Friday, February 20, 2009

Call Me Ted

Reading Ted Turner’s book I became acutely aware of something about my own life. I’m dumb.

I kid myself by telling myself I’m not or that I have “different talents”, but the truth of the matter is that I pretty much lack the genes necessary to be contributing member of society. Sure, I have beautiful children and I’m employed and I love my wife and I go to church, all those virtues it takes to be a productive member of society. But I lack the ability to be a contributing one.

I go through life with a major conflict on my shoulders. Do I not excel at certain things because I don’t try hard enough or because I lack the ability to do so? My core philosophy has always been that as long as I am aware of a problem/need/responsibility/dream then that makes it a “to-do”. “I know I’m out of shape, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it”. “I know the lawn needs to be mowed, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d really like to start a business, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” “I know I’d like to write a book, so it’s on me and me ONLY to do it.” Etc.

Our culture, heck the human race, thrives on stories of the little guy who gave something their all and came out a winner, whether it be in sports, or business, or education or American Idol. It’s what fuels the spirit that our existence is based on.

So, again, my conflict becomes: what if I show no ability to start my own business or get a PHD or play pro baseball, would trying harder fix that? For instance, I was no better at math or science the day I graduated from college, than when I entered high school. I studied, I passed classes (barely), I even had tutors occasionally, but the information never stuck. Whose fault is that?

Now, back to Turner. The man is amazing. He’s brilliant. He’s savvy. He’s visionary. He went from taking over his father’s billboard business to becoming one of the richest, most innovative, most influential people the world has ever seen. I’m humbled, I’m awed, I’m jealous, and I’m frustrated. Could anyone be a Ted Turner, or do his unique talents, circumstances, vision, and luck make him the only one qualified to wear those shoes? Believing that you can is what gets most people up in the morning, especially in a capitalistic society. I, however, have no business acumen to speak of. I don’t understand stocks or venture funding or equity or any other buzz word associated with entrepreneurialism. Like math and science, I have a feeling a lot of instruction would only accomplish retaining some of the information and for only short periods of time. So, instead, I go through life wondering “what if”. Take a piano prodigy. Does he find the piano, or does the piano find him? In other words, could anyone be a prodigy if the correct vessel was placed before them?

Bottom line: read the book. It’s fascinating and quick. My only beef is that Ted’s personality doesn’t leap off the page like it does in person. Luckily, he has friends, cohorts, and family write sections throughout the book that provides an anecdote that shines better light on the man.
Life would be easier if I didn’t see someone like Ted Turner as a goal or ideal. If I let them be them and me be me. But, that wouldn’t work because all I want to do is watch TV and eat pizza. So, where do I channel my motivation? My shoulders are collapsing!


Eric Petersen said...

You know I usually don't comment on things but I have to say this.....your selling your self short.

It sounds like your trying too hard to find answers to simple questions. I think most of us won't be "great" in the same sense that Ted is great. To achieve that level of success it is as you say - a combination of talent, drive, luck, and timing and most of us won’t have the combination. I believe that you are like me....average. People of average intelligence can become great and do great things if they are willing to work hard. In my opinion, work is the great equalizer. There are lots of people out there with above average intelligence or above average talents that are not willing to work, so they don't really ever become anything special. Talents and intelligence are just bonuses; they don’t do a person any good unless they are willing to work. All that being said, what is wrong with be a "productive" member of society? Can you find happiness in your family, small day to day accomplishments, or hobbies? I think being able to be happy in what ever situation you’re in is the real key to life you know why I don't comment more - I have a tendency to spout off!

Farrah said...

I agree - most of us are just not equipped to be Ted. He is a genius. But that's not selling yourself short, that's just honesty and I think it's okay to be honest. I'm not ever going to have a body like Jennifer Aniston, even if I lose 40 lbs. as you once pointed out. Lol. Such is life. But it doesn't mean I'm a loser (does it??) I loved that book, but it doesn't mean that you should feel bad because you're not Ted. I don't think Ted would want you to feel that way either

AnnieB said...

Ditto...don't sell yourself short. Your brain capacity is huge and brimming full of pop culture, songs and lyrics, movies, sports, random trivia, etc., etc.--all the things that really move you and interest you. I bet the stock and money guys don't have that on you! It really lies in interests and motivations and, as Eric put it, hard work. I do think people just come wired differently, but that doesn't mean that through hard work, they can't achieve a certain level. The balance of nature and nurture is fascinating! I think appreciating yourself and your gifts and the wonderful life that you create around you is what makes a person a contributing member of society! Just love yourself and your life. Be happy with you because you are amazing.

Ben Anger said...

Jon - Denise and I have been talking about this post for the past 30 minutes.
Here's the tautological answer: the majority of people are definition. It's a bell curve. We all fall somewhere. Our group of friends falls towards the smarter/ambitious side of things. At that point its a matter of being your better self. I often compare myself with others and i get jealous of their talents and abilities. but that's prideful. i'm reminded again and again that we are all judged by what we do with what we have been given. parable of the talents. this ted turner was given a lot and did a lot with it. it's our job to improve upon what we've been given. okay, i'm going to go back to feeling sorry for myself.