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What To Do If You Aren’t ‘The Smart One’

In my family, my sister has always been ‘the smart one.’

Not taking a dig at myself whatsoever, but the girl is scary smart. Like getting her PhD from Vanderbilt in things I don’t even understand type of smart.

It always rolled off of everyone’s tongues that she was ‘the smart one’ in our pack and, trust me, they aren’t just being complimentary. She is brilliant – I just proudly shared her first published scientific research on Facebook (with the disclaimer that I don’t know what any of it means).

We’re both incredibly lucky to have two parents who didn’t put any caps on what we were capable of or what we should do with our lives. This is something not everyone has and I realize what a contributing factor it has been to our successes.

The bar is set high in this family and while it’s overwhelming, I’m grateful for it. We have always been surrounded by incredible role models – from female executives to entrepreneurs to our dad who decided to go get his Bachelor’s degree at 50 (and is currently finishing up his Master’s).

I’m not going to wake up one day with the all of the answers in quantitative and chemical biology and I’m okay with that. Because I eventually realized that my sister being the smart one doesn’t mean that I’m not smart.

I think at some point in my childhood, I decided that if she was ‘the smart one’ that meant I had to be something else. Anything else. I tried the funny one, the outgoing one, the athletic one, the compassionate one, the strong one, the leader – to name a few.

Keep in mind that no one in my family ever told me I wasn’t smart. Ever! But in my mind, if someone else was the brains of the operation that meant I had to take on a different role.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized I never needed to try to be anyone else because there’s really no ‘one’ of anything. There are thousands of Olympic athletes, hundreds of brilliant scientists, millions of strong leaders.

There is enough room for all of us and what you do takes nothing away from the person next to you. So from now on, let’s focus less on comparing and more on supporting each other.

Do you have a brilliant sister? Pick her brain on a complicated work project. Is your college roomie a marathon runner? Ask her for tips on self-discipline. 

Because no matter where you are in your life, there are things you bring to the table that you can teach others. And there are just as many things that others can teach you too.

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