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The Quest for Second Place


“Most people actually prefer mediocrity to success as ambition is the enemy of happiness.”

Xenocrates

Second Place...I met a rather lovely young lady some time ago. She was great. She was down to earth, simple minded and even had the capacity for good conversation.  In fact, I thought this girl was so perfect, I wondered to myself: Why is she still single? Am I that lucky or is there something wrong with her? Never the less, I applied the woo wantonly and indiscriminately. She’ll be in the bag in two clicks I thought – and then I hit a a glass cieling. I have never lost interest in a woman before because of her simplicity. I enjoy simplicity. I’m already a complicated dude. However, what struck me about this girl was that she was so content with being… mediocre. I don’t mean being average – I mean being less than average. She worked at various odd jobs where she was content with being a sales clerk. She never tried to educate herself beyond high school, even though she’s now pushing 30, she finds every excuse to certify that she’s happy with living from paycheck to paycheck and she doesn’t need more education than what she already has. Needless to say, as I’m not a sugar daddy for hire, my interest in the young woman faded like warm flatulence in the evening breeze. I’ve since met many people like that – people who are comfortable with being extremely simple or average at best. I soon realised that contrary to how I was raised (to aspire to greatness) most people were socialised to prefer mediocrity by self defeating parents (with possibly some genetic help). I then found that I was actually a little naive in my perception of the world in assuming that everyone wanted to be successful. As it turns out, I and very few other people I know, are actually the odd ones out. The situation is actually worse than I thought…

I’m A One-Eyed King

I am usually not a very talkative person. I always wondered why I was such an introvert until I met a wonderful young woman who I thought actually matched my level of intellect. That’s when the extrovert in me came out. We went places and did things that the version of me 3 years ago would’ve balked at. Now we have plans to go to other places and to do other things. In fact, by the time we’re both in our forties, we plan to have seen the world and most of the (interesting) things in it – and maybe even become a psychologically integrated oracle like my friend Al. 😉

It took me a long time to realise why this woman brought out the awesome in me. Before her, I noticed that I always preferred to write my thoughts down and place them in a public forum to attract the minds of other free thinkers like myself, simply because I couldn’t find other minds in my immediate vicinity who could appreciate them. I’ve been a writer on everything from movie reviews to human interest pieces. I love to write and I find that’s because it’s too hard to communicate via speech to most people around me. 90% of what I say would fly right over their heads. So I write things down. It gives them a chance to re-read what I wrote since most of the time they’ll misunderstand it anyway. I also write and publish to draw the interest of other people in the world who have the capacity to see that I’m only human. In fact, that’s how I met her.

She made me realise that I’m not really an introvert at all. I realised for the first time yesterday, that the reason why I appear to be such an introvert is because I’m surrounded by people who would be confounded by some of my most mundane thoughts. But not her. She is never more than 1 or 2 clicks behind if she’s ever behind at all. In fact, she’s the most interesting balance of left and right brain I’ve ever seen in a woman. So before her, for the most part, I remained quiet, to myself until I found someone who could digest my mind. I figured there’s no use casting pearls before swine.

When I first discovered my super powers, I was always considered a maverick and it was always just me alone against “the world”. My former acquaintances at church deserted me when I proved their faux-religion to be a hoax. My high school teachers thought me to be an anarchist because I challenged the Catholic priests to a theological debate and they lost (I attended a Catholic run high school). My college friends are intimidated by my preference of a fiercely autocratic leadership style as I have zero-tolerance for laziness. So I don’t make friends around me very easily. My style of communication has always been brutally honest – assuming that people liked being honest with themselves. How naive I was. That is the curse of having a high IQ. But that was never my problem.

I always knew that genius is never appreciated in its time. However, I don’t consider myself to be a genius, even though I hear that sort of thing everyday. There are people in the world who exponentially dwarf my level of cognition who are half my age. So I think in the greater scheme of things, I’m pretty average, possibly even insignificant – which doesn’t say much about those who think I’m all that. I realise now that the reason why I was so withdrawn from so many of my own people is not so much a failure in myself as it is the simple fact that being slightly gifted makes me the odd one out. My desires and aspirations are seen as being too lofty by my kinsmen.

But after years of observation, I realise and accept that they will be never appreciate the sheer brilliance of a piece of music from a Violin Concerto written 500 years ago. They will never understand the mathematical genius that engineered bridges, skyscrapers, motor cars and space ships. They will never appreciate the scientific wonder of animals which only exist in the deepest, darkest parts of the world or become bewildered by an ancient civilization which achieved things we can only do today via computers. They will never understand the sophistication of a piece of art in the Louvre, or understand the wonderment of communicating in another language. No, they laugh at such things as being weird and those who can appreciate them as being eccentric. They can’t appreciate these things because they were not designed to. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a one eyed king living in the land of the blind.

Creating Lands of the Blind

As it turns out, even though I think myself to be pretty average, I realise that the probability of distribution for the genetic permutation of people with a mind like mine in this particular geo-political climate is extremely low. I used to think that distributions of gifted people tend to center on large first world nations, like those you’d find in Europe and North America. But that was just an illusion. As it turns out, higher seats of civilization were created when the brightest people who were merely attracted to each others ideas, converged on specific areas of the world where their numbers were numerous, leading to the first world nations we know today. That I was born on a quaint back water Caribbean island in the middle of nowhere and not someplace in Europe is merely the result of a nearly random genetic permutation and nothing more.

People of similar minds are drawn to each other. That’s why smart people like to spend a lot of time around other smart(er) people. That’s the same reason why people who have this ilk for success are drawn to first world nations for the purposes of education and economic viability. This is why smaller nations like those in the Caribbean and other central American territories as well as those in the far east will always suffer the brain drain phenomena. The smartest, most successful people are drawn to cultures where they think their desires, their ambitions, their dreams or even their survivability are more guaranteed irrespective of where they were born. Writers flock to Hollywood; Actors flock to Broadway; Automotive Engineers flock to Germany and skilled musical composers flock to the musical centres of the world in Europe.

On this little island in the middle of the Caribbean that I’d like to call home, those kinds of aspirations are rarely seen for what they are worth. People here have such a narrow minded view of the world, that all they think about when they consider being ambitious, is being either a doctor or a lawyer – as if those are the only two professions in the world. In fact, if you have a Ph.D. in Economics, they’re likely to ask you if money can get sick… (if you don’t get that joke, you should stop reading right here). These are poor, uneducated people for the most part. They don’t understand that there’s a much, much bigger world out there. So if I went off to Hollywood to make movies to become a famous director, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be able to appreciate how awesome that would be. They don’t know that the average movie director makes more money than the average singer. So unless you showed up on American Idol or MTV, they’d probably not think you came out to much – unless you drove a fancy car… and then they’d think you were into drugs.

Examples of Mediocrity

Couple everything that I’ve told you so far with this: I believe that at a genetic level, the average person is hard wired to prefer mediocrity. It’s not just the small minded people that live in these Caribbean states and similar countries. It’s people all over the world – even in first world nations. If you ask the average person what their measure of success is, I guarantee you that most of them would respond with an answer that has something to do with money. The average person sees money as something to be exchanged for goods and services. This is why so many entertainers and sports personalities go broke after their stint of fame. It doesn’t matter how much money they had. They will blow it all on drugs, gin, an entourage and whores. When smart, ambitious people get rich, they stay rich. When average people get rich, they immediately start the countdown to bankruptcy, because their minds are so small that being rich means nothing more to them that being able to afford more stuff. But it’s not just them. Consider the following types of thinking from other types of average people:

  • ‘All That Glitters is not Gold’ – A person who is comfortable with just being moderately successful will be ‘ok’ with being in second place. You’d be surprised at how pervasive this thinking is. They will teach you that Gold is not the only thing that glitters (I bet you didn’t interpret it that way did you?). But this type of thinking is weak, because it teaches people to accept failure as being just that, as though failure becomes destiny. It doesn’t teach people that failure is an opportunity for success, which simply perpetuates the same need for mediocrity. These people will never understand that life is not about falling down. It’s about how you get up.
  • ‘Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls’ – A common teaching among many cultures is not to mix with those who are unlike them. The idea is pretty simple: People are often told that they are genetically predisposed to being only this or that way. So they should not seek to pursue interests which they are not culturally or socially identifiable with, or seek out people who don’t belong to their kin or culture. It extends to everything from career interest to interracial marriage. People who don’t follow those rules are treated either as outcasts or heroes (if they manage to change the thinking of the culture). This type of teaching fails to realise that the colour of one’s skin does not predetermine the colour of one’s mind. It fails to see that the country in which one is born does not shape their destiny. It assumes that everything your parents taught you is best as if parents aren’t humans who also err. It is a classic example of a failure to think outside the box.
  • ‘Education precipitates Success’ – I have no problem with people getting educated. However, most people fall into the cookie-cutter syndrome, where they exchange years of their life and brain cells for the opportunity to work for someone else. At every level of the organisation for which I work, I discover more and more people who are only working so that they can get a bigger degree so that they can earn more money – working for someone else who doesn’t even have a degree. These people, although educated, are simple minded because that’s the only way they think they can make money. The mediocrity of these people is exposed in their intrinsic laziness to aspire to entrepreneurship or at least to seek other ways to attain financial independence. They embody everyone from those who demonstrate in front of their employer’s place of work with placards demanding a raise of pay, to those who sheepishly saunter into their boss’ office to do the same. They are lazy because they don’t want the responsibility of thinking for themselves or seeking other ways to make money. That is why, no matter how well educated they are, they are always broke before the end of the month – and they are quite happy about it.
  • ‘Faith is the key to salvation’ – I’ve killed religion a thousand times on this blog and I will never get tired of doing so. This one goes out to all my previous church friends who continue to maintain their faith in a bogus religion. You do what you are told because you like being told what to do. You like taking orders from other people who like to make stuff up and get their kicks from ordering mindless zombies like you around. Continue to ignore James 2:18 – 26 which says that faith without works is dead, since God is going to come down from heaven and tell you exactly what to study for your exams, who to marry, how to spend your money and what job to take. God will also make you bullet proof, rape proof and scam proof. Your mediocrity lies in the fact that you don’t like to think for yourself. So you hire a con-artist for 10% of your earnings to stand at a podium and yell at you every Sunday to do it for you. Congratulations. Your lack of ambition has meted out unequalled happiness and bliss.

Conclusion

I have come to realise that I should stop engendering people to become more than what they accept themselves to be. No matter how I try to entreat them, they always think that success is precluded only to an upperclass elite. Although I fail to see their logic, I myself have been frustrated by my attempts to help people help themselves. Many are just looking for handouts. They assume that other people should feel sorry for them and pity them while they revel in their mediocrity. Those people have made me realise that a lot of poor people are poor simply because of how they think and how they choose to be. But I know differently.  I should introduce them to a friend of mine who is anything but upperclass, but is now studying medicine. She’s the girl I mentioned earlier. She was a waitress that wanted to be a doctor. She’s not a waitress anymore and now she’s in med school. If she can do it, so can they. That’s how I know their excuses are naught but a load of crock.

But maybe I’m wasting my time. Afterall, they appear to have been predestinated to be second best (at best) and my footstool (at worst) so that people like me can enjoy life for what it is really worth. Their trite and trivial reality is what makes my success a reality. So who am I to tell them to do better for themselves? I will only threaten my own success in doing so. Furthermore, I cannot be so destructively selfish as to impose my own thinking upon those who simply refuse to even want to succeed. That’s fascism and I’m against it. So I’ve adopted a new thinking:

Realisitically, not everyone can aspire to greatness. Somebody needs to clean the toilets, wipe the desk, dust the furniture and keep my office clean so I can go in and work comfortably. Somebody needs to run around doing mundane tasks and stand at my beck and call so that I can tell them what to do next. Somebody needs to dump their pay check to the bank on their fat credit card bills so that my investment returns can come in. Somebody needs to serve me at Burger King and Wendy’s. Somebody needs to be my security guard when I come in at night or drive in to work in the mornings. Somebody needs to swipe my credit card at the supermarket cashier. Somebody needs to buy my used car. Superiority thrives on the existence of mediocrity. So I’m only being a hypocrite in pitying people who prefer to be average.

To all you people in the world who prefer a life of mediocrity, I apologise for assuming that you wanted to be anything more than just average. It’s about being happy and I realise that ambition is the enemy of happiness. If you were really successful, you’d have more things to think about and you wouldn’t really be happy then. I always assumed that everyone wanted the best for themselves – but clearly I was wrong. I cannot hope to change the self-defeating way you think because you were programmed by the unfortunate set of genes your parents passed on to you, coupled with their inferior doctrines. So since everyone has to ultimately play their role in the world, here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Get rich (and I won’t have to die trying)
  2. Get married to that girl I mentioned earlier when she finishes her doctorate.
  3. Raise a family with her
  4. See the world

I’ll be sure to say ‘hi’ to the lot of you the next time I swing by KFC to buy her and the 2 kids she gave me a family deal. Cheers!

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  1. December 23, 2008 at 5:32 pm

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