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  • Nick Pang

Levelling Up


Curiously, in all the Smol Tok games I've played, one question keeps getting asked:


It’s really not about the kind of mutant powers the X-Men wield. The question is deliberately worded. “Special ability” is as open-ended as it gets and can range from the mundane (juggling balls) to the marvellous (synaesthesia).

This is my favourite question in smol tok. I remember the first time somebody posed it to me. I spent some time thinking about a real special ability I wanted to have – a special ability that I could practice and perfect, even though I didn’t have it right now.

When I was finally able to articulate my answer, it came as a mini-revelation to me. No, it’s not flying or teleporting or mind-reading. The special ability I would have is to be able to say the right thing at the right time in exactly the right way.

This is not easy. I’ve never been able to do it and I’ve always admired the people who seem to be able to pull it off without breaking a sweat. Let me explain why this such a special ability. It’s not about looking smart or sounding witty. It’s also not about having a big vocabulary or sense of humour.

Instead, it’s got everything to do with having the presence of mind to speak the truth to every person in every situation to bring about the best outcome every time. Very rarely do I experience the clarity to say exactly what needs to be said when it needs to be said. When I do, and my words hit the mark, my elation is pure. But more often than not, the words only come long after these moments have passed, and I kick myself for not being quicker or clearer.

But this is something that can be worked on. I’ve been trying to practice and perfect this very special ability in what I say and write. When I’m deliberate about it, the following methods have helped:

  • Counting to three before answering.

  • Thinking about what’s the most essential thing to surface in that conversation, not about who’s right or wrong (in the case of conflict).

  • Acknowledging that sometimes, the right thing to say at the right time is nothing at all.

And when I’m not deliberate about it, I fumble and stumble around like an elephant in a typesetter’s workshop. I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten that much better at delivering the right response, but at least I’m more aware about it.

What about you, what special ability would you want to have?

#essentialism