Frankenberry, foursquare and cussin’

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address, June 12, 2005

In the fourth grade dirty words were starting to be used by my classmates and I didn’t know what any of them meant. My brother was taught by the same teacher and his intelligence set her expectations of me very high. But I wasn’t smart like him. I was terrible at math — conversions and measurements were hot topics that year and I still cannot tell you how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon or if two-thirds is more than three-quarters. One time I nearly choked on a toy ball, totally disrupting class and irritating my teacher and another time I profusely vomited in the classroom after eating two bowls of the pink and delicious Frankenberry cereal for breakfast, also disrupting class.

I was building an unimpressive reputation. I was talented at three things, all of which were done on the playground: kickball, foursquare, and eventually, cussing. The better I got at those things, the less the teacher liked me. And she was wonderful at making sure I knew how inadequate I was, especially compared to my genius brother.

I did one thing right that year. I wrote a story that the teacher voted best-in-class.

The rest of my public education was pretty much the same as fourth grade. I was somewhat popular but my grades weren’t the best and therefore little attention was paid to my academic development. I do not remember thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I don’t remember anyone saying, “You’d be good at ___.” I didn’t have a dream to be something as an adult. My skills in kickball and foursquare had developed into bona fide talent on playing fields and courts. My dreams were immediate -‑ win.

In high school a teacher wrote on one of my papers, “you write beautifully.” Not surprisingly, my standardized test scores for college admissions were much higher in English than mathematics. I went to college, played a sport and picked English as my major. I graduated and had no idea what I was supposed to do as an adult. I went back to school after deciding I was going to be a sports writer. Quickly after starting graduate school I determined I would rather use my writing skills in college athletics and my future in sports information commenced.

Never truly satisfied with my work, even though it was great, I left the field just before turning 40. I began employment in the corporate world and my work has been great. But I still think I should be doing more.

My other genius brother (they both got the big-brain gene) offered this suggestion: Find something that pisses you off, something that makes you mad as Hell, and then go change it. Great advice, except that people are the only things that piss me off. I can’t change other people.

Even with his suggestion, I don’t know how to go back in time and start thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t think I have missed opportunities, but I do think I have settled. Do people really keep searching to do what they love or do most people settle?

Don’t settle.

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