Jon Carroll wrote a wonderful column on July 5, 2000 titled “As You Get Older.” The whole thing is worth reading but there is a section that begins “This is your challenge…” that reads like poetry. So I have re-formatted it as blank verse, it contains a number of observations on advice and influence that I try to bear on mind as I get older.
This Is Your Challenge
- You have to be so smart
- that no one knows how smart you are.
- You are playing a different game now.
- The game is called “Who was that masked man?”
- The masked man was you.
- You have left behind the silver epiphany.
- You have said the thing that will make it better.
- People will get it or they won’t.
- As Maimonides teaches,
- the best gifts are anonymous.
- You can get so much more done
- if you don’t worry about credit.
- If you haven’t gotten credit already,
- you’re not going to get it.
- The search for validation is baggage,
- and you need to travel light.
- You need to remember what you don’t know
- and not think of it as a failure.
- Think of what you do know.
- What you know is not a weapon; it’s a gift.
The Best Gifts Are Anonymous
A note on “As Maimonides teaches, the best gifts are anonymous.”
When I first read this I was unfamiliar with Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar who authored “A Guide For the Perplexed” and “The Mishneh Torah” among other works. In his Laws of Charity, 10:7–14 he defines “Eight Levels of Charity.” The highest level is to strengthen a poor person in a manner they are no longer dependent upon charity. The next three levels involve some level of anonymity:
- giving in a way that donor and recipient are not know to each other, relying on a trusted intermediary,
- giving in a way that the recipient does not know who the donor is, but the donor knows who the recipient is,
- giving in a way that donor does not know the recipient but the recipient knows who the donor is