Sunday, December 31, 2023

Famous Spelling Bee Champs And Rubik's Cube Wizards

Do Spelling Bee Champs and Rubik's Cube Wizards end up becoming famous?

A friend of mine dropped off some "stocking stuffers" that they found in a dumpster.  No, I am not kidding. The island authority throws away a lot of stuff and we always check the big industrial roll-offs for good things - decent lumber (have you priced lumber these days?), Christmas decorations (a few hundred feet of lighted garland - it all worked, too!  LED!) and so on and so forth.  At the museum, they has some kind of kids program a few years back and handed out small toys as prizes to the kids.  I guess they had a few left over as my friend found a large shopping bag of them, untouched.

One of the items was a miniature Rubik's Cube and I remembered why I hated these things. It is not hard to figure out there is a trick or knack to these things, but I just don't have the patience for it.  I've seen these videos where some kid is able to "solve" a Rubik's Cube in a matter of seconds and that indeed is pretty impressive.  But on the other hand, I wonder if people like that are one-trick ponies or like child actors - you never hear about them outside of that narrow field of endeavor.

It is like spelling bee champions.  Yea, they are smart kids and as one article notes, many go one to be successful journalists or doctors or other types of professionals.  The journalism thing is explained by the fact that many spelling bees are sponsored by newspapers who offer internships or scholarships to winners, so the thing bootstraps itself.

Funny thing - the ability to memorize spellings of thousands of words doesn't necessarily translate into real-world success.

You never hear about a famous scientist or President or celebrity or inventor or whatever, who was a spelling bee champ or a Rubik's Cube wizard.  Sure, they are successful in life for the most part (it seems, but then again, the newspaper doesn't report on homeless spelling bee bums or some wino with a Rubik's Cube).  We never hear about super-star status.

In a way, I guess, it is like with sports.  Many play, a few are good, a few go on to play professionally.  Of those, most crap out before age 30. The lucky few who make it to the top of their sport, can make millions - provided their sport is a top sport.  A star basketball player can rake in hundreds of millions in salaries and endorsements.  A superstar in track in field is not as lucky.  I doubt Nike is paying much for the endorsement by a discus thrower.

Indeed, it is like so much else in life. We are told to do well in school and get good grades and write a good term paper and that is the key to success.  But as I noted before, often school skills don't translate into real-world success (another reason not to borrow too much money for school!) and in fact, can lead a very successful straight-A student into becoming a drug addict, school-shooter, or homeless bum. Mental illness, in the form of schizophrenia, often sets in around the age when people transition from the classroom world into the working world.

I was fortunate, going to work at GM at age 18. But then again, I always had a "job" starting at age 13 and I guess I just assumed that working was as important as studying, if not moreso.  14 years of night-school later, I ended up a lawyer.  I never saw that coming!

In fact, it seems that the most successful people in the world are dropouts of one sort or another.  Most of the tech superstars of our generation (and you can name them without me asking) dropped out of college - utter failures, these Billionaires!  Of course, some of the people on that list are a little odious (or a lot) so then there's that.  But I wonder if Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg can solve a Rubik's Cube in under a minute or win a spelling bee or become a Jeopardy! champion.  And it really doesn't matter, does it?

So I don't worry too much about not being able to "solve" the Rubik's Cube. Sure, there are YouTube video tutorials about it and I suppose I could spend the time trying to learn it, but to what end?  I am content to be amazed at some kid who can solve it in minutes and bask in his glory.  We don't have to win at everything in life - or even try everything, in order to win.