I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David & Goliath” and I can’t stop thinking of one of the basic ideas in the book, the fact that we often think that we succeed in spite of adversities or hardships when it often is thanks to them that we develop skills and attitudes that make us prevail and, eventually, succeed. -Dyslexia is a tough handicap at the same time as it seems to be a hallmark of many successful entrepreneurs. A child who is brought up deprived of love and trustworthy relationships might, thanks to this, develop dispositions and attitudes that will be regarded as god given talent later in life. The idea isn’t to romanticize hardship but to point to the fact that setbacks and disasters can create dispositions that under other circumstances develop into virtual super powers. -It is more than “what doesn’t kill you..” it’s in fact “what makes you weak some aspect might just make you über in another”.
This notion started a small obsession: Can it be that challenges in my own life have shaped some kind of super powers that stem from the fact that I have had to deal with shit that most people don’t? Finding the super power was tricky, finding the shit was easy: For as long as I can remember my lungs have been a complete disappointment. I have been told that the priest didn’t dare to hold me when I was baptized as he thought that i would choke. The shit in my case spells pneumonia due to dysfunctional cilia. For the lucky reader unfamiliar with pneumonia: it’s like being hit by a bus in your ribcage, adding fever on top of it. Enough of this.
A short summary of how things have gone down:
– 9 years old, fastest sprinter in school and time for championships -enter pneumonia
– 14 years old and time for first sleep over party -sick as hell with fever
– 19 years old in Africa and time for long awaited snorkeling trip -knocked out by “flu” and delirious
– 47 years on and heading for Future of Learning at Harvard Graduate School of Education, HGSE – No shit Sherlock, medication time
-Add countless variations on the theme…
The question now is not about pitty but super power. What might you have to learn if you need to deal with shit like this throughout you life? It was the last event on the list that gave the answer to my question. Instead of being flattened by disappointment from missing the chance to meet all the great people at HGSE I found myself feeling almost guilty for NOT missing it. -I felt great, told myself that it was great to be home, take it easy and simply enjoy life. -And it was true, I had amazing weeks fueled by the effect of antibiotics that made me feel like I was on EPO.
So, what is the super power?
I’m the King of comebacks. Like anyone, I can be knocked down but I’m superb at regrouping, accepting the situation and finding new angles. I don’t dwell over the the, I feel almost excited over the new possibilities. I hear people cutting teeth over “unfair” or unforeseen events that destroy their plans and dreams. Not me. I’m like a Russian doll, knock me down and I’ll be back in an instance ready to think of something else, almost oblivious to the loss, often excited by the challenge. I think i share this super power with anyone with a history similar to mine: If you have been forced to stand down, shut of, be excluded and deal with bitter disappointment you will develop strategies to counter exactly that. -And hey, it’s kind of useful!
I’ll end this post with a recommendation: read Gladwell’s book and look at your own setbacks with the understanding that they might be the dark side of a super power. I’m the King of Comebacks -Who are you?