Embrace your shortcomings

The following blog is taken from the "This I Believe" speech that George '22 delivered to his Middle School teachers and peers. Every eighth grader gives a "This I Believe" speech about a belief or experience that impacts the way he leads his life. George shares why embracing his weaknesses has made him a stronger person.

I believe in being slow. Most of you probably don't know what it feels like to always be the last one to finish, the one who gets lapped... twice, or the one who hears his mile split is nine-and-a-half minutes and goes, "Yes! On track for a PR (personal record)!" Well, I'm here to tell you it's the best feeling in the world. No, not really. Every time I hear the footsteps of the 4'3" sixth grader with a runny nose and a broken ankle from Lowell gaining on me, well, I die a little. But I have learned a lot from my physical ineptitude to beat out a sac bunt. Basically, if you are as slow and unathletic as I am, you learn to do stuff the hard way.

I play serious baseball. Most of you already know that. In 2016, I had a great season. My batting average was above .400. It probably would have been above .500 if not for the 14 times I was thrown out at first base by the right fielder. No, I'm not kidding. I am a lefty hitter, which means that I hit most balls to the right side of the field. Many times, that ball would go straight to the right fielder. Usually, that's a hit. Unfortunately, for me, it was almost an automatic out. The right fielder would charge in on the ball, pick it up, and throw me out at first. It got to the point where that was my reputation: "Play your right fielder in on this kid. You might steal an out." I even was thrown out from center once. Right fielders everywhere would play on the edge of the grass, hoping to get me out.

I realized that to get hits to right field, I would have to hit it over their heads. At this point, I was not big enough to do that on a consistent basis. So, instead, I became a slap hitter. I learned to hit the ball to left field better than anyone else. This caused other coaches to move both their corner outfielders way in when I hit, exposing huge gaps in the holes. I hit .528 the next year. My lack of talent actually helped my hitting skill. That is, until other teams learned that I can't hit curveballs. Still haven't figured that one out yet, but the important thing is that one of my biggest weaknesses became a strength.

Being slow has other advantages, too! I don't have to try too hard to let my 6-year-old brother beat me in a race. It also got me elected to Student Council two years in a row. I used my lack of foot speed to highlight how humble I am in a self-deprecating way. At least, that's what everybody thought.

In reality, I'm just slow. My lack of athleticism has forced me to focus on the sports that I will excel in, namely baseball and ping pong. But ironically, the best thing that my chronic unathleticism has brought me is cross country.

I hate cross country. Well, no. Because my mom (pictured above right) doesn't want me to use the word hate so much, let's say that I highly dislike cross country with fiery passion. But cross country is also one of my favorite parts of the day. It's funny; I hate running, and all it is is running. But I enjoy the challenge of it. Cross country has a calming effect on me. Middle School is stressful, and I love having half an hour (yes, that's how long it takes me to run two miles) each day to just run. It's very quiet; mostly because I tune out noise but also because I'm so far behind the pack that there is nobody to make any. But I never would have discovered cross country if I had not been slow.

You see, I enjoy playing soccer. Unfortunately, I'm so bad at it that I would have been an embarrassment to the school. I avoided choosing football because I didn't want to get hurt right before baseball season, and water polo was a no go because there was absolutely no way I was wearing a speedo in November. So that left me with one option. Ironically, if there was one sport I never thought I'd do, it would be cross country. It was like asking Lebron James to become a jockey; it just isn't going to happen. But through the process of elimination, I ended up standing in front of Coach [Addison] Hunt on September 9 as a chubby, short sixth grader who was scared out of his wits. Coach told us to run a mile to warm up. I was horrified; I had never run a mile in my life. But slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, I got better. My two-mile time dropped from 27 minutes to 21 minutes. I'd had my doubts about choosing cross country, but it ended up being the best decision I ever made.

I have always been interested in what makes successful people successful. I come from a very successful family of stiff, unathletic people. None of my relatives are particularly good with numbers or words, and none of them have much charm or flash. Trying to figure out why they all have had success, I looked for a common denominator. That's when I realized that the common denominator WAS their shortcomings. Just like how my lack of swiftness has helped me be a better baseball player, these men's shortcomings actually forced them to grow new strengths. My grandfather, for example, is a lawyer. He is a genius negotiator and debater. If he had been a math whiz, he would not have had to learn these skills.

If you look at Sports Illustrated's top 100 athletes of all time, many of the athletes don't look particularly, well, athletic. Tom Brady, five-time Super Bowl champion and sworn enemy of Colts fans like myself, ran the slowest non-lineman time ever at the combine. John McEnroe, who won seven tennis Grand Slam events, was a skinny guy with very little muscle. Greg Maddux was a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who couldn't throw 90 miles per hour. Larry Bird, who won three NBA titles, was the slowest player on the court in almost every game he played.

These are some prime examples of people working so hard that they made it to the top, despite their athletic shortcomings. While they most certainly were aware that they weren't physically superior, they didn't let it stop them. Instead, they focused on the parts of their game that they could excel in, and became the most skilled people in their respective sports.

When you embrace your shortcomings, and find a way to make it work, you will have much more success than someone who rides his talent through life. Some of you are really fast. Well, you're all faster than me, but some of you are also really smart, and strong. But I can guarantee every one of you that at some point you will come across someone who is faster, smarter or stronger than you. When you deal with that is when the race really begins.

And I have a head start. This I believe.