Small

7 Jan

I recently visited a friend at his office and we discussed a project where I might be of help to him. I brought along my MacBook Air in case I needed to take notes.

“You’ve got the 11-inch model,” he said after greeting me. “The thirteen is probably too big for you.”

“Way too big,” I said.

We laughed.

In fact, as I noted here earlier, the 11-inch MacBook Air is a nearly perfect machine, especially for me. I’m small.

I’ve always been small. On my little league and pony league baseball teams I was inevitably #1 because the uniforms were made in size order. And I’ve always used my height (or lack thereof) to my advantage. I was quick to note that umpires called fewer strikes on me, awarding me base-on-balls more often than other batters. In fact, I led the league in runs scored because I was on base so often. Being small made me a more successful player.

I also think it made me more successful in my career. I’ve had the opportunity to manage large and small teams inside Silicon Valley companies as well be editor in chief and/or publisher at a handful of successful tech publications. My theory is that I rose to the top of these organizations, in no (ahem) small measure, because I was short.

The average American male is nearly five foot ten inches tall. I stand a good half foot below them. As such, when I’m in a group of men standing around yakking, inevitably everyone will look down at me, resulting in a lot of conversations focusing in my direction and making me the center of attention.

Once in the early 1990s Lewis Lapham, the six-foot two-inch editor of Harper’s magazine, invited me to join him and the six-foot-four George Plimpton to a book party in New York, celebrating the latest novel of T. Coraghessan Boyle, who stands at least six-six. While milling around together a photographer drifted by and tried to capture the four of us all in a single frame. We all got a great laugh as he struggled to capture the scene, eventually getting to his knees to shoot up.

I stand out, as it were, among my peers. And, as with anyone who gets more attention than others, I was given more opportunities. Naturally, I failed at my chances from time to time, but I got enough of them that I was able to prove my mettle so I got even more chances. I believe my distinct stature gave me many of the extra shots at success.

In addition to being noticed more often than others, small people are less threatening. An average size guy or gal is not going to feel intimidated by someone shorter. They are more comfortable chatting with a small person and are more inclined to accept them as a peer or even as a boss.

Yes, I know that Americans have a fetish for tall leaders. But small people have significant advantages. Research shows we may live longer. We’re also less likely to break bones or suffer from herniated discs. And, according to some, we’re greener, literally consuming less and requiring less energy to exist than bigger folk. In a Darwinian sense, we are the superior members of our species. Small is not just beautiful, it’s smart, too.

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3 Responses to “Small”

  1. Eric January 7, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Really warm and funny post, befitting your personality, which I think is the real key to why people like and aren’t threatened by you, irrespective of your height. B/c the guy who reminds me most of you is a 6’2″ 250 pound fellow.

    Being tall even while growing up, I always enviously noticed that the boys who were the most popular with the girls and in general at my school were the short ones. I figured they either didn’t have to deal with an awkward growing phase or had learned to become more vivacious and charming as ‘compensation.’ This trend did sort of peter out in high school, though.

    My height (6’3″) has always seemed to be a non-factor in my career prospects, but maybe I’ve been stupid enough to pick jobs like telecommuting tech journalist.

    • Mark Everett Hall January 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words and your own observations, Eric. And you make an astute point about being a telecommuter and not being able to benefit from one’s height (tall or short) by working in an office setting. I think telecommuters are at a career disadvantage compared to those who have a physical presence amidst their colleagues at corporate HQ. When it comes time for promotions and/or plum assignments in most organizations, it’s generally “out of sight, out of mind.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Small « Croisan Views -- Topsy.com - January 9, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Everett Hall, Val Potter. Val Potter said: RT @Croisan: Small: Does height matter in your career? http://wp.me/sUdet-small Being short has been great for mine. […]

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