Skills and arrogance

Could you explain what ‘Knot Theories in N-dimensional space’ is?“, I asked while we walked down the stairs to the ground floor and down the long corridor to the soda vending machine. The Chemistry Department at Oslo University was the venue for the weekly meeting in the role-playing association. It wasn’t much fun to have John Rognes as one of the players in my role-playing world. He was far above anyone I’ve known when it came to problem solving and getting the player characters out of a tight spot. It seemed to passify the other players. But that night I at least got to pick his brains about the passion that brought him mathematical fame. At age 18, he had won prizes in several European countries for his theories that only a handful of people would understand. He was a mathematical genius at the age of three and excelled in math and natural sciences since.

Sure“, he said, “It’s easy“. He then went on to explain his theories in less than 10 minutes with a simplicity that even my grandmother could follow. I was stunned. I still am. And on top of his obvious genius, he was a fun and social guy. And bereft of arrogance.

I sometimes wonder why Brendan doesn’t display any arrogance. He has a remarkable background with amazing stories from Northern Ireland, plays golf like a pro, can easily make a living as a street entertainer with juggling and magic, competed in the World Championships in Foosball, beats the crap out of me at the pool or snooker table, is the most excellent instructor I’ve met, runs half marathons… etc. Everything the guy touches becomes a product. And he is a social and fun guy to be around.

Maybe the lack of arrogance is because Brendan doesn’t need to prove anything. Just like John. And so many other guys with great skills who are just confident at what they do. Not looking confident and having to prove it, but just being confident.