Ambition and Intelligence
I just read a quote from Jay Leno and it went something like this:
“Ambition wins over genius 99 percent of the time. Sooner or later, the other guy is going to have to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or take a vacation, and that’s when I catch him.”
Ambition is something that I think I was born with. As I look back, I am not sure when I had it or learned it. Maybe because I was a restless kid, the middle child. But I can recall going door to door selling greeting cards, magazine subscriptions and even seeds. Since I came from a family of simple means, if I wanted spending money I had to earn it myself.
I got through high school, probably because it was an “arts” high school, and academics came after dance class, voice lessons and rehearsals. In my senior year, I had an English teacher who was brutally honest with me and told me that I was a terrible writer. How did I get this far without ever learning how to write a paper? (I knew the answer…I just faked it….) but she was concerned so she took me under her wing and worked with me personally on the mechanics of writing. I am very grateful to this woman for having the compassion for taking the time for me. It helped me immensely in college.
Speaking of college, I was blown away when I first got there. I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person, but soon learned I was really at the bottom of the class. With poor writing skills, little experience with intelligent discussion and having never read a novel (yep…it is true…) college started out as a wake up call.
Within the first few weeks of college, we were assigned the task of reading “King Lear.” Now, I had performed Shakespeare before two times – “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelfth Night.” But I had great directors and mentors who tutored all of us through the texts. But “King Lear” was another story. I was paralyzed. I did not know where to start, so I asked for help. Someone turned me onto a version that had significant annotations of this tragedy. So, with both books in my hand, I went into a silent study hall and read “King Lear.” It took me over 12 hours. Not kidding. I stopped for lunch, but went right back to reading. When I finished, I was overwhelmed and exhausted. But I understood the basics of the drama.
That is when I learned that I had to work harder than most people to get ahead, to level the playing field. Just like Jay Leno.
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