Tag Archives: the best

How do I know that I know what I’m doing?

I always think about people with really obscure talents, like in the Olympics, all of these sports that I’ve never heard of. How do you get to be so good at something that most of the world doesn’t even know exists? Take curling for example, right, it’s really popular in Canada, and so they’ve got really good curlers. The US has a team, but are American curlers really any good?


What I mean is, we’ve got a huge country, much bigger than Canada. Shouldn’t we have a bigger talent pool to draw from? Statistically, yeah, but curling isn’t super popular here, and so we’re kind of stuck with the people that happen to be involved in the top level of American curling.

I’m a big believer in practice, that if you keep at something, over and over again, eventually you’ll get better, and then finally you’ll be able to master whatever it is you’ve spent so much time practicing. At least, I hope I’m a big believer, because I keep telling that to myself as I sit here at my computer every day and write out blog posts and short stories. Don’t worry, I think in my head, so what if everything you’re writing out is garbage? You’ll get better eventually. And yeah, it keeps me going for a while, the idea that someday I’ll look back at everything I’m doing today, I’ll barely recognize my work in these crude, early stages of my writing career.

But whereas I don’t think that anything can happen without practice, I also kind of believe that there’s got to be something else, a natural talent within. You look at certain sports or professions, even at the professional level, there are always a few examples of an even higher level of ability. I’m talking about LeBron James and Wayne Gretzky, William Shakespeare and Mozart, whoever is truly great at curling and whoever else is similarly amazing at luge or skeleton.

You look at examples of a prodigy, someone who, at their peak, is just in total command of their chosen activity. Surely they wouldn’t have gotten to where they were without a lifetime of practice and dedication. But there’s something else, a natural predisposition to excel. And you think about it, it’s total luck.

Think about Wayne Gretzky, look at hockey. How crazy is it that somewhere along humanity’s history, a bunch of people started strapping metal blades to their feet in order to push a hard rubber disk on ice with long sticks? OK, that blows my mind that hockey, or golf, or any of these complex sports developed the way they did into international pastimes.

Right, and then you have Wayne Gretzky, he’s arguably the best player in the history of the sport, he happens not only to have this natural ability to thrive when given the opportunity to practice and play, but he’s also bestowed the good fortune of growing up around hockey, having parents that were able to make sure he had hockey equipment, access to coaching and ice facilities.

Wayne Gretzky could have been born in Africa or somewhere else where hockey isn’t played and he would never been exposed to the one thing that has made his life so remarkable. What if everybody has a similar natural talent? It’s not inconceivable. In some alternate timeline, there might be a sport where humans attach wheels to their heads and roll around upside down while trying to slide giant cubes into various holes in the ground using only their elbows.

That’s obviously a crazy scenario, but in the unlikely event that such a sport were to ever take off, how would I know that that wouldn’t be my unique talent? And that’s just too bad, I’m born in this society where headslide, or whatever you want to call it doesn’t exist, and so unable to find an outlet to use my insane headsliding talents, I kind of drift aimlessly through life, waiting tables at night, hoping that if I sit here every day and type words out on my computer, I might someday have a career as a professional writer.

I’m kind of thinking myself in circles here, the ideas that I’m trying to express are getting tangled up into fantasies of being a professional athlete, of being a professional anything, really. It’s important to stay grounded in the present. I’ve already spent a pretty good chunk of time committed to writing every day, really hoping that I’ll get good at what I’m doing, that my skills might lead me somewhere where this will have all been worth it. But it’s hard not to put aside those lingering questions. Is this really what I should be doing? Is there some other path or activity that, if I set myself out to master, might I not have a better shot at being the best?

Maybe bowling. I’ve never really given myself a fair shot at becoming a professional bowler. Or hang-gliding. I could be the best potential hang-glider in all of history. Or bull-running. Or mountain climbing. There’s no way I’ll ever figure it all out.

I’ll only accept the best

What can I say? I have expensive tastes. I have a palate that demands the finest things in life. Luxury automobiles, small-batch whiskies, vintage wines and exotic pets. I’m not just going to sit back and accept life by the Kraft Single. No I want the whole block. I want it to have been hanging in some rural house in Southern Italy for the better part of a decade, carefully tended to by some second generation Italian-American immigrant’s grandmother, making sure that when the cheese importer stops by later in the season to see how the batch is progressing, he’ll make faces of disgust, reaming her out in Italian, telling her that his customers, me, won’t accept anything less than the very best, most artfully crafted cheeses. He’ll spit on the floor and walk out in disgust before finding an even more rustic Southern Italian cheese maker, and he’ll buy the whole thing in bulk, whereupon he’ll chop it up into little wedges and sell them to the most world-renowned cheese shops in America. And that’s where I’ll get my cheese, really expensive, a really sophisticated cheese. I don’t eat grilled cheese sandwiches, I eat cheese in little blocks, little chunks, skewered by ivory toothpicks, and no, they’re not reusable, I still throw them out. I don’t give a shit if ivory is endangered, blah blah blah trafficking, blah blah blah poaching. Get me a fucking elephant, chop its fucking tusks off, and make me some fucking ivory toothpicks. Now. What do you think I’m joking? You’re fired. Get the hell out of my house. You want a recommendation? Sure, hand me a platinum plated pen. No not that one, the good one you moron. Throw that other one away. In the garbage. Here goes:

Dear potential employer: I see that my previous groundskeeper is looking for employment. Do me a favor. Not only should you not hire this no-good lousy incompetent piece of garbage, but see if you can’t rough him up a little while you’re throwing his sorry ass off your property. Don’t read this out loud, because he might get scared and take off running. If you’re already reading this out loud, just starting hitting him right now before he totally makes a break for it. If he calls the police, tell them he was trespassing. Tell them he stole my platinum pen. The shitty one. I know he stole it. That son of a bitch. Read that part out loud, so he doesn’t get any ideas about calling the cops.

Tomorrow I think I’ll wake up and have some caviar for breakfast. Some whale caviar. Well I don’t care if whales aren’t fish. Get me some unfertilized whale eggs before I really start to lose my patience. Yes, of course I just fired you, and do you think I’ll ever rehire you if you’re just standing around not doing what I’m telling you to do? Just get me some goddamn breakfast. I’m starving. I don’t care what time it is. I’ll have breakfast when I want breakfast.

One time somebody was reading me the newspaper. The article was about how a fisherman off the coast of Africa caught an unusual specimen that hadn’t been seen in centuries. Aristotle wrote of it, but scholars had assumed it had long gone extinct, until now. I wanted this fish. I needed it. I wanted to make the world’s most expensive fishamajig sandwich out of it. I wanted to harvest its eggs to spread on toast for a mid afternoon snack. None of my dimwitted employees could get me that fish. “What if it’s a male fish?” one of those idiots asked when I told them I wanted the eggs. Well then sample its DNA, clone it, keep breeding it and manipulating its genes until you have a fish that can get me some rare caviar. Why is it so difficult to do as I say? I fired half a dozen employees that day. One of them had a pregnant wife. Or so he claimed, as he was begging to me, pleading for his job, pleading for his family. It was pathetic. I’ve never seen a grown man cry so hard, like a little baby. I beat him up good on the way out. I taunted him, go ahead, call the police. Then when the police came I showed them all of the ivory toothpicks, I made it out like he brought them to my house from whatever country he immigrated from. I hired the most expensive lawyers to go after him, to throw the book at him. Just saying that gave me a great idea. I went to my library and fetched my first edition leather bound copies of Europe’s greatest writers and poets, Keats, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and I threw all of those books at him, pummeling him, until he was good and bloody, and then I hired even more expensive lawyers, prosecuting him, defamation of some of western civilization’s most expensive works of literature, crimes against humanity.

I can’t believe the police, those sniveling toads, they just stood there and watched me bludgeon this jerk with my heaviest books. Even they were scared of me. Note to self: by more Wordsworth. Note to self: Buy more policemen to work at my house. Note to self: I’m serious, write these notes down! Who do you think I’m talking to! Stop standing around like an idiot and write this down! Every single word! Get me some cheese and fish eggs! I want a snack! Right this second!