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|Mediocrity||Sunday, 2005 January 9 - 10:50 am|
|One of the things I've always wanted in life is to be really good at everything. The fact that I am not is a source of frustration. It's a neurosis, I know.|
North Carolina has been really warm this winter. Yesterday, temperatures reached 70F (21C), so I went to the driving range to hit a bucket of golf balls. I am not what you'd call a GOOD golfer; I am pretty mediocre. But I enjoy the fact that it's a finesse game, and there is a real science to the technique of the golf swing. So I study it, I read about it, and I try to use brainpower to make up for my lack of physical coordination.
It doesn't work.
Now, I'm better than a rank beginner. I can play a reasonably enjoyable round of golf without embarrassing myself. When I looked around at most of the other folks at the driving range, there were a lot of people struggling to even hit the ball. So I feel good about being slightly better than the median skill level of the general population. I try to achieve at least that for everything that I do. But sometimes I wish I were really good at it. I watch professional golfers in awe, because I know just how difficult it is to achieve that level of skill.
After reading The Queen's Gambit recently, I've become interested in chess again. I used to play as a kid quite a bit. During high school I played chess in English class by passing notes to Steve Chizek. Again, I'm somewhat better than average at chess; if I had a rating, it would probably be in the 1500 range.
But the computer kicks my ass whenever I play it, unless I crank the skill level way down. I don't mind losing, but I hate when I fail to visualize a sequence of moves that results in a disadvantage for me. "Oh, he did that; now I have to move my knight here and now I'm going to lose that bishop over there. Damn it." I feel like I should be able to see those things. Moreover, I feel like I used to be able to do that, but that I've just grown lazier and dumber in my old age. I think perhaps it's good that I've started to play chess again; perhaps my alcohol-dulled brain just needs some exercise.
Meaning no offense who those who don't play chess: I believe chess ability is somewhat of an indicator of IQ. And I do mean "IQ", not "intelligence"; that is to say, if you're good at chess, you'd probably do well on those standardized IQ tests. Chess is a game of visualization and pattern recognition. Now, I know lots of people don't play chess simply because they don't find it interesting... I don't think that's a function of intelligence, I think that just means some people are more into games and puzzles than others. (In other words: DON'T SEND ME ANGRY LETTERS BECAUSE YOU DON'T PLAY CHESS. I'm not calling you dumb.)
I take some comfort in the fact that I'm slightly better than average at a lot of different things. So, I can tell myself it's okay not to be a superstar at any one thing. (Well, the one thing I'm really good at is my job, as a computer engineer. I just wish I found that more interesting.) Alas, there is no fame and fortune for the modern renaissance man. As a society, we reserve our accolades for those who are spectacularly talented at one thing, even if they are utterly unskilled at everything else they do. (Britney, I'm talking to YOU.)
Posted by Ken in: life
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