“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” — Edmund Hillary
So many of us have goals and ambitions to do something great with our lives. And yet, we struggle to believe that we have what it takes to achieve these objectives. Sometimes these goals seem too wonderful for us to achieve and as a result, we stay stuck where we are.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the quotes that tell us that we are not afraid of our inadequacies and that we are actually afraid of our greatness. I’ve heard it since I was about fifteen. For the next twelve years, I fluctuated between completely agreeing with it and scratching my head. Could’ve been the dry scalp but I doubt it.
But is it true? Are we afraid of our greatness? Is it that some of us looked at our abundant ability in the eye and said, “Get bent, Greatness! I am not afraid of you anymore!” and that’s why only some of us are great?
No, I don’t think so. I think the answer is a bit deeper than that.
You aren’t afraid of your greatness. You’re afraid that your greatness will lift you up to great heights but due to a belief that you’re also a mess, you will sabotage your success. And what’s worse than achieving your dream? Pissing it away due to your own blunders.
Let’s face it. We are great at what we do simply because we love what we do and the time we invested in this thing made us better and more competent. Some of us are amazing at video games, being engaged listeners, creating a wicked playlist and eating obscene amounts of hotdogs. Why? Because we love these things.
But we have all seen amazing talents blow their fortune, talent and fame because of ignorance and insecurity. (Well, they didn’t exactly blow their fame. They just became infamous.) It’s scary to see that the higher you climb, the further you fall.
Furthermore, those of us who simply got started on our goals and didn’t sit around to think about it aren’t the ones cowering in fear of their greatness. The reason we ruminate on whether or not to get started is to determine how certain our success will be.
So no, I don’t think that we’re afraid of our greatness at all. It’s the fear that the path that our greatness can lead us on might cause our (perceived) insecurities, inabilities, frailties and baggage to be shown to a bunch of judgmental eyes.
What do we do about it? How can we move in the path of greatness knowing that something might happen that could cause us to be in the spotlight in a negative way?
“To escape criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” — Elbert Hubbard
I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that I’ve crunched the numbers and I’m sorry to report that there is no way that you will be omitted from scrutiny. The good news is that no one who ever did anything great was omitted from scrutiny either. You’re in good company!
As Alexander Pope said, “To err is human.” There is no way for one to learn, grow and evolve without making some mistakes. It is unfortunate that society ties the once beloved scholar, artist, hotdog connoisseur to the stake of scrutiny, but you, the reader, can decide to take up the second and often forgotten part of Pope’s quote which says, “To forgive [is] divine.”
No one wants to be hated. It feels good to be accepted and even better to be forgiven.
With that said, I charge you to take the path of greatness (whatever you define greatness to be) even if you might make a misstep. I also implore you to be kind to those who make missteps of their own. Nobody’s perfect.
I hope to see you on the path.