tree-climbing fish

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”

attributed to Albert Einstein

A popular quote (incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein) is on my mind these days. Perhaps it is the ongoing challenges of the modern workplace. “Collaborative” design, lean staffing, multiple assignments, and many weekly hours in long-distance commuting. In the competitive technology sector, the best and the brightest create the hardware and software that the world uses. In an engineering environment, analytical thinkers with mathematical rigor are prized. Business development teams combine engineering acumen with negotiation skills. Marketing departments match creative and social skills to analytic and business minds.

According to one investigator, this quote is the popular gist of what Amos Dolbear, a late Nineteenth Century Tufts University physicist, published in an article taking issue with measuring student performance by rigid standards. His critique mocked educating students by rigid curriculum and standards that did not recognize and enhance the natural talents and interests students exhibit.

For more than thirty years I have made a career in the electronics field. Beginning in the Navy, I have been in electronics, computing, and engineering for forty years. Financially and personally secure in middle age, it is time to consider what to do for the next thirty years. Writing? Tutoring? Sitting and thinking? Taking college classes again? Having an avocation is a wonderful thing, but it is a vocation like plumbers, programmers or electronics workers many should pursue for economic security. Yes, everyone is a genius in her own right, but electricians have more stable employment than Renaissance Literature and Psychology baccalaureates.

Am I a product of my own reluctance to pursue my natural gifts? Perhaps.

Like the examples that Dr. Dolbear gave more than a century ago, what would my present be had this penguin been encouraged to swim, instead of being a fish thinking he should excel at tree-climbing?

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