On a clear night, if you look up at the constellation of Orion, you may notice at its base a bright blue-white star called Rigel. With a luminosity of about 40,000 times greater than our sun, Rigel is the sixth-brightest star in the sky. Its surface, at 11,000 Kelvin, is surrounded by a gaseous cloud, which was either shed by the star’s own pulsations or arrived as a result of stellar wind.
Rigel isn’t the furthest star from Earth, but, at around 765 light years away, it’s not what you’d call ‘on the doorstep’ either. Light travels at 186,282 miles per second, so every second since King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 light has been travelling, from Rigel to Earth, through space at that incredible speed. And the light your eyes will detect on that chosen clear night will have only just got here.
I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of thing fascinating and mind-boggling… literally mind-boggling. Like a lot of people I suspect, I attempted to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time (which is supposed to simplify all this stuff) and got about as far as page 26. My brain just doesn’t seem to work in that way, and I’m constantly amazed and impressed by those people who can work out all this detailed information about something further away than I can imagine. It’s beyond my comprehension. And yet many of these same people would struggle to put up a shelf, find their way to the next town, run a hot dog van, or the hundred and one other things which other folk find easy.
You see, we all have things we’re good at and things we do badly. It’s very easy to become intimidated by what we perceive to be great intelligence. The truth though, is that most of us have great ‘intelligence’– just not necessarily the sort that we traditionally associate with the word. Einstein has a lot to answer for.
Mention the word genius, and his is the name that comes to most people’s minds first. Because of this, mathematics and science seem to have hijacked intelligence, with the result that the rest of us end up feeling… well a little bit thick. The knock-on effect is that we somehow feel that, the sort of intelligence that can unlock the secrets of the universe, is what really matters.
The reality though, is that other types of intelligence are just as important – maybe more so if your goal is to make a success of the comparatively mundane matter of life on Earth. As impressive as the ability to calculate the mass of a distant star is, it’s not really going to help you build a career, a business, a relationship or anything else with your feet planted firmly on Earth.
If you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to firmly nail down exactly where your peak intelligence and predispositions lay – and then stop worrying about what you can’t do, and focus all your efforts on what you do best. When you combine a strong predisposition with something you enjoy, you have a massive head start on the competition. You might not be able to explain the stars – but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach for them.