We all have met “that guy" or "that girl" once or even a couple of times in our lives. You know the one, Captain Amazing, the guy (I’m using the male gender from this point on but I do acknowledge that there are “amazing” women out there as well) that everyone wishes they were like. The guy that is not only good looking but also extremely humble, athletic, super fit, intelligent, a great cook, sews his own cloths (sometimes), passionate, dedicated, has about 2% body fat, wants to save the earth and all the cute puppies and kittens in it, tall, blah..blah…blah.....did I mentioned good looking and saving puppies and kittens yet? You get my point. Well I’m serious about all of it (I exaggerated a bit about the puppies and kittens but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was in his life agenda as well).
This is my friend Ryan. Ryan is a young “kid” (anyone under 30 is a young kid to me now) from Chicago that I’ve had the pleasure to meet here in Shanghai and has become a close friend. He never ceases to amaze me. In fact, he amazes everyone he meets hence the name Captain Amazing (another alias was Mr. Fantastic but Marvel Comics currently has the rights to that one). On paper the kid is almost perfect. His dad was a High school athletic coach and his mother a Home EC teacher. So that helps explain a lot.
Tell him you care about the planet and he’ll give you a point-by-point directive on the initiatives and programs that he has developed and implemented (in China). Cook dinner for him and he’ll tell you where you can procure the freshest and most sustainable ingredients in China, India or wherever on the globe. Name a sport and he’ll kick your ass in it.
The first time he ever ran a Marathon he came in fifth. When I trained for the Great Wall Marathon he trained with us and carried food and water for everyone during our long runs. Ryan couldn’t make the race because he had to go back to the States for his sister’s wedding but he still ran 26 miles the day of his sister wedding in honor of us that were racing that day.
He’s a vegetarian (which is tough to do in China) but eats fish. That said, the fish he eats has to comply with a specific criteria on which is detailed on a laminated card he carries in his wallet about how the fish are caught or farmed.
Even as a professional this kid is changing the landscape of Architecture and design in China. He is single handedly helping develop and run GIGA-China, which is a sustainability website to edify Chinese designers on sustainability and provide a resource so they can start designing and building more responsibly.
Anyway, the point of all this is that I think we all strive to be our own Captain Amazing, however, watching Ryan it seems awfully exhausting to consistently maintain this level. So I had conversation with Captain Amazing the other day about this after our swimming session (did I mentioned that he is coaching me on how to be a better swimmer??...kid swims like a frickin’ fish. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that he’s a Tri-athlete as wall...geezzues..I’m having self esteem issues as I write this). Anyway, after he kicked my ass in the pool as usual, I asked him if he always has to be so intense. He then proceeded to tell me that he didn’t think he was intense but rather:
“…just striving to achieve all the goals that I set for himself.”
“yes, I get that, we all have goals but most people’s goals in a year are the same amount that you set in a week!”
He then said ..
” well, I don’t what to just perform to the lowest common denominator”.
Geez, overachieving young kids these days. Makes me feel terrible that at his age all I was doing was chasing skirts and drinking beer…
I then explained to him my philosophy of performing at a “B-Level”. This is something they teach first year MBA students (I have no credibility in this area as I did not go to Grad school in Business but this is what I’ve been told).
I explained that performing at “B-Level” means doing everything about 80%. What this essentially means is that, in any given situation you will perform at a level better than most, however, still have room to grow or improve. It’s a win-win situation because not only are you still better than most but whoever is on the receiving end, whether it be your boss, girlfriend, etc.. sees improvement in which they feel that they have contributed too. As I said, win-win with less effort.
“You see, I explained, life is a dance, a dance between the auras of two entities in which both entities must be relevant. If one completely dominates the dance, then there is no need for the other, which then collapses the relationship. Not good. The other issue was that if you perform with 100% effort 100% of the time, then the only direction you can go is down...that, or simply burn out.”
He looked at me quizzically and said nothing but I know his silence was saying,
“…shit, I never thought of it that way. What the fuck have I been dong all these years”.
See....there is something redeeming about being a little bit of a slacker and not just a Captain Amazing.