The failed pessimist shrinks from his deficits while the successful optimist expands upon his assets. John V. Farrar

The sports world was agog (at least for one day) with the news that Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as the president of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers, observing, “I want to go back to being happy.” Lest my non-sports loving readers are inclined to cease reading at this point, let me assure all that this essay is not about sports. It is, instead, about all of us and our reflective understanding of who we are – both our strengths and weaknesses

Magic Johnson is a legendary great athlete. He also is a very successful businessman, built largely upon his charismatic personality rather than on any technical acumen or knowledge base. Talented entrepreneurs and brilliant Wall Street types enjoy hanging out with a celebrity and benefiting from his name recognition, and have partnered with Magic for mutual benefit.

Magic’s mistake was in forgetting who he was. Because he was a great player, he deluded himself into thinking that he could be a similarly successful sports executive. He failed with the Lakers and, in a perhaps insightful moment, acknowledged his error and resigned.

This misperception is uncommon in our society. Schools promote great teachers into ineffective principals. Voters elect charming personalities into political leadership positions, despite their lack of any significant public policy experience. And Hollywood types assume they are making good parental decisions by buying their children’s admission into colleges that their kids’ lack of scholarship would preclude.

The developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, fundamentally altered our understanding of human cognition with his coining of the concept and term, multiple intelligences. Simply put, his message was that people are not “bright” or “dull.” Rather, each person has areas of personal strength and individual shortcomings or limitations. In other words, being good at one area of activity does not dictate talent in another aspect of endeavor.

So Magic Johnson demonstrated what Gardner termed high “kinesthetic intelligence” with his athletic prowess. His personal charm was a form of “interpersonal intelligence”, but, perhaps, his limiting areas might have been with what Gardner labeled as “logic”, i.e. problem-solving ability. To his credit, Magic also showed “intrapersonal intelligence (the ability to look inward with honesty and prudence) via his resignation.

Howard Gardner optimistically suggests that we are all good at something. Personal success and happiness flows to those who maximize their strengths while accepting their shortcomings and working to minimize their negative impact.

I often write about our need to self-examination: to gaze bravely and honestly into that metaphorical mirror. Today’s homework: Look into that mirror for useful self-appraisal. Smile at the good qualities that you see and make the most of them.

At age 73 and standing 6’0”, directing my efforts toward a career in the NBA will likely prove to be a poor investment of time and energy. I think I’ll stick to newsletters.

(The Optimists’ Creed Taken from Mayflower Donut Shop in Chicago)
As you ramble through life, Brother
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut
And not upon the hole!