Only Moderately Exceptional

When I was a small child, I used to think I was pretty smart. Assignments were ridiculously easy to finish and if there was anything I didn’t understand, I’d find a mental loophole so I could skip the hard parts.

Yeah, I was pretty smart.

Until I got to high school. Or more specifically, a high school I had to apply to because they only accepted, at the very least, moderately exceptional people. When I got in, I jumped up and down and screamed like I had gotten a full-ride scholarship to NYU. (Because, Yale? Please.)

Not too long later, I discovered I was less than exceptional. Assignments were hard and my loopholes could only go this far: not very far at all. I came to accept the truth I had been ignoring: That I wasn’t really that smart and my brain was inferior to those who just seemed to get it.

Anyway, self-esteem-killing asides, I was in one of  my audio and technology class I’m planning to major in.

There was a challenge called the spaghetti tower challenge. Basically, using only a limited amount of dry spaghetti, string, and tape, we had to make a structure strong enough to hold a whole marshmallow. And points for whoever made the tallest structure.

I like winning. A lot.  

I quickly assembled a team of those reluctant to band together on their own. With 15 minutes on the clock, the time started, and I started by asking “Who’s got an idea?”

None of them did. Seeing as none of us were gifted engineers of the wheat-grain type, I suggested we should start building.

And they listened. They actually listened. One began creating shapes, another started taping them together, and another tried to build them up.

I was hit with the realization: For some reason, even despite my less-than-average brain, they had chosen to believe that I would be a good leader. They thought I was a good choice.

Related image
Me on the inside.

I was happily obsessively taping spaghetti strands and barking orders  giving suggestions when I noticed one member doing nothing and watching helplessly.

I said to her, “You should cut the tape” and gave her the exact specifications.

The good news: WE WON. Somehow.

THE Award-Winning Tower 

The better news: I learned a very important lesson– when you are given the highest honor of being a team-leader, you have to make everyone feel relevant and like an important part of your team.

Because I know that I wouldn’t want to be in a group of people significantly more intelligent than me and feel like a weak link.

And besides, history never gave the most money to the smart ones. It gave the most money to the ones who could find loopholes and get people to agree with them.

Because winning is great. But earning is greater.

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