T of Death (2/3)



I used to enjoy merging. On long drives home from Grove City, I’d merge happily on the freeway to keep myself amused and awake.

I realized today that I have become a right lane rider. After months of passing gruesome wrecks on the highway, merging has become a gamble with death. There’s a downside to parking in the right side lane too often, though. You tend to get stuck. The traffic flow experts can correct me on this, but it does seem that the left lanes go faster. But it’s safe in the right lane.

Last post about the T of Death, I bewailed against being so broadly skilled that you aren’t skilled at all. This week, I want to spread my caution against getting too stuck doing the same thing forever.

Ironically, this is often the result of being too diverse in one’s interests at some point. You take every job and internship you can get. Of course, a wood-carving class tends to lead to wood-carving internships which leads to a wood-carving job and before you know it, you’ve spent your whole life as the human equivalent of a termite.

I just want to make sure I don’t live my entire life in the right lane, playing it safe only to find out that I’ll never get where I want to go. The merge might be scary, dangerous, and potentially life-threatening but I’d rather be moving in the right direction than idiling in the same spot.


T of Death (1/3)

I started off my undergraduate career wide-eyed and ready to learn. I was easily indoctrinated, and when an esteemed professor told us to “be a T”, I took it to heart. He extolled us to become incredibly diverse in our skill sets, but go in-depth in one area. It was well-intentioned advice, but taken too far, you end up like the hapless college graduate that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, describes in his book “Zero to One”

“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready–for nothing in particular.”

I am the proud owner of that diverse but relatively useless resume Thiel references. To be more accurate, I have curated a MASTER RESUME. A mammoth document recording everything I’ve ever done that may be of some interest to someone, some day, somewhere. When it comes time to use said novelette, I simply cherry pick the pieces that are most relevant, turning myself into a healthcare entrepreneur, selfless volunteer, social media guru, or involved and diligent student with a simple Ctrl + X.

Am I happy with the T I’ve turned out to be? I’m starting to doubt the practicality and healthiness of living a life of resume curating.


“Make your strengths extraordinary rather than making your weaknesses adequate”

I recently heard this quote in the context of leadership development.  It is the mantra of StrengthsQuest, an asset-based personality test.  As a two time veteran of the test and the training program, I appreciate the sentiment.  And I’ve largely followed that advice in my own life.  I fine tune what I’m already good at, and ignore the parts of me that I have deemed hopeless.

But hearing the strengths leadership methodology stated so simply made me think.  Have we killed the Renaissance Man?  Is the world so specialized now that there is no value in being decently good at everything?

I’ve been told to be a T person.  Choose one thing to excel in and stay shallow in other skills.  It is the hallmark of the marketable college grad and the individualized American.

What do you think?  Is the focus on strengths to the exclusion of areas of development destroying the well-rounded person?  Comment below and share your thoughts!

This is living.

She shudders as the thunder blankets the sky.  Her reaction is to hide, to withdraw inside of the house, herself, a book, anything.  Sheets of rain driven by powerful winds rush by the window.  The movement of the individual rain drops down the glass and the immense force that they command together frightens her so much that rationality is abandoned.  Rubber boots are adorned instead of logic.  The umbrella is left lying under the tackle box in the closet, her mothers warnings are left unheeded by ears that need to hear the wind in its full force.

The wetness is trapped in her clothing.  It wraps around her tightly, clinging to her skin.
She runs.  The neighbors peer from behind their gingham curtains and wonder why she must run, never once thinking that they must run as well.  She doesn’t notice.

There is renewal in the rain and joy in the puddles.  The rain forms moving walls that travel down the road.  She laughs and runs after something that is impossible to catch.

Mud splashes with every step, barely noticeable on her legs and shorts that are saturated with water.  She does not stop running.

Until she does stop and opens her eyes and her arms because this is the time to create a photograph.  This is the time to be symbolic and embrace the rain.  The smile is small but it has started from the heart and it cannot be stopped.  Exhausted, she lets her hands fall, palm-down, over her head, onto the ground that is so wet that it accepts the hand prints willingly as they impress into the mud.  Her body forms an arc.  Slowly, she lowers the spine and lets it mold into the ground.

Eyes closed she lays there, soaking in the water from the earth and from the clouds.  The thunder no longer blankets the sky.  Each peal moves through the clouds on a diagonal, followed by a slight turn of the head.  Sunshine replaces the darkness but the rain has a steady, lulling, consistency.

Each drop feels like it will pierce her skin as it lands on her legs and arms but the way it kisses her lips balances the pain.  This is living.