You’re Good but not that Good

My dissertation adviser (Douglass C. North) told me that before going onto the job market. Great man. I love that man.  Great thinker. Nobel Prize-winning kind of thinker. Not the best motivational speaker. Granted, I was thinking about applying to a position at Harvard.

However, he was right.

Doug taught some of the best economic historians the profession has seen. I could not (and cannot) compete. For years, I struggled under the weight of expectations that attends being one of his students. The first question I was asked in my first interview on the job market was “Why would a Doug North student be interested in our school?”

Expectations. They were debilitating. I never met them. I will never meet them. Why? I am not an economic historian. I am not a researcher. It is not who I am. It is not my gift. It is not my calling.

For the past couple of years, I have been building up the personal permission to embrace what I know I am good at – not just good but really good.

Giving half-time speeches.

I captained both my high school and college football teams. I played strong safety throughout my football career. I was undersized. I was not the fastest. I did not have the best hands. But I could hit. And, I could give a good half-time speech.  This is especially important when you captain struggling teams. As a senior, my high school team went 4-6.  At Earlham, we won three games in three years. However, by my senior year, we went 5-5.  Perseverance in the face of daunting odds. Sounds like the perfect resume for what I find myself doing with most of my time – building a tribe of young people focused on making a dent in global poverty.

Who am I? I am a football coach in a professor’s body building a movement to take on global poverty. Yeah, those are some expectations I can meet.


If you enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy my Halftime Speeches monthly email.

Thanks. – shawn

If you like this post, you may also like The Letter and Positive Thinking (Necessary but not Sufficient).