Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Your best

I just finished reading The Bucolic Plague, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, which is the story of how the author and his partner became "gentleman farmers".  It's not a how-to book, and if you harbor a secret (or not so secret) wish to abandon the city and your nine-to-five job for the simple life in the country, this book may make you scream with frustration because you do not have the Martha connection nor the funds nor the personality nor the whimsical chutzpah to buy a mansion in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, or if you did, said mansion would not come with a caretaker and 80 goats and a cast of helpful characters.

Anyway, the major conflict of this story is Kilmer-Purcell's wish to live his Oprah-inspired Best Life and his partner's Martha-influenced perfectionism.  They work things out in the end (obviously), but the gem of this book is the revelation by the author that what is his Best Life is not following his bliss, but doing what he is best at (which happens to be "sparkle").

Which leads to the question of, What am I best at?  And I am not talking about what I am best at in comparison to other people, but what, amongst the myriad of things that I do, is my own personal forte.

Not only does this take an acrobatic ability to twist your point of view, but it also requires that you compare apples to oranges.  I already know that I write better than I talk, but do I knit better than I write?  Do I cook better than I garden?  Each so-called talent has its own criteria for rating whether you are "good" or "better" or "best" at it, but then things get really complicated when you include non-specific things like attitude or enthusiasm or social skills.  Or sparkle.

It seems easier to identify someone else's "best" than your own.  For example, I have a co-worker whose "best" is problem solving.  He tackles any and all problems that fall in his path as though they are solvable if only he thinks or researches or works on them hard enough.  So it might be eye-opening to ask your friends and family what they think your "best" is.

If you can get them to refrain from comparing your "best" to theirs.

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir