You've heard that expression a million zillion times. I just saw that in action.
Watching SportsCenter during my lunch break, I saw a story about a Florida State football player named Myron Rolle. Myron is potentially giving up what shaping up as a lucrative career in pro football in order to spend a year abroad as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
He was a pre-med student at FSU, graduated in three years, is enrolling in a one-year master's program in medical anthropology, and plans to become a neurosurgeon, use his degree in medical anthropology to bring modern medecin to developing nations and, later, open a free health clinic in his home island on the Bahamas.
Between Oxford and his days as a neurosurgeon, he does plan to try out (and is likely to be drafted by an NFL team) and play pro football for eight or nine years. That's how he tells it, and it's an impressive, thoughtful plan.
His ambitions reveal a young man who understands his potential and who plans to make the most of it for himself and his community; a realistic yet altrustic person.
What struck me the most was the way the ESPN news anchors revealed a mixture of awe and self-loathing. One, Sage Steele, actually said, "I'll try to get through the next two minutes [segment] without making a fool of myself.
They behaved as if this guy's existence negated their own worth--that if Myron Rolle was alive, there was no point in their own lives.
Am I exaggerating? Only a little. But the degree of self-loathing they demonstrated wasn't really surprising. In fact, you see it every time a smart kid gets picked on in the school yard or prefaces her words with self-deprecating remarks to shield herself from the accusation that she's showing off.
I'm sure that Sage and all the others don't consciously believe that Myron is a mad scientist who is secretly plotting their demise, but that's the subtext: this guy is so smart he could do anything to me and I would be powerless to stop him.
This is a problem old as civilization itself; how else can we explain the death of Socrates? I'm not sure there's a solution other than for smart people like Myron to be aware of this--and hope it doesn't deter them from their altruistic motives.