Ordinary Super Powers
Ordinary Super Powers
April 19, 2013
I define an ordinary super power as any useful ability that very few humans possess. For example, having a spectacular voice that commands attention is like a super power. So is being ridiculously attractive, insanely smart, highly energetic, artistic, and so on.
I don’t have any of those super powers. I’m an example of someone who has good but not great skills that work well together. I write okay, have a good sense of humor, draw better than the average person, and understand enough about the business world to pull it all together in the form of comics. No super powers needed.
But I often wonder what it would be like to have one or more of the ordinary super powers. And I also wonder which one I would choose if I had my pick. Knowing my shallowness, I would probably choose to be ridiculously attractive. But if I were to be more rational about it, and choose an ordinary super power with the greatest career utility, what would it be?
Realistically, attractiveness probably trumps most other super powers. So much so that in my opinion the men-versus-women way of seeing the world will soon morph into a political model in which attractive people of every gender and ethnicity are seen as advantaged while unattractive people are struggling. Gender and ethnicity will seem trivial compared to attractiveness. We’re about halfway there.
This is a long way of getting to my point, and yes, I have one. I would nominate for my preferred ordinary super power the ability to not feel embarrassment.
My observation is that people such as Richard Branson or Elvis, or just about anyone famous, has willingly taken on a career that promises a lot of raised eyebrows, shaming, humiliation, and ego attacks. Some people shrug off that sort of stuff. They have that ordinary super power. And it makes success more likely because they get to compete against a smaller field.
My hypothesis is that people who display a lack of embarrassment are seen by others as natural leaders. I suppose a lack of embarrassment looks like a form of bravery, and we’re wired to respond to it. When someone gives a speech to thousands, and shows no signs of nervousness, their confidence affects us. We assume good things about a person who is so cool under pressure. And when someone does something monumentally embarrassing, and shrugs it off with a smirk and a twinkle in the eye, we are in awe.
The good news is that one can learn to control embarrassment. You simply need to experience it so many times that you get used to it. In my case, my natural personality is shy, and as a kid I embarrassed easily. But I’ve learned through practice to power through most of my embarrassments. And that’s a good thing because embarrassment is a routine part of my job.
Take this blog. What I enjoy most about it is that there is no editor between you and me. The downside is that you see my spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and dumbass ideas in their raw form. I barely go a day without embarrassing myself in public. But at this point in my life, blog-related embarrassments don’t feel any more psychologically painful than looking in the mirror and seeing that I need a haircut. It’s just stuff.
I’m not totally immune to embarrassment, but I’m working toward it. Of all the ordinary super powers, enduring embarrassment is the one that an ordinary person can most easily develop. I will never have a radio-quality voice, or suddenly become tall and attractive. But I can learn to endure embarrassment, and that has a tremendous economic value.
Imagine being able to talk to anyone, and ask for any favor or resource, without fear of rejection or embarrassment. 99% of people you talk to could give you the stink-eye and you’d still become a billionaire because of the few that cooperated.
So I put the following unscientific question to you:
1. Rank your fear of embarrassment from 1-10 with 10 being highest.
2. Rank your career success (age adjusted) from 1-10 with 10 being highest.
I think there will be a correlation. That’s my hypothesis.