Sometimes stupid things fall out of people’s mouths and you’re just left slack jawed, wondering how do I respond to this—without smacking them upside the head, ‘cause, well, that’s just not nice.
Often well deserved, but not nice.
So now you’re going to ask me why I bring that up now. Blame my son, he just graduated from college.
He just graduated cum laude with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Mama bear is super proud—I know you’re surprised to hear that. He’s one of those scary-smart types who does calculus in his sleep and thinks advanced physics is wayyy too easy.
Yeah, one of those.
In a similar vein, I have a niece who is currently in college on a four year athletic scholarship for golf. She’s an amazing athlete, leading her team to their best season in college history. Super proud of her.
Both of them showed very early on that they had some special aptitudes in their respective areas. My niece skunked us at miniature golf when she was barely big enough to hold a club. My son taught his younger brother algebra when they were both in elementary school. It was pretty clear at that point, we had some unique abilities going on.
So, in some ways, their achievements haven’t been all that surprising.
Flash forward to the morning I sat down to coffee with someone who was asking me about my books. I made the mistake of sharing my excitement over one of them receiving a BRAG medallion. My companion turned to me and said, “Oh, that’s nice, but it’s easy for you.”
Easy for me?
Ah, yeah, no, not so much.
It was a wonder that the rest of the coffee shop didn’t hear the crash of that stupid hitting the ground.
My self-control hit new heights that day and I didn’t say or do anything that I have since regretted—except maybe for not doing a good enough job correcting that perspective.
Why is it that instead of recognizing someone’s achievement with congratulations, we downplay it by insisting they have some special ability that makes it easy for them.
I suppose they do have a special ability: focus and hard work.
My niece has spent countless hours on the golf course practicing, taking lessons, and playing tournaments. She’s endured heat, cold and painful injuries and kept on keeping on. She’s missed out of other fun things to practice. Yes, she has innate talent, but without the drive and hard work, she would still be playing miniature golf.
My son may make multivariate differential equations look easy—if that’s possible—but I know the hours of study he’s put in. He doesn’t EVER talk about how hard he studies, but I get to see the work he puts in. All of his grades and scholarships were earned through those efforts.
It hasn’t been easy for them to achieve what they have. And it wasn’t easy to write a book.
I wish I’d stood up and said that more clearly over coffee that day. It’s too easy to let others down play our hard work and efforts, and effectively make us doubt the worth of them. After all, if it’s easy for us, then it isn’t really important or a real achievement, right?
Making it look easy is the sure sign of someone who has really honed their craft be it calculus, golf, writing, carpentry, cooking, teaching children (I could go on and on…) to expertise. Just don’t get that confused with it actually being easy.
What do you make look easy? Think about it and give yourself a good solid pat on the back for it, then go out and find someone who makes something else look easy and tell them how proud of them you are. We’ll all be better for it.