Cliff Gardner

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


"Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone's not a genius? Do you especially think I'm NOT a genius? . . . You didn't even have to think about it, did you?"

Eli Cash

A funny thing started happening to me a few years ago. It turned out that most of my friends were geniuses, or at least brilliant in their own ways. I know this because they kept winning big national awards. My old roommate Matt got a William Jefferson Clinton Foundation scholarship to study Arabic and Farsi in Dubai. Jenn, my judicial board co-chair, got a Truman Scholarship. Alletta got a Marshal Scholarship and was a Rhodes finalist. My buddy David got into the best film school in the country. Christine was basically smarter than anyone I've ever met--she's the queen bee of geniuses whose heart matches her brain in amazing awesomeness.

OH, and THEN people started taking the LSAT, and pretty much everyone else I knew became a certifiable smartie. Their brilliance was undeniable—there were numbers to prove it! Now they’re all going to great law schools and I couldn’t be happier for them. However, for someone who’s only great accomplishment was/is being a world-class snuggler and renowned easy-mac enthusiast, this was a slightly deflating. I am not a genius or even really especially amazingly wonderfully brilliant at anything.

However, Kristen and I were talking about this a few weeks ago and here’s what we discovered—it’s ok to be average because it allows for an above-average enjoyment of life. I certainly don’t mean that my genius friends can’t or won’t be happy, just that there’s less pressure on me to be excellent and that might make things easier. Because brilliance isn’t expected of me, I can just relax and teach people to speak English in Ukraine. I don’t have to worry about getting a great job at a law firm or keeping the country safe from Al Qaeda. Being a non-genius keeps things simple—I can just help people as much as possible. At this point, simple is good.


  • Hey Thomas :-) That's a very nice point of view. I am a non-genius too!!
    3 more weeks! Can you believe it???

    By Blogger Diane, at 9:05 AM  

  • I think serving in Peace Corps and going through life with the outlook that helping people is all you need to have an "above-average enjoyment of life" is exceptional in itself.

    Excelling at something doesn't just mean that the results can be quantified. It means that the results are there even if they are immeasurable.

    Good luck in Peace Corps! Will you be able to keep all of us not freezing our asses off over here in the states updated on your Ukranian shenanigans?

    By Anonymous shea, at 12:14 PM  

  • This must be what "non-genius" people say to make them selves feel better ;)

    I am just kidding. I think you are an amazing person who does amazing things for those around you... When do you leave???

    By Blogger Kourtney, at 12:23 PM  

  • Now this is just malarky! Malarky I tell 'ya. You are a very, very intellegent person Thomas. Only smarties do debate and Sam would never have hired any less than a genius to stand beside him.

    By Anonymous sharl, at 8:48 PM  

  • Most of what I was going to write has already been said: basically, you're amazing at many, many things, but that seems like a generally good outlook to have. And I know how you feel: for anything that I think I'm pretty good at, I have at least one friend who's much better than me.

    And yes, you would probably win medals in snuggling if it were an olympic event. :)

    By Anonymous liz, at 9:01 PM  

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