22 July 2005


Does talent really make a difference in Puerto Rico?

The Jenius often hears accounts from talented people expressing their frustration and anger at how agonizingly difficult it is to achieve success in Puerto Rico. It is especially galling to see how other--less talented and less capable--persons "strike it rich" in ways that seem almost magical.

The Jenius has heard these stories and felt the same feelings many times. Yet over time, some answers have emerged. They may not be conclusive or even comforting, but they at least provide a ray of hope.

First of all, Life is not fair. We don't want to hear that right now, but it's a simple Truth.

Second, there is no sense in comparing one's self to another. Regardless of what the clueless majority believe, another person's success does not detract or reflect on your own. Their path is different than yours, Mine or anyone else's.

Third, contrary to popular belief, the majority of success stories, even in Puerto Rico, are based on character, effort, focus and ability. It may seem like the majority are cheating their way to the top, but it simply isn't so. That perception is nothing but the cultural expression of "sour grapes." We may not agree with a person's character, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthy of respect. We never really see how much effort a person puts into his or her work, so We see the end result and conclude it was "easy," thus engendering a negative response. We are often lousy judges of another person's ability unless We compete or collaborate with them in close quarters. And even then, We tend to underestimate its value. And We often discard or ignore a person's level of focus on the goal they have selected. A mediocre mind focused on one thing will always achieve more than a brillinat mind focused on nothing or too many things. We often confuse "simple"--uncomplicated--with "simple," as in dumb. Uncomplicated is good and works better than complexity.

Fourth, in Puerto Rico imagination and creativity are seen as useless, unless one is gossiping. There seems to be an almost atavistic fear of new ideas and new ways of doing things. That fear, and its negative consequences, appear as unneeded obstacles in the paths of talented and visionary persons. This seeking to discard or destroy creative activity is a sister feeling to "sour grapes": by trying to tamp down what could change the world around Us, We can thus continue to feel only the dull ache of dissatisfaction, not the sharp agony of jealousy. In doing so, it also eliminates the ecstasy of a better world.

And finally, success is the byproduct of the learning process. When one continually repeats a pattern, the culprit is one's own lack of perspective to envision the stumbling block and either engineer a new path, eliminate the block or overcome it. Instead of emptily focusing outward on "others," an inward focus will yield greater rewards, both in knowledge and self-esteem.

The Jenius didn't arrive at these points through second-hand experience: He walked each step many times. Yes, the circumstances in Puerto Rico make it more difficult to succeed, but once you've determined what those circumstances are--and accept to continue playing by them--the need to complain should dissipate. Success is a personal matter, subject to personal definition. Despite its oddities, the island is not a zero-sum game where limited resources are shared, (thus My win is always a loss to others.) It is an open-ended game where My victory can create a whole new world.

The only definition of success that matters is your own. The only path that matters is the one you make for yourself. The only way to lose is to quit--or to accept only what others grudgingly give you. Success, if you truly want it, will be yours.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A decade of hiring and managing people has taugth me that its almost always better to hire a candidate with drive than one with boundless talent or ability. Yes, there are natural limitations to our abilities but heart, drive and determination can help make the most of what we have (ever seen the movie Rudy?)
Not directly related to the article but I think its worth mentioning here. My brother, is a physical education teacher/basketball coach. When he is coaching basketball he starts by teaching his team how to play chess, and to play it well. The team won't touch a ball until they know how to play chess. The kids usually get it, he is teaching them how to think several moves ahead, strategy. His players don't follow the ball, they anticipate where the ball is going to be. As expected, parents complained, most other teachers did not get it either. So now he is teaching and coaching in NYC. His time in New York has helped him hone his methods and now he is preparing a plan for coming back and successfully implement his methods. Sometimes to succeed in Puerto Rico, one has to go away for a while.