In eighth grade, I sat next to the smartest kid in the class–not the one who had the best grades, mind you, (he couldn’t be bothered to try too hard)–but nevertheless, he was the smartest, possibly bordering on brilliant. Everybody knew it in that way kids sense intuitively how they stack up with the rest of their classmates, whether in sports, music, computers, reading or brains.
One day in the spring of that year I chanced to ask my smart classmate why he wrote such small letters and printed instead of using cursive. He told me in a matter-of-fact tone, “All brilliant people write small and print.”
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not true because, starting that day, I wrote small and only printed–and I guarantee I’m not considered brilliant. Just ask my wife, my kids, my employees or any of my friends. Don’t ask my mom–she thinks I’m brilliant (and handsome), but that’s her job, which is why I love her.
To this day, I write small and print. It became a habit–so much so that I can’t write in cursive without going very s-l-o-w-l-y. Watching me sign checks is painful. Waiting for me to fill out a birthday card is torturous. And the worst part? Nobody can read my small, printed handwriting because I try to write quickly and it ends up looking like gibberish. Not bad for a doctor. Not good for a publisher.
I made a decision that day in the eighth grade, although it wasn’t a conscious one. I decided to emulate someone I thought was brilliant because I wanted to be brilliant too.
At the time, I didn’t understand that each of us has unique talents and that we must maximize those talents to the best of our ability day in and day out. But I also didn’t make other connections: All brilliant people probably don’t write small and print, writing in that way is a pain, and if I wanted to be brilliant, I should actually work on being brilliant. Changing how I wrote letters on paper wasn’t going to make me any smarter.
Sitting here, twenty-two years later, I have to smile. That whole experience was a great lesson, one I can use in my own parenting. It points to the power of perception and habit, to the need to be conscious of what one is doing and why one is doing it. It points to the need to be one’s own person at all times in all things.
Great lessons, but hard to pass on. Now I have a story to use with my own children in hopes that they make the connection in their lives.
Hopefully this issue will do the same for you. Hopefully, it will help you make a connection in your work life and spark an idea that makes you look and feel brilliant because, at that moment, you are.
If not, you can always try writing in small print. It worked for me.
Till next month …
Rodney J. Auth