb to know I was a dummy so I started asking questions. After I got through the really dumb ones ("What's a ticker?") I moved onto the only slightly less rudimentary ("One more time, which one's 'net' and which one's 'gross'?). Until after 3 years with the firm I left with the knowledge baseline that I know nothing about investments and should stick to my idiot-proof 401k plan. My bank sends me a pie chart of how they're investing the funds but I'm smart enough to know I'm not smart enough to assess whether pink, green and yellow are really diversified properly or not.
You're thinking these people are the exception not the rule, right? That it's rare for someone to be a well rounded, well traveled, well versed and well dressed individual, and that these folks are few and far between. I thought that too. And then I started working at Bloggle.
Minus the well-dressed piece, my current coworkers are very similar to the former, except they've lived in the 12 different countries the investment folks have vacationed in and they speak the dozen or so languages...fluently. I'll admit, it was disheartening to discover yet another tribe of super smarties. Frankly it stressed me out for some time. It doesn't anymore though, and here's why. You may recall a certain son of a former president who managed to get himself elected to the same position based on the notion that he was just a common guy who liked to hunt and couldn't pronounce "nuclear". Politics aside, I never understood the logic behind that. I don't want the leader of the free world to be as smart as I am, I want him (or her) to be much, much smarter. I want the person steering the ship to make my head spin when he explains the mechanics of the vessel. Why? Because he's the one steering the damn ship!
The same logic shore side tells me Im actually in a damn good position here at Bloggle. I have walking talking examples of all the things I should strive for and, more or less, an unwaivering faith in the folks leading my team every day. Am I still self conscious about the one language I speak and my BA from a non-ultra elite school? Hell yes. But I'll take being the dumbest of the smart people over the smartest of the dummies any day of the week, and that is something I know Im smart enough to have chosen right.