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What a blessing to have such a mentor. If only more of us had such support and insights to work with. I'm so glad that you are using those "long AND short pencils" to nurture others.


Great post... thanks for passing on the wisdom of your mentor.


Excellent (despite the flaw in the logic that when you use a pencil, it gets shorter)!!!!

Without having such an articulate understanding of it, I think I've been doing much the same thing this past dozen years or so, in my own life. You're right -- it *does* lead to a much happier state of being. How very lucky you were to have such a mentor -- and to be smart enough in your own right to recognize the value of the lesson.

Carol Anne

There's another reason to work at something we're bad at, at least for those who have in some way become distinguished as "gifted" or some such.

We need to know struggle, and maybe even failure. All our lives, we're successful at everything we do. We ace all our exams in school, we get perfect scores on the SAT, we know everything about everything and can maintain an intelligent conversation on any erudite topic. Academically, at least, we're golden.

When I was growing up, the school system didn't have a separate label or category for "gifted and talented," but I know now that that's what I was, and what my husband was; our son got the official diagnosis when he was in second grade.

The problem is that all of the approval we get is meaningless. We are what we are, and that's not something that deserves praise, because it's not something we have chosen.

So we choose to pursue something that we do badly, because that is an area in which we can learn and grow and improve. In my case, that's taking the helm of a sailboat in the Women's Adams Cup competition. I'm not exactly an adept sailor to start with, and I have a steep learning curve in several areas -- learning racing rules, learning how to command a crew, multitasking of all sorts.

Because much of the rest of life has come easily, something I really have to work for is also worth so much more.


I think the idea behind the pencils works intra-personally too. If you're scornful of your own low pencils, you'll be dismissive of people who are strong in your low pencil areas.

Thanks for the post - you are so good at making things that I sort of half-sense more understandable...


I would really like to know what your "pencils" are...I myself am at a crossroads and find that I have no clue what I may be good at. Give some hints?

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