I Can't Even

When they were little, my husband and his brother had a pet parrot. They did everything they could to get it to talk, but the bird wouldn't open its beak for more than a chirp. They tried speaking in Ukrainian, Russian, and English; they tried repeating the same phrase over and over again, and they tried nonsensical sounds and patterns.


It took two years for them to realise it wasn't the right kind of parrot.


Rest assured that I laughed like hell at this story, but it quickly became something of a personal parable: I don't have the capability to master everything. No matter how much I or others invest in my progress.


There's a distinction, of course. My language studies are agonising, but that doesn't mean I don't have the ability. I'm learning to be a better writer, and I'm confident that I'll see more and more growth over time.


But the western myth of "You can be whatever you want" needs to die. I could technically learn to draw, but I'll never have a sketch hang in a museum. I could take course after course on management, but I'll never lead a corporation.


This isn't just a nature vs. nurture thing. Innate ability and hard work are both important. I'm all for self-improvement, but it's time we put our energy in a focused direction. And those in leadership positions should recognise that there's a difference between teaching a parrot and a finch to talk. Maybe let the finch focus on foraging instead.


Let's recognise the abilities in ourselves, and in others. Let's focus on growing the parts that matter, and understand that, cheesy as it is, we're not birds of the same feather.


And besides: Even talking parrots cause problems.