Two-fer Talent

May 8, 2014

My mind wanders! Especially when I’m trying to figure out what to write about, but also when I’m sitting at a stoplight, on the treadmill, watering plants, making dinner, brushing my teeth, going to bed, etc.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about talent. I’ve already written a bit about what it takes to be a success, sharing Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour thesis and other related writings. Today, though, I’m focused on two-fer talent, a few extraordinary individuals who have achieved at very high levels in completely unrelated fields. Not looking for the athlete who competes in two sports. Or the actor who also sings. Or the attorney who can handle a trial and a substantial transaction. (In an increasingly “specialty-centric” world, the professional with general skills has become an endangered species.)

So here my three notables, in alphabetical order, with links to their Wikipedia pages:

Most people know Hedy Lamarr for her acting successes. She made 30+ moves between 1930 and 1958, and is most famous for her 1933 film, Ecstasy, and its nude swimming scene. But, what really matter is the fact that Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil (a composer) invented and patented processes for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping. (Read the Wikipedia page for details.) These techniques matter greatly in the development of wireless communications, and are a really big deal.

Daniel Okrent writes books, including Last Call:  The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and Great Fortune:  The Epic of Rockefeller Center. He was also the first public editor/ ombudsman for the New York Times. Alas, Mr. Okrent’s greatest reach, despite a weekly column in the paper of record for almost two years, relates to his invention of a scoring system for fantasy baseball. The system—he’s often credited with inventing the game, which is not unreasonable, since fantasy baseball is all about points and winning—he is called Rotisserie Baseball because he shared the idea with friends at La Rôtisserie Française restaurant in Manhattan.

Then there is Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times, and the puzzle master on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday show. He was the star of Wordplay, a great documentary about the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Mr. Shortz is also a law school graduate and the only person in the world who holds a bachelor’s degree in enigmatology, a major—he designed it—that focuses on the study of puzzles. And, as Paul Harvey would be saying right now, the rest of the story is the fact that Mr. Shortz is a world-class table tennis player.

So, do you have anyone in mind who has achieved at a very high level in two unrelated fields? Share, please, and have a wonderful Thursday!

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