Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Hyundai Elantra Theory

by Ben Howard

You see, I have this theory. Well, maybe it’s not really a theory as much as it is a perspective, a preference, a way in which I view the world. Before I tell you what it is you have to promise me you won’t laugh. You also have to promise that you’ll hear me out, because when I first tell you it’s going to sound weird.

I call it my Hyundai Elantra theory.

You’ve probably heard the more shallow men of the world talk about women in the same way they might talk about cars. Attractive woman equals sports car. I mean everybody is attracted to flash and style and all of those bells and whistles. Well, I’m not looking for a Ferrari or a Porsche or a Lexus or anything else. No, I want the Hyundai Elantra of women.

Before you laugh/become-indignant-with-rage-about-me-comparing-a-woman-to-a-car, let me clarify. First, I understand that comparing women to objects is wrong. In fact, this is all a bit of a tongue-in-cheek response to that very idea. Second, the Hyundai Elantra was named North American Car of the Year in 2012. That’s pretty high praise.

So, you might ask, why a Hyundai Elantra? Well, because it’s good at being what it is. It’s like a solid B+ at everything. It’s comfortable, good gas mileage, stylish, affordable. It’s good at being good and that’s what makes it great.

It’s the same reason why my favorite baseball players of all-time are Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones. They weren’t flashy, they were just consistently good. They did everything well without necessarily doing anything that was awe-inspiring, and that well-rounded goodness made them both Hall of Famers.

It’s why I love Tim Duncan on the San Antonio Spurs. He’s been the leader of one of the most dependable, underrated basketball dynasties of all-time and is playing well into his late thirties. Why? He’s good at everything. His greatest strength is being solid and having no weaknesses. He’s fundamentally sound.

I know this isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. I doubt that my affinity for all things solidly above average is making any of the ladies out there swoon. I guess I just feel like this kind of person (or car, or athlete) is always overlooked. It feels like everyone is looking to be amazed or blown away, but what if the thing that’s so amazing or awe-inspiring is the transcendent simplicity of just being good at being you?

There is something profound in recapturing the basics. Something profound about being good. Or happy. Or content. No qualifiers. No adjectives. Nothing extraneous. Just pure and simple. The profound nature of being fundamentally whole.

I think this whole Hyundai Elantra idea appeals to me so much because I know that I’m so far from that ideal. Though I’m certainly on a seemingly quixotic quest to shore up my weaknesses and accentuate my strengths, I’m nowhere near being successful at it.

I’m not sure what kind of car I’d be. I think it would have a lot of fantastic features, but be prone to regular and inconvenient breakdowns. I mean, I feel like I would have some pretty good storage capacity, but sometimes I just wouldn’t start in the morning out of spite.

But I want to be a Hyundai Elantra. I want to be friends with a Hyundai Elantra too. Maybe even spend my life with a Hyundai Elantra. But for now, I think I’m a like 1997 Buick LeSabre or a minivan or something like that, and maybe there’s something just a profound about being the best minivan I can be. Maybe I don’t need to be a Porsche, or a Lexus, or an Elantra, or even a Civic. Maybe I just need to be an awesome Dodge Caravan.

The car metaphor is getting a bit weird and is starting to border on the absurd, but I hope you get my point. Flash is great, but so is consistency. And when you’re trying to work towards these goals, remember that you don’t always have to be amazing, you just have to try and be the best minivan you can be.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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