Johns Hopkins Talent Search May 14, 2005

I congratulate you all on the accomplishments that have led to your being invited to this program here at WestConn today. Johns Hopkins is searching for talent, and you guys obviously have it!

What I’d like to talk about for a few minutes is WHY TALENT IS COOL.

But before we talk about Talent, let’s talk about what we mean when we say something or someone is COOL.

Describe what “Coolhunters” do.
Find cool kids, observe what they do, how they dress, what they like—and then sell this information to Nike or MTV or Apple Computer or whomever.

How is that different from what Johns Hopkins is doing today?

  1. Coolhunters are just looking for first impression, for how someone looks on the outside, for superficial things. Talent hunters are looking for more serious abilities are inside you.
  2. What’s Cool changes—sometimes month by month. Talent is more enduring; it stays with you.
  3. Cool is about how you look or act; talent is about what you do.

You probably can guess where I’m going. In the long run, in most of life (despite what the media may tell you) it’s a lot better to be talented than to be cool. Talented people do the best in school, get into the best universities, get the best jobs, contribute the most to their communities, and ultimately change the world for the better.
So in my view, the real “Cool” people are those, like you, who are talented.

But there’s something else about talent that you should know. It’s useless unless you use it. Talent—in writing, in math, in music or in sports—is just an empty quality if you don’t exercise and develop it. And only you can do that. Teachers and coaches can help you, but in the end, it’s up to you. And the rewards for you, for your family and for society can be really great if you do.

So that puts some extra responsibility on you. We all expect more of you because you’re talented, and you probably expect more of yourself, too. That can be really stressful.

You’ve got tests to prepare for, papers to write, books to read, lessons to complete, music to practice, etc. etc.
How do you manage all that? How do you keep things in perspective?

One way to do it is remember that life is a journey full of experiences and adventures. Getting there is really the fun. The trip is more important than the destination.

Consider Homer’s Oddyssey;
And Constantine Cavafy’s poem:


“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.”

So remember:
The journey is more important than the destination.
Talent is Cool.
Work Hard to continue to develop your talent.
And again, congratulations!

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