In elementary school I came up with an idea that stuck with me for quite some time. I imagined that every person to ever exist was given 100 points, which were allocated towards various skills upon their conception. Actually trying to allocate the points is pretty futile and I was never foolish enough to try to draw up a scheme such as: 2 points for cooking, 1 for responsibility, 10 for creativity, etc. This was mainly due to the fact that listing everything a person is capable of is pretty much an impossible task. In addition one must also accurately describe their skill levels comparatively and 100 points is far too few to accomplish both of these tasks. So clearly actual computation wasn’t my goal.
What I was really getting at was the idea of a tradeoff in this scenario. In art class I had always wanted to be able to draw, but I didn’t have the patience or skill to achieve good results. I noticed the artwork of some girls such as Isabel, Alexa, and Sam, and drawing/painting came quite naturally to them. I liked to draw quite a bit in elementary school and despite what I thought were poor results, I kept on going. My father still has a drawing of “The Houston Launch Site” in his office, which pretty much resembles a very odd-shaped grey block with blue rectangles nested inside to denote the space between iron bars. Out of frustration I came up with the idea that talent cannot be distributed equally. I knew my strengths were writing, reading, and arithmetic, but I couldn’t draw a recognizable picture to save my life.
A basic criticism I have of this idea, looking back as an adult, is related to the uniform distribution of points. Giving everyone 100 points is quite unrealistic because it assumes everyone has an equal level of talent. However, I think assuming everyone has 100 points leads to some insightful conclusions that have greatly shaped my way of thinking. The first conclusion is simply the fact that everyone has equal worth. If you could actually quantify an individual’s talent, and every individual had a worth of 100, then everyone is equal. Secondly, some may be highly specialized, others mediocre at a variety of skills, and there may be hidden talent never utilized by the individual. So there are a variety of distributions for skill sets and we are not assuming that people have used all of them.
I’ve been thinking about this idea in some form or another for quite sometime now (from elementary school and now I’m in college), so it is perfectly natural to ask me the question: How did this change your life?
The first conclusion is something I try to preach in almost all of my posts. In general, we are all people and we are created equal. It is easy to lose sight of this when thinking of a poor person who begs on the street only to purchase crack cocaine or a psychopathic nurse who is slowly killing her patients with overdoses of morphine. From a macro perspective these individuals are exposing the weaknesses of society and our laws or jurisdictions are in reaction to the actions of the outliers. Essentially we need nut cases to improve the overall quality of society because poverty, psychological disorders, criminal behavior, and drug usage can be studied. It’s not a statement of whether these behaviors are wrong or right that is important, without such behavior we would not have cases to analyze in order to make society and government more efficient. So in that case everyone is contributing to the overall growth of society. I didn’t mention the other side, but what the government defines as law-abiding citizens who work 9-5 jobs and raise families are equally important to testing the effectiveness of the parameters. Judgements of right or wrong are less important than the fact that evaluation of all types of behavior form a societal ideal of what is acceptable behavior. So from a very distant perspective everyone has some inherent value to society and my first conclusion was recognition of that fact.
The implications of the second conclusion are more practical. I place a lot of importance on self-evaluation and understanding your personal skill set. The 100 point idea lead me to being somewhat honest with myself in terms of evaluating my results in any endeavor. At the same time I also recognized what talents I possess and where my skills are lacking. On that note it has also made me think about how I spend my time and if I should regret not being able to settle and specialize very well. This “theory” has helped me come to terms with the fact that I will always be a jack of all trades. Part of my value as a person is my ability to understand a variety of topics, but that comes with the tradeoff of not being highly specialized in any one category. This line of thinking is also productive in planning how you wish to specialize. It’s a rather silly and abstract way of putting it, but you were created with certain talents and there is a finite amount of time in your lifespan. So from the standpoint of your own mental organization it might be worthwhile thinking about what is it you would like to become really good at, given those constraints.
Talent is not the end all be all of what you can accomplish as a person. I visualize talent as natural ability you were born with. Those girls in my art class had more points allocated towards artistic skill, but if we can compare I was average or slightly below average. However it’s interesting to think that anything is possible. By this I don’t mean tomorrow I am going to be a superstar athlete, there are limitations to what a person can accomplish. But there is nothing stopping me from trying something out and getting better at it. In some ways our minds are molded into certain forms of thinking and I find I apply my logical way of thinking to almost everything. I picked up drawing as a hobby last summer after all these years and I made significant progress. I finished a complete sketch of the comic book character Tintin alongside a harbor and I figured out that practicing figure drawing was something I needed to draw cartoon characters better. Essentially I created a strategy for myself, to get better at drawing. Will I ever be a really good artist? No, but I have come a long way and proved to myself that I could do something I put my mind to.
In some ways freeing your mind of expectations related to your results can help you try something new. From our initial model I accounted for people not exploring all of their talents, which isn’t very efficient. I found that with drawing I had very strict expectations of what I wanted my final drawing to be like. While it’s good to conceptualize the endpoint, it also held me back from experimenting and shifting my goals to what is realistically possible by me. My drawing style is as logical as my writing and I methodically construct a skeleton of a figure before tacking on actual artistic details at the very end. So you can be surprised by the things you can accomplish. You just have to keep an open mind.
This post really went all over the place. Hopefully you can conceptualize this as the applications of the “100 point theory”. As all of my points and conclusions stem from that initial assumption.
Sometimes I chuckle at things that were created in my head as a kid. I wouldn’t be so for gender equality or equal treatment of human beings/general niceness if I didn’t think this way. It’s funny to think about whether this idea shaped me or was it merely a reflection of my persona?
What do you think about that question and what are your thoughts related to the talent and value you or others hold? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.