I believe in the quality of being good at something. I believe in doing well, and the discipline and focus it takes to accomplish above the common, the mediocre. I believe in – dare I say lest I be immediately labeled or diminished – in being elite. I would not train at my dojo if I did not believe the Koncho (Japanese for Grand Master) was elite at karate. I would not be nearly as driven to train and accomplish, or hold the respect I do for Koncho if I did not believe he was special at what it is he does. Here in my mid-thirties, I was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When my newfound confidant, counselor and pillar of stability came along – my endocrinologist – I would never have had the positive outlook I did if she had been mediocre at practicing medicine or common of ability. I am bewildered, saddened and sometimes even angered by people’s choice to disdain that which society as a whole holds on high: talent and success. Nearly every media occurrence in our world parades those labeled as elite – pro athletes, actors, pop stars. Imagine Monday Night Football if, as quarterback, it wasn’t Brett Farve and his nearly magical ability to complete passes, run and lead, but instead Larry Twelve-pack at 5’ 7” 210 pounds, right off the couch and ready to run – for at least a little – down the field. “He’s on the fifty, the forty nine and three-quarters, the forty-nine and a half, he’s on his side, he gasping for breath, he’s signaling for beer!” No offense to Larry – I may even be like Larry – but he’s not who I want to spend my allotted football time watching. It puzzles me how anyone could find fault with one who is elite. Being elite is not the same as being elitist – valuing only those who are elite. Being elite does not mean one needs strut about demanding all bow down to his or her accomplishments. Again, I look to Koncho and his simple nature of being incredibility great at what he does while simply being. Having elite members of society is important. In fact, anyone in my life whom I hold up as an inspiration is or was – by definition – elite: Charles Dickens, Jim Henson, Julia Child, George Lucas, my wife (she’s incredibly talented of spirit). I would love to have ability of their caliber. Seriously, does anyone not aspire to be good at what they pursue? Why then, should we disdain those who happen to be elite? If someone is going to represent me, decide what’s in my meal, entertain me, hang their art in museums I patronize you better believe I would rather have that person be someone who is elite rather than someone like, well, me. Now, I don’t mean to be self-deprecating. I think I have some talents but I can’t make a coq au vin approaching Julia’s. I believe we are on dangerous ground when we truly view those who are talented as something to be wary of. I would love to be an elite writer or an elite martial artist. I don’t know if I have the ability, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying, and it certainly doesn’t mean I am going to look down on those who do.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.