I have a soft spot for this kid – he made me an aunt.
He was accepted into a prestigious engineering program, and received permission to defer his studies so that he could spend two years furthering his religious education in Israel.
He told me that he was considering changing his plans, because he heard that this engineering program was rigorous, and he may not have time to devote to his religious studies, which are important to him.
“Of course you will” I told him.
He is one smart kid, my nephew.
He thought I didn’t understand, so he gave me examples of people he knew who had switched out because they couldn’t do both.
“So what?” I said. “I know you can do it, absolutely”.
I could see a window in his mind opening.
“There was one guy who managed to do it all”, he slowly remembered.
“Of course he did”, I said.
“But he was the exception”, he protested.
“So you be another exception”.
“Be exceptional”, I advised.
Then he said “You can’t choose to be exceptional”.
And this blew me away.
Our common cultural belief is that some people are born exceptionally talented or smart, and some aren’t, and these gifts allow those chosen few to excel, to be exceptional.
I remember believing that.
Now, after many years of working in so many different fields, with so many varied professionals, I know it to be untrue.
I told my nephew that there are so many highly successful people who are far less clever than him, and many unsuccessful people who have enormous talent.
We are all born magnificent and talented and smart and capable.
What we do with our magnificence is up to us.
I hope my nephew chooses to stand high and be exceptional.
I hope he proves that it’s completely possible to excel at the toughest engineering program at the same time as becoming a serious religious scholar.
I hope that he chooses to become the exception that younger religious boys talk about when considering their options.
I hope that you do too.
Be the exception.
Be the mom who parents with joy while providing a magnificent income for her family.
Be the woman who loses weight while eating with gusto and pleasure.
Be the person who stands up against prejudice while remaining peaceful and loving.
Be the person other people look at and say “if she can do it, maybe I can too”
Don’t wait for it to choose you.With deep gratitude to my teacher, Brooke Castillo, for introducing me to the possibility that I can create my future, and my present. As I observed myself during the conversation with my nephew, I was so thrilled at how much I believe in our own power to choose who we want to be, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Although I had read about this before, Brooke’s patient teaching over the years has enabled me to feel it, believe it, and I am starting to figure out how to live it.