“Why do you care? Not everyone is a math genius like you.”
He simply said, “You can do better.”
My brother was considered a math prodigy at our high school. When I entered ninth grade, teachers and older classmates would remark, “Your Tomo’s brother right?” “You possess the same brain?” “I bet you’re talented too” Hearing so many comparisons, I felt frustrated to be boxed into being measured to his reputation. At the same time, I wanted to perform just as well, or better. Reticent in nature, my brother wasn’t the type to talk much so I was genuinely surprised why he cared about my test score.
The next day, he entered my room with a whiteboard. He put on his glasses, had my exam in his hand, and immediately began explaining the questions I got wrong. Though surprised at his behavior, I surprised myself as I began listening and nodding my head.
“Here, let me try a different equation,” I said.
“Go ahead, see if you got it”
And so we spent the next hour problem solving. This incident left a strong impression on me. Before, I had always viewed my brother as a rival. I thought he brought up my low exam score the previous day to mock me. I never once thought he actually wanted to help me. This experience really changed my perception of him and, to a larger extent, had me question how I myself treat others. I began better understanding the meaning of leadership.
After this incident, the dynamics between my brother and me slowly transformed. He became the first person I’d go to when seeking a sounding board for a decision or solution to a difficulty and we engaged in more banter, discussing trivial issues such as sports rumors.
All throughout my childhood, I was so stubborn I once even tore up my brother’s favorite Yu-Gi-Oh card after I lost a match against him when I was nine. Rarely could I recall Tomo ever seeking retribution however. He remained stoic and kept to himself. Because of this I think I became somewhat envious of his abilities, viewing them as innate. As I spent more time observing him, I saw how much practice he put into his activities, be it studying for an exam or mastering the saxophone.
Although being compared to him was stressful throughout my childhood, what I learned most from him is that excellence is a choice and a conscious decision. This has given me a clarity to my actions and led me to achieve not only better academic scores but also has helped me become a leader on campus for my Science Club and basketball team. Though I’m still very competitive, my motivations today arise primarily from an internal source and I’ve learned to be my truest self when it comes to facing challenges.