At a group gathering where people took turns standing and introducing themselves, a man stood up and said something about himself I’ll never forget. “I’m a renaissance man. I play drums, I write, I build things, I…”
I can’t remember the rest because I was bored and stunned that he would describe himself that way.
We all have those friends who make amazing things and rarely share them with the world. When we discover their talents long after we’ve met them, we’re usually amazed and say something like, “I had no idea you were a painter! Why don’t you talk about yourself more often?”
The truth is, we’re happier that they don’t. There’s something about us that loves to discover, loves for things to be hidden for us to find on our own. If everything is shoved in our face all at once, we lose interest.
What’s true about people’s talents is also true about their sorrows. When people have gone through difficult things and are noble and quiet about them, our compassion for them abounds. But if they put their woes on display and reiterate over and over how bad they have it—how much they’ve suffered, how hard it is, how no one else probably has it as bad as they do—our compassion evaporates in an instant.
Covered things allure us. Underplaying strengths is attractive. Overplaying pretty much anything is repulsive.
One more observation about the “renaissance man” from the gathering: he wasn’t great at any of the things he mentioned doing. He was a novice. There’s nothing wrong with being a novice, but I have noticed that people who are great are usually humble about their work. They are inspired by people ahead of them, they’ve seen what’s possible, and they know that they still have room to grow.
When I was a teenager and met someone who played guitar, I had a method of finding out immediately if they were good or not without them knowing what I was doing. I would simply ask, “Are you good?” If they responded immediately with a yes, it was almost certain that they weren’t.