Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Two Friends & Twelve Years

(Picture by Wayne Brasch)

Two close friends graduated from college together twelve years ago. One of them had been his high school valedictorian, received a full-ride university scholarship, and graduated with straight A's. The other was a mediocre student in both high school and college and graduated with a grade point average of 2.67.

This first person had a remarkable drive and a resolve that epitomized mind over body. He was on fire with his Yiddishkeit and even taught his less-observant friend how to put on tefillin. Upon graduation, he gained two more Masters degrees as well as an MBA degree. Today, however, he is lonely, unhappy, and working in a job far that is from commensurate with his education. He constantly dreams up new plans for the future to get himself out of his rut but seems to be stuck in the same place year after year. Each day he becomes more embittered at his lot in life and laments his waste of time since college.

The second person was a person who epitomized the path of least resistance. He did not pursue any further formal education, but got a job where he literally worked his way up from the basement to a well-paying desk job. He married a girl from college, bought a house, and together they were blessed with children. He has no other professional aspirations other than to figure out a way to continually make more money by working less hours and without having to manage people. He feels unworthy of all the kindness Hashem has shown him in his life and thanks Hashem each day for the myriad of gifts that have been given to him.

All indications seemed to point to the fact that that this first person would eventually become the successful one. However, today this is not the case and the second person is still scratching his head and trying to understand why.

16 Comments:

At January 17, 2007 at 7:11:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it sounds like you are guy #2 ..

and Rebbe Nachman's story The Sophisticate and The Simpleton, details a tale similar to this. (mentioned on mystical paths yesterday iirc) Everyone should give this a read.

Also, in some cases, some people have zchut avoth that ensures no matter what they do they will be blessed. afaik.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 10:10:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I remember reading an article somewhere (in a doctors office I think) that pointed out - to my surprise - that, statistically, cases such as this are the norm (!), and the top minds usually underachive in their life. It was about 5 years ago that I saw the piece, but it was very interesting.

As my 6th grade teacher used to say: "Slow and steady wins the race."

 
At January 17, 2007 at 10:14:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 10:36:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

I also thought of the Chacham & the Tam, but "dotted yitz" beat me to it.
I remember hearing that the Chafetz Chaim ZT"L was not blessed with a brilliant mind, but was very diligent in his learning. Because of that we have his mussar sefarim and the Mishna Brura.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 11:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

I think that academic achievement is correlated with financial and professional "success" (as conventionally defined) IF that is the primary goal of the high-achiever. But it's not necessarily related to an individual's happiness in his personal life. It can even be an impediment to forming attachments and developing other facets of the personality. Most of us have strengths and weaknesses: capabilities that we've fully developed and other promising talents that we have not fulfilled.

The "underachiever" may have values and strengths that are not reflected in academic or professional achievement. He may have the ability to develop strong, warm relationships with others. If his career is not his primary path to self-fulfillment, he may give more attention to his home and family life. His focus on his spiritual life may give him peace and balance.

Some people are able to "have it all," at least during different phases of their lives; the rest of us have to decide for ourselves which path is the most rewarding and fulfilling.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 1:35:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you all for your insights! I really appreciate them.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 4:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mashal or true story?

-Dixie Yid

 
At January 17, 2007 at 5:37:00 PM EST, Blogger der ewige Jude said...

Ah, its easy, Hashem wants the heart not the head. Collecting degrees only ends up as some dusty papers on the wall, and a few more dead trees. Those that get wrapped up pursuing more dollars sometimes forget what it says on those same dollars, "In G-d we trust."

 
At January 17, 2007 at 7:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Gandalin said...

Rebbe Nachman's tale is certainly apropos. Shoshana (bershad)'s comments are very wise. I'd also like to mention that #2 always thanks Hashem for everything he has. I think that's key. And his aspirations are realistic. He's making it easy for himself and for Hashem. But most important, is to thank Hashem for every minute.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 7:50:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Dixie Yid: 100% true story.

Der Ewige Jude: Nicely put.

Gandalin: Very interesting. Thanks for your comment :)

 
At January 17, 2007 at 11:18:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Just to add a small point - the pass of the least resistance is not at all always the best choice. It depends on the situation. Life isn't an eclectic circuit. Sometimes in order to do something one has to go over his limits. Other times require mesirus nefesh. Especially for a chosid - middle path isn't always the best.

 
At January 17, 2007 at 11:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

I meant electric circuit obviously.

 
At January 18, 2007 at 12:23:00 AM EST, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

A Yid: I don't think that ASJ's second example is really taking the "path of least resistance," even though he used those exact words. He is *choosing the path* by defining what is important to him (spiritual life rather than a profession) and putting all his energy and passion into progress along the path he has chosen.

 
At January 18, 2007 at 4:36:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid: Point well taken, however, for the sake of this posting the path of least resistance was describing his efforts b'gashmius and not b'ruchnius.

 
At January 18, 2007 at 10:34:00 AM EST, Blogger avakesh said...

Someone once said."Nice guys don't finish last. They just run in a different race".

On a more helpful note, Why three masters? Might not deeper study of one subject, a doctorate perhaps, lead to greater success. People who accumulate mulitple unrelated degrees receive suspicion and not respect from their coworkers who see it as lack of committment and can be retarded in professional advancement.

 
At January 19, 2007 at 1:48:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Interesting point!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home