Left-Handed Presidents and Wine Grapes

Challenge Often Brings Strength – Beware the Easy Choice

Challenge.jpgWhile attending a wine dinner recently, the sommelier expounded about the conditions in which the grapes that produced the wine we were enjoying that evening.

One group was grown in dry, chalky soil and the other in soil with heavy clay properties. In other words, not very good conditions by standard agricultural standards.

It is a story I heard often while living in California and in France – the vine needs to be challenged a bit, to suffer and overcome some challenges to produce wine of great character. And while that sounds a bit romantic and the stuff of advertising copy, I have found it generally to be true in my experience.

And so, too, it is with we human beings. I recall watching a signing ceremony during the Clinton Administration some years ago and I was reminded that he is left handed, as was his successor, George W. Bush. I wondered just how many US presidents were left handed and did that number represent the same ratio in the population at large? Google to the rescue with answers!

It turns out, as best we can determine (left-handedness was discouraged for many years and thus not always tracked), 8 US presidents were known lefties (about evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, in case you wondered).

My favorite in this list may be James Garfield, who claimed he was ambidextrous and could write Latin with his right hand, Greek with his left. This is a significantly higher ratio than in the population at large, estimated to be something just over 10%.

And it is also the case in other challenging and high visibility professions. How about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Babe Ruth, Jon Stewart, Mark Zuckerberg, Paul McCartney, Tina Fey, the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg)? You get the picture.

The world is clearly organized by us Righties, for Righties. Lefties really have to work at making things fit their framework (Have you ever watched a Leftie write something? Being a contortionist would be helpful).

There is an oft quoted and adapted saying that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Room to argue about that, I suppose (although I saw a great variation on a T-shirt in Alaska, which had the famous quote, followed by “Except bears. Bears will just kill you.” It’s different living in Alaska.)

But the basic premise seems to have merit. Lefties have to work twice as hard to adapt, fit in, and function fully. It is a challenge not unknown to all minorities in some way. It would seem more than a few Lefties took that problem as a challenge, not an obstacle, and in over-coming it, became super achievers. Perhaps the corollary is that oftentimes what comes easily falls away easily, what is hard won stays with us.

There might be some lessons there for all of us.

Any advice for the rest of us, Lefties?

Clontz-117tx225pix.jpg  Bill Clontz

2 replies to Left-Handed Presidents and Wine Grapes

  1. I’ll be more observant because coming from a right-handed perspective, I’ve thought lefties have it easier because they are more intelligent. (Sorry if this creates an ouch.) It may be things look easier for them. For clarification, I don’t think lefties are superior. Righties and lefties process information differently and balance each other out. I recently saw a program on growing wine grapes in poor soil in Europe but I hadn’t applied that scenario with people. I think there is an advantage to having been raised in constant struggle. A hard way to come up, but the grapes and life may be more complex, insightful, and stronger having had that struggle in formative years.

    • A good observation that we process information differently as lefties or righties. I had not thought of that exactly, but makes sense. I am thinking that if enough of us righties and lefties sat down over a a few bottles of wine made from stressed grapes, we could figure this out – or at least have some fun trying.

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