Potential and Ability vs Desire and Happiness

For as long as I can remember, I have been considered gifted. Learning has never been difficult for me. I was born as the son of a future engineer and the grandson of an engineer whose son was an entrepreneur at age 18. My ability has led to great things and problems in my life. Aside from the general bullying that I had to endure for being intelligent and not understanding how to interact with other kids, I didn’t find a use in studying, homework, or putting a solid effort into my studies. Around 3rd grade I got my first F. I thought I was going to be in big trouble. Turns out it wasn’t a big deal. It was around this time that I learned that homework was designed to help me learn concepts. Since I got A’s on most of my tests anyways, why should I invest time in homework? This discovery was the worst thing that happened to me. This trend continued through high school.

Other things made me put an effort into my studies though. I had an 11th grade Social Studies teacher who participated in intramural floor hockey three times a week. I loved playing. He had a meeting with my mother and it was decided that I could only play if I turned in my homework that day. So on the days I could play, I would turn in homework. Most days I still didn’t do it and it was only one subject.

He also described me as “brilliant”. In 7th grade, my mother signed me up to take the SAT in a room full of high school juniors. I didn’t understand why I had to take a test on a Saturday, but since tests were easy for me, I participated. I ended up scoring better that 20% of college bound seniors when I was just 13. This at an age when I had no clue what Pi was and answered the questions involving it because I had the symbol on my calculator. In 11th grade, I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). It is the entrance exam for military service. I scored a 94 which is equivalent to the 94th percentile of 18-23 year old’s who took the test. On each and every IQ test I take online, I score between 132 and 135. And while I don’t know how accurate they are, that generally scores in the top category. Some sites claim it is genius level intellect.

I don’t say this to brag, far from it. I just want to give a perspective of what I should be capable of.




In the Navy I finally started to apply myself. In boot camp, I finished 2nd in my recruitment class which was roughly 600 kids in test score. I went on to electronics training and in the first school I was 3rd overall, and on the second I was 2nd overall. I finished in first in a couple other classes. I consistantly had the high score at my command for advancement tests. At training courses for various jobs I also was the top student. One fellow student at an x-ray training course asked me how I was able to memorize so much, so fast. All I could tell him was that it was second nature to me and I have always been that way. Most recently, I finished community college in December with a 4.0 GPA.

This brings me to what happened last night. The wife and I decided to rewatch 2009’s Star Trek reboot. In it, Kirk is a lost farm boy with no direction. His father his a hero and has a little resentment towards Star Fleet since it took his father away. Captain Pike meets Kirk during a bar fight. Without getting to far into the plot, Pike challenges Kirk to live up to his potential.

At this point I paused the movie and asked my wife if she thought I was living up to my potential. The answer did not surprise me. She thought I had settled for comfort. She believes I have the ability to be someone special in the world, or at the very least greatly increase my earning potential.

So I am at a crossroads, I have many of the things I want out of life. We are looking to move into a nicer house. I have a job I love. We are going to start a family at some point. Could I use more money? Sure. But what do I have to sacrifice to convince someone to give me more? I’m 34, there is no way I will be as happy as I am now if I go back to school full time. I can get my 4 year degree for free thanks to my wife working at private institution, so loans aren’t an issue.

So what choice should I make? School? Certifications? Happiness? I just don’t know. Will I find the Captain Pike of my life that will inspire me to be better than I am? Do I owe society the best of my potential?


Perhaps I will start taking courses again, or working on IT certifications. While I have a small desire to be something greater, I don’t know if the sacrifices are worth it.


Sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes, I find my intellect a burden.

  • Eri

    left in a similar situation at the moment – fly through general and iq tests, scoring 95th percentile but just can’t find enough motivation to really push myself any further. It’s kind of comfortable sitting back doing the easier stuff, or what you know. Sometimes it does work for you too as you may simply enjoy a life and work less complicated.