As I was perusing a used bookstore a while ago when a particular book caught my eye. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly perusing, I was on a mission. I’m the type of person that can walk into the mall or Walmart and get exactly what I came for and not even stop to look at anything else. My relationship with bookstores is the complete opposite. After a long stressful day at work, I may find myself in the bookstore doing lines of literature. This day I was looking for a specific book. I recently finished reading The Alchemist and was so inspired that I wanted to add a copy to my home library.
I found the book I was looking for and did a satisfactory amount of browsing but I couldn’t walk out the door without the other book that caught my attention. It was almost as if it was beckoning me to take it home. It was super thick and I was already in the middle of at least two other books (story of my life). I felt compelled to purchase it anyway, so I did. The book happened to be Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I’ve heard of it but I wasn’t familiar with the plot at all. Months had passed before I had the opportunity to crack it open but it was worth the wait. Reading before bed usually puts me to sleep but Atlas Shrugged has the opposite effect. The text has a tendency to hold me captive through either intrigue or annoyance and I end up staying awake well past my bedtime having poignant discussions with my stuffed companions.
The book contains several themes and philosophical concepts that I find thought-provoking. Some I agree with, others, not so much, but all worth contemplating. Even though I disagree with some of the philosophical concepts I appreciate the thought the author put into it. I’m all about a well crafted argument even if you are wrong. This book has a delicate balance of business, philosophy, politics, and relationships that any thinker would appreciate (if you have the patience to endure 1000 pages of size 7 font). Reading Atlas Shrugged actually solidified my decision to go to business school.
One of the concepts that provoked the writing of this blog is something that I’m calling “intellectual obligation.” I’m defining this as the obligation to achieve to the level of one’s aptitude. Better yet, reach the altitude of your aptitude on whatever mountain you find yourself on. Anything less would be doing a disservice to yourself, your family, your community, and your God. God gave you your abilities and intellect for a reason. Use them. Simply put, if you can do better then do better. Don’t succumb to the seduction of mediocrity. Others don’t because they can’t. They may try to pull you down because you can but don’t let them!
I was talking with my best friend as she was putting together her portfolio for her Ed. Leadership degree. She was considering taking some things out because her portfolio was more robust than her colleague’s. She felt like an overachiever; like she was “doing too much.” But I encouraged her to keep it all in there. She worked hard and earned the credentials, experience, and accolades to back up every item in that portfolio so she should use them. The other person may not have as much material in his/her portfolio because he/she doesn’t have experience, credentials, etc. You can’t showcase what you don’t have and you shouldn’t shy away if you do have it. Ecclesiastes 3 says there’s a time for every thing. For her, this was a time to toot thine own horn.
Often times utilizing your abilities will cause you to be of service to others. We’re all looking for purpose in life anyway, right? There’s your answer. You’re welcome. (Forget the therapist bill and hit my cash app.) It’s really not up to us to decide who deserves our gift and who doesn’t. Your gift doesn’t belong to you anyway. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a conversion between God and Job. Job is complaining about his life when God says, “Where were you when I hung the stars in the sky?” God is basically saying “I’ve done all the hard work. I’m the one who created the universe and everything in it. I’m the one who gave you everything you have? What right do you have to complain?” It would be rude and ungrateful of us not to use our gifts to the fullest. It always makes me feel good when I buy someone a gift and they use it all the time. It makes me want to give them more. We are made in the image of God so I have a sneaky suspicion that He feels the same way. When we use the gifts He gives us to the fullest it makes Him want to give us more because He knows the gift won’t be wasted.
I was at work one day and I needed to get some containers from a higher shelf. The task of pulling out the step ladder seemed so daunting at the time. A coworker noticed my despair and offered his assistance. I was thankful for the offer but wasn’t feeling too optimistic since he isn’t much taller than me, if at all. Noticing my skepticism, he assured me he could reach it because God blessed him with long arms to compensate for his height. To my astonishment, he reached up and got the containers down for me with ease. Just because people are about the same stature or even have the same background doesn’t mean they have the same abilities. Don’t assess your abilities or limitations based on what you see in those around you.
Don’t hold back because no one around you is striving to do better. In my head that should be more motivation. I don’t like doing things everyone else is doing. It took me years to finally get my MBA simply because all the other engineers in the office were doing it. It finally occurred to me that not having an MBA while everyone else does is not serving me at all anyway. I was only limiting myself. I have all the means to be successful in an MBA program and it would help my career; even as a cafe manager, blogger, and an aspiring speaker.
As I said before, you have the obligation to achieve to the level of your aptitude in whatever arena you find yourself in currently. If you’re not where you want to be, go ahead and conquer your current mountain so you’ll be ready for the next one. Even if it’s not the mountain of your dreams, do it anyway. Climbing disciplines your character and refines your skills. Strive to operate at the highest level of your abilities. The key word being your abilities, no one else’s. In doing so you may find out that God has blessed you with long arms too.