For a while now I have reflected on relative ability – the level of ability I have in a particular skill verses the people around me.
I can even consider this relative ability in terms of all people on earth, as in most cases the person on earth with the highest level of ability in a particular discipline is not living in my community.
In certain sports the person on the far right (highest ability) of the linear ability scale is easy to determine as it is clearly measured and tracked. The number one golfer, tennis player, swimmer, sprinter in the world currently is there due to winning the most, performing the best, being the most consistent for the longest period of time.
Then there is the other end of the scale – the worst tennis player in the world. I don’t know who this is but in the skill of tennis I know it is not me. I can play to a degree, not as well as the current number one and there are many people I could beat in a game. So I sit somewhere between best and worst on the tennis scale.
Take swimming. I am not as fast as Chad but I can swim so once again there are people to my right (better than me) and people to my left (worse than me) at swimming.
I believe every skill has such a line of relative ability. My ability to communicate, sell, fix things, ride a dirt bike, facilitate, dance, play the piano, cook – everything!
In certain environments, people who were of influence in my life used this relative notion irresponsibly and cut me down. It luckily didn’t happen often but it did happen. I remember a certain Mr Wilde. Just the way I wrote his name should give you clues to the particular environment. It took a long time to believe I could write down and publish thoughts like these. I know I’m not a William Shakespeare but I have things to say, things to share and at times people have derived value from reading them.
In other environments people encouraged me. They spoke to me about potential, about going further than what I might have deemed possible. They were the catalyst for ending up to the right of where I was originally headed. People, such as my scout masters, (when I was in scouts) and the chat they had with me before I left for my two years in “national service”. In those environments there were times where I was consistently performing close to the right end.
I am not the best in the world in anything I do and in everything I do I’m not the worst. There are things I don’t do, but until I do do them the relative ability scale is immaterial. Why compare myself to Trevor Noah’s ability if I’m not a comedian. There will always be the stars but when I see myself as less than them in these irrelevant fields of expertise, it will merely be a constant source of negativity.
So what is important to remember is that in the areas where it matters to me that I put the relative scale to good use. I should find people to my right and use them as a source of encouragement, something to strive for, something to emulate. Those to my left can be used as a reminder of where I have come from, where I do not want to return to and even for that common source of inspiration that we always fall back on – it could be worse.
Using the scale irresponsibly is not advised. This could include seeing people to the right and becoming disheartened. Comparing yourself with people too far to the right like William Shakespeare, Roger Federer, Toby Price etc. Looking left, becoming arrogant and treating these people with disdain, impatience, intolerance etc.
So in the areas that matter to me currently … husbandry, facilitation, well-being, my spiritual path, friendship, selling, writing, playing football and riding my dirt bike … I ask myself, how am I doing? How am I using the line to grow, to stay motivated, to hone my skills, to identify key gaps, to ensure I don’t move away from the basics and to be able to pass on my learnings to people in need?
We are all influential. We influence our own days and we impact everyone we come into contact with. Use the line of relative ability to make a positive difference today and always.
By Louis Gerke
Development Facilitator – The Ripple Effect