Raising The Bar

I was watching the Charlie Rose Show the other evening and he was interviewing Joel kotkin, the author of the The Next Hundred Million, a book about the next hundred million people to be added to the current population of the United States. Kotkin is a demographer. Aside from his prediction that the opportunity will accrue to the middle states of the union (because there is inexpensive land) his most disturbing forecast was that we will be accentuating the differences between richer and poorer, and this gap will steadily become more pronounced.

For the not so privileged the challenge will be finding a way up. Education will cost more and their environment will be much more difficult to navigate for a young person. As a result, like a lethal virus, low self-esteem, is one of the plagues.

In the recently released movie, The Blind Side, the (true story real life) Tuohy family, take in Michael Oher, a kid raised in a down and out project part of Memphis. A gripping story, the most salient point of the movie to me was that Michael was tested to find out where his talents lay, and then guided to make the most of them. It turned out that his instinctive gift was the ability to protect. He ranked in the 98’th percentile if I recall the figure right. While driving a new vehicle with his new younger brother, Sean, Michael is distracted and has a wreck, causing the airbag to inflate on Sean. When mom, Leigh Anne, arrives at the scene immediately after seeing that everyone is shaken but alright, she is told by the investigating policeman that Sean could easily have been killed by the exploding airbag, but he wasn’t phased. Then she notices Michael’s right arm, which is badly bruised and scraped. She knew instantly what had happened.  Michael had instinctively reached over with his powerful right arm and prevented the airbag from smashing into Sean as it burst open.

Aside from the remarkably humanitarian story involved here of a well to do family taking in a down and out kid, and helping him craft a life, they saw how to focus on Michael’s gift and support it’s development.  In the movie Michael, who is huge, is having trouble as a football player being in the right position. Leigh Anne goes up the coach and tells him to tell Michael the job is to “protect” the quarterback. The rest is history as he becomes an all American and then moves on to the pros.

In my opinion it isn’t enough just to be aware of one’s gifts. I believe one must know what areas  need to be at least partially mastered in order to give that gift a place to shine. I was given a psychological battery of tests over a three day period when twelve years old. My gifts were in counseling and aesthetics, very useful skills for the advertising business. What I needed to do was learn business skills, both in and out of the classroom. Not a cakewalk for me, but with sufficient plodding I got there. I was lucky in one sense, because I had forgotten about this earlier testing and as my opportunity to enter the advertising world presented itself I was blessed with the right aptitudes. With the pace of change accelerating, knowing one’s talent  and what  needs to be done to bring it to blossom will make it easier to navigate the increasingly uncertain landscape.

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