Friday, June 12, 2009

Call Me A Nerd

Last night I heard an opinion piece on KQED / NPR the tagline of which was: "don't call me a nerd, call me an overachiever."

Call me nerd instead, thanks.

Nerds do whatever it is they're obsessed with because they love it. A nerd can't help their interest in computers, science, music, film, or whatever it is they "nerd out" about -- it just comes naturally. Overachievers are people who develop interests in subjects based on a deliberate analysis relative to some metric of achievement. They analyze the social landscape and their own abilities, then choose interests and activities based on what is most likely to help them "get ahead." It's overachievers that turn scientific and artistic interests into "horse races" with their obsessions with superlatives ("ten best whatevers!") and accolades such as Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards.

In this actuarial view of life, the joy of doing doesn't necessarily factor in. So call me a nerd. Personally, I'd much rather be associated with passionate endeavor than calculated gain for its own sake.