Tag Archives: John Nash

Tuesday Morning Press 18 — Achievement Vs. Recognition

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One of my favorite moments in the film, “A Beautiful Mind” was when the Judd Hirsch character Dr. Helinger (who was the department chair at Princeton where Russell Crowe’s character, the protagonist John Nash), took an agitated and confused doctoral candidate Nash to the mathematics department tea room at the university.

In the hallway just at the entry to the tea room, Helinger and Nash discussed Nash’s lack of work, which resulted in threatening his PhD candidacy as well as his appointment to a coveted position at the prestigious Wheeler Institute at MIT after attaining said PhD.

Helinger interrupted Nash’s clucking and excuses and barters for more time and he tersely instructed him to look at a gentleman, presumably a senior mathematics professor of some countenance sitting alone at a table covered by a draping ecru linen tablecloth in this gorgeous room of soaring coffered ceilings, wrought iron glass windows, Norman moldings, and cherrywood walls.

What they were witnessing was “the ceremony of the pens” which I just learned this very second upon researching it that it was completely fictitious. Well… that sort of blows the moment, doesn’t it?

ANYWAY, in the now-discovered fictitious moment (despite its significance to me and this post — this revelation is totally killing my buzz on the movie, by the way), the ceremony was to make big noise deal to smart someone teacher long time who’d done has math real good at college the.

Shit, I don’t even feel like writing well anymore.

What the what?! Really? Resist urge to edit and start all over. This is not what I do… I write IN the moment.

Excuse me a moment. Please hit play:

ONWARD… there is a point to all this: Nash is frantic, begging for more time; Helinger essentially says shut up and watch the now entirely fictitious frigging ceremony of the #)(%@_! pens.

When the fictitious ceremony was over, Helinger immediately asked Nash what he saw. Nash supposedly blurted reflexively, “recognition.”

Helinger supposedly corrected him and firmly said, supposedly thrusting his fake right fist, “No. Achievement.”

Hell, I don’t know what to believe. Curse you, director Ron Howard! I do know that Hirsch did thrust his fist for emphasis at the Nash character in that building when the cameras were rolling to show a moment of truth whilst witnessing a completely made-up ceremony at an Ivy-League university.

On Mars.

The point is, as it doesn’t matter what I’ve researched since starting this post (honestly, I was just trying to get the name of the Hirsch character and to learn the real name for the fake ceremony of the pens), is that achievement is more important than recognition.

Because Judd Hirsch said so.

This brings me to my current moment of self-actualization (and  the post would’ve been a lot shorter had the entire ceremony not been made up…I’m letting this go…NnnnnnNnN).

My point: yes. Achievement matters more than recognition. Recognition is a construct of the ego; it requires outside validation and external gratification and it will hardly ever be enough; it’s constant and never ending. Think Madonna. Think Schwarzenegger and Stallone at the Golden Globes:

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.33.18 AM

Better yet… don’t. My apologies. Wow. That’s gonna stay in my mind for a while.

It’s all well and good to want to be recognized for our work; but that shouldn’t be the goal.

Achievement is an actual experience: it is quantified and reliable internally and measured by a sense of accomplishment and pride by creating something or doing something that matters to us. It is largely a private experience. Achievement and accomplishment can build upon themselves as well and that’s good. We want to feel good about what we do; it’s nice… but does lack of recognition invalidate our achievements? No. Who cares if no one notices. Really… think about it. Like this: because that pens ceremony was completely made up does its message take away its significance? Maybe. No.

So this leads me to another self-acutalization, not based on a fictitious ceremony (sorry, I’m still pretty steamed about that): in order to build more pride and more enthusiasm for what we do (I’m really talking to myself here, you’re just sticking around to see if I come up with anything of any real value): we need to feel good about what we have done. I’ve been noticing this:

When someone asks me what I do, I usually sigh-speak, “I am a SAHM, but…” and that’s wrong. I need to build value and esteem into what I do here as a mother of three boys, because guess what: this gig is tough. I vacillate on this, clearly, I’ve written about it before, but the point is this, and I’m feeling closer now than the last time I dipped in this pool: I’m doing a good job. My kids are healthy, smartasses, and clever. They have friends, they have outlets and they don’t return the tools they borrow or bring their laundry down. This is all normal behavior. RIGHT?!

Instead of kicking a rock every time I think about the entirely huge reality that my book won’t outsell the Bible (especially not if I never publish it a*hem, Molly…) I need to be OK with the fact that I wrote one because that’s a big deal. (But… it would be nice to put it to bed and see what happens… Nnnn. That’s semi-recognitionistic isn’t it?)

These are the ideas that are floating around my head since giving up Facebook for Lent. I’m pretty cool with that decision; I haven’t thought in status-update mode yet today.

So here we are. Feel good about what you Have Done so that you will feel good about what you Will Do. We all have to start somewhere. I’m not looking for a pen medal (that’s good, because now I feel better that John Nash doesn’t have all those pens because… that would be wrong). But Nash did win the Nobel Prize in 1994.

I’m looking for self-satisfaction. That’s tough these days what with everyone seeking their 15 minutes of fame. It’s hard to know the difference. Or it used to be… I think I’m getting a handle on it. Self-satisfaction with personal achievement means you’re good with what’s going on; that if you kicked the bucket, you’d be OK with how your life has turned out, based on your own assessment.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should. It’s largely true; Nash did have schizophrenia and he has overcome it, and he is still affected by hallucinations. Here’s a nice moment that likely never happened:

The take away is this: be happy and proud of what you’ve done. If nothing else: it keeps the flow of good energy going in the universe and that, my friends, is HUGE.

Thank you.