The opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect? (whiny)


Same old, same old. I wrote about this 10 years ago, and not much has changed.


One of my joys this summer was to have time off to visit with my 10 year old daughter, Olivia. Olivia enjoyed the movie “Amadeus” and wanted to see it again.

The Salieri character is one that I can relate to, sort of. I say “sort of” because, in this film, Salieri rises from a common beginning to become the court composer of the King of Vienna. So, to be brutally honest, the “mediocre” Salieri achieved a level of success in his lifetime that I will never come close to seeing. Yet, his own success doesn’t bring him happiness, as he has the “gift” (curse?) of seeing how uncommonly brilliant Mozart is.

So, why am I so hopelessly mediocre at everything that I do; let me rephrase that; why are my strongest areas merely mediocre?

Of course, there is an easy answer, but for some reason, that answer is the hardest of all to swallow. So bear with me as I do some exploration.

Athletic Failures

First, I’ll start with my first shattered dream: football. Since I was a young boy listening to Notre Dame and Green Bay Packer football broadcast on AFRTS (my Dad was in the Air Force) I just knew I was going to be a football star some day.

So, from the time I was in junior high school, I lifted weights on my own. I did hours of “bridge” exercises to toughen up my neck so I could block the way that Vince Lombardi taught his Green Bay Packers to block. I ran wind sprints, ran stairs, ran with ankle weights and drank extra milk.

So I had shot up to 6 feet, 190 lbs. by the time I was in 9’th grade; my goal was to make the varsity. I didn’t that year ( but was to make it the following year). But, alas, I was still mostly dead last in windsprints (until everyone else got tired) and was frequently “out quicked” by the better players.

I was to finish my senior season mostly on the bench, though I did get to play some and had the honor of getting run over by those who ended up playing for Rice, University of Texas, Georgia Tech, and later for the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburg Steelers and the Washington Redskins.

Ah-ha! It was that I had too much slow-twitch muscle fiber, right?

So I turned to distance running. Ok, at my best marathons (26.2 mile footraces), the winner would finish when I was at mile 16. Well, if only I trained more (ok, I frequently injured myself by overtraining) or if only I showed a bit more courage and races and really gave it my all.

Well… why do my photos always show me looking almost comatose?

Academic Failures

So, now to my job. I am a math professor at a small Midwestern university. I publish from time to time; nothing I’ve done especially distinguishes me at the national level.
Well, why is that? It just seems to me that, whatever level I was in during my academic career, I was always slightly underprepared for that level. For example, I really was ready to learn calculus after I had taken my advanced analysis course, and so on. Dang; if I knew then what I know now, I’d be so much better off!
So my fantasy is to fake my death, escape and establish a new identity, and start college all over again, as an undergraduate. Yes, I’d tear right though the ranks, win those awards I didn’t win the first time, go to grad school, kick some butt in the classroom and this time write that hot-shot thesis that gets me a postgraduate appointment at Berkeley. Then a big time academic post would follow, along with that yoga instructor or triathlon babe caliber wife who wouldn’t get fat, right?

Of course, by the time I got to thesis writing, all of my advantages would be gone, and the smarter students would still write the good thesis and my new wife would still gain weight after I married her.
Ahhh, for the serenity to admit that I just don’t have it and to be grateful for what I do have! And besides, I am not researching as I am typing this, am I???


December 9, 2015 - Posted by | Personal Issues, social/political | ,

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