When does underacheivement become ability?
So far in my life, one of the main paradigms has been my lack of achievements of which I can be truly proud. Academically I had mediocre GCSEs, (very) poor A levels, and then managed to get a degree which I value less than those pitiful A level results. Despite all this I managed to get myself a decent internship which led to employment post university; and then 6 months ago I gave that up to come and work with poor and orphaned children in India (which I regard as definitely NOT underachievement).
However, on paper I am a bit of a failure. Were I to head into an office for an interview tomorrow, I wouldn’t employ me. The problem I have is that if I follow this through, am I only as good as the paperwork says I am – or am I an underacheiver?
In the last few years I’ve been priveledged to meet and talk to many very intelligent people. I love talking to people more intelligent than myself, (providing there’s more than just me there,) because they tend to discuss topics on multiple levels. There’s still the banter about sport and family guy that takes up the majority of the time, but then there’s the political, spiritual and international conversations that inspire and stimulate.
At the time, I really enjoyed myself at my ex-polytechnic, but even then I knew that as an academic institution it wouldn’t provide me with the academic teaching that I required to get to the job interviews I thought I was capable of attending. Thanks to my mate Dan who guided me on my first Linux install whilst at University, I was able to train myself on a skill parallel to my university course, and even allow the two to work together during my final year to create a pretty decent “online psychology experiment” which took into account the ethics and security of the experiment, from both an IT and psychological perspective. Needless to say it was very well received by my tutor who recommended I publish it – however, I got cold feet and ended up flunking the project with a poor write up.
The issue I face now is that have I become the underachiever, or is my potential still above that of what I have so far achieved. Having studied self-actualisation I probably should be able to answer this myself, but there’s also the issue of confidence – this has also gone in respect to my academic achievements.
Being out in India now, I’m surrounded by people who have either excelled academically, or persisted academically to get qualifications necessary to practice their passion. I think that’s part of my problem, I may not have had a deep passion for much in my formative years, other than doing something to help those less well off than myself. With that in mind, and my later idea for becoming a psychologist, coupled with my current position out in India – the lack of ability to discipline myself to more reading whilst at University really eats at me. I can’t blame the tutors for my lack of self persuasion.
The problem I had though was the ability to view part of the bigger picture. In my first few weeks our business modules required that we do a presentation on teamwork. To test myself and throw myself fully into the exercise, I decided to join a group of four foreign female students, whilst my hall mates and other course mates tended to join groups with people they already knew. In short, my team were dysfunctional, mainly due to the fact that the foreign students had come over the week before and were unable to speak a word of english. They were able to understand written english, so our initial meetings had me writing things out for them to write. I ended up writing the whole presentation, and the girls all learned their script.
The presentation itself went well, but during the Q & A session at the end, the girls showed their true colours and were unable to answer even the most simple of questions. I felt sorry for them now, and still do – but their inability to answer the questions should have been reflected in our groups marks. In comparison, a group of my peers from a couple of rooms down in my hall were able to work together and produced a fantastic looking presentation, as well as knowing all the right answers. I got 63% (2:1) with my group, my friends all got less with the guys who I thought capable of beating me (who were also blessed with a charismatic speaker) getting only 52% (2:2).
I’m probably one of few students that ever complained that I’d been given too high a mark, and that ours should be lowered. “It’s not fair on the foreign students, we need to give them time to settle in” – was the demotivating response. Rule #1 – work with foreign students during first year.
So now I’m at the stage where I’m focused on what I’m helping with now, out in India – but I feel I need to pay attention to my future. I know that my role out here is something that I love doing, and that my personality lends itself to the environment in which I’m operating. I love a challenge, I love difficult situations, and I love being the underdog. However, I do occasionally feel under-qualified – not incompetent – but the feeling that having more official training would really add another prong to my fork of talents.
I love what I’m doing, but I have underachieved over the past 7 years, and 7 years is a long time to underachieve unchecked. I need to redress the balance and start achieving, for my own sake as for the sake of anything else. However, the role I have now is very important to me – so should I need to take a break for ‘me’ time, I must make sure that what I leave is either completed or has someone else to take over from me. I’m wary of leaving an ‘andy’ shaped hole.
If anyone has any advice to offer, or shares my thoughts – please comment below.
Archive for August, 2009
When does underacheivement become ability?
Not written in a while, but now back out in India and preparing for a 6 month stint here. I’m really looking forward to it, though I’m sure it’ll be as much of a challenge as anything I’ve ever done.
One of the things I’ve made more time for is reading a few books. It’s a great past time and offers a way to reconnect with your internal culture, rather than the one around you. It’s also a great opportunity to check back at what I’m thinking – rather than what I’m necessarily acting in order to blend well into a different culture.
So far, the two books I’ve read are Richard Hammond’s On the Edge, and The Shack, by WM Paul Young.
I found Richard Hammond’s book pretty striking, as it was refreshingly honest and offered a really no holds barred approach to the situation that he and his wife, Mindy, found themselves in after his high speed crash filming for Top Gear. It also spoke to me in terms of the way in which sometimes the things we love mean that we put ourselves in massive danger, and despite all we do – there may not always be enough checks to guarantee safety. He and Mindy also speak openly about their reliance on prayer; whether or not they explicitly state that they believe in God, or have a serious religious conviction.
The Shack is a much more profound book in terms of it’s hidden meaning, and theology. A writer and theologian have got together to produce a pretty deep account of how God supposedly works. It’s one of those books that attempts to explain how God looks at the world, or at least explain as much as we are able to understand.
It’s put into a story format, which allows for an emotional outpouring should one so wish. It’s a mixture of the Starfish Story, Rusty Bucket and many other theological stories rolled into one. If you’re unsure of where you stand on God’s love, take a read.
For more information, visit here.