What is Greatness? | No Schedule Man Podcast, Ep. 20

What is Greatness?What is greatness? Is it even something to which we should aspire? Should we consider talents or extraordinary achievements “great,” or should those accolades go to the people that have brought them about, or both? Or neither?

If someone has done something we deem to be “great,” does that then mean that they lived a life of greatness?

These are interesting and powerful questions. I’ve come to believe that we tie ourselves in a great tangle of knots and create almost endless amounts of frustrations trying to name and follow one defined road map to what we think is greatness when in fact each of us has a different ideas of what it might mean.

Listen to Episode 20 on: iTunes | Soundcloud | YouTube

Greatness, Success & Balance: Subjective?

In this podcast, my first “solo” episode, I’m both offering my thoughts and asking for yours on the subject of “Greatness,” “Success” and “Balance.” What, if anything, do they mean to you?

Consider:

  • Does acquiring a certain amount of money make you great? What about a specific achievement or accolade?
  • Is there a specific level of public attention, fame, or celebrity that one can equate with finally having achieved greatness?
  • What about on the opposite extreme? Can greatness mean satisfaction through simplicity and even solitude, or perhaps maintaining cheerfulness and gratitude while living with less. Is that great?

Let’s suppose I spent the first 15-to-20 years of my life singularly focused on one specific thing. In this case, I’ll use a sport for the analogy. Imagine that, from the time I could walk and talk, pretty much everything in my life revolved around just this one sport. Suppose I lived it and breathed it and ended up going to the Olympics and winning several medals because of it. Then what? Should I think that I have already achieved greatness through what I’ve done, even though if I remain healthy, I’ve still got most of my life ahead of me and will need to completely re-script who I am, as well as what I do and how I do it?

Comparing Apples & Oranges

What about balance? Since my divorce, I only have my children with me about half of my time. That made it pretty easy for me to decide that those times should be off limits to just about everything else. Thinking about it that way allowed me to quickly focus on making the most of the other time to work on my passions and creative pursuits. But what if I still had my kids with me seven days a week? How would I divide that time up and feel good about it? Perhaps that’s where you are now and you’re comparing yourself to me in regards to your level of creative activity and output. If so, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The way my life is constructed is likely different from how yours is constructed. The same can probably be said of just about any other person, celebrity, athlete, religious figure, or anyone else that we may look up to or choose to model ourselves after. We compare ourselves to them even though we each live in a completely different context.

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I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. And for much of my life I would end up entirely frustrated that when I would finally reach and achieve a goal, I would feel no more happy or satisfied. In fact, the opposite was often true: I’d feel a sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness once I’d done what I thought I’d wanted to do, but didn’t feel any better because of it. This perplexed me for decades. Finally, I realized that happiness was a choice I needed to make on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. It was not something that could be achieved. It was something that had to be chosen and committed to. Therefore, when someone uses a celebrity like Tiger Woods or Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan as an example of greatness, or shows me some example of achievement or skill as a model of greatness, it does not resonate with me. It actually has the reverse effect on me. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I wouldn’t want to trade lives with any of those people. Did each of them do great things in their field? Absolutely. But do any of them strike me as complete, self-aware, emotionally mature and healthy, balanced human beings? Not to me.

Here’s what I associate with greatness: Compassion. Empathy. Forgiveness. Persistence. Commitment. Dedication. Love. Caring. Presence. Gratitude. Self awareness, Self Love and Self Respect. These things all seem great to me.

Listen in and see how you feel.

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What Do You Think?

Can you think of people that, for you, represent greatness? What would your life have to look like in order for you to consider it “great?”

What is “success” in your mind?

Is “balance” something we should aspire to?

And here’s one for you… do success and greatness equate with happiness and fulfillment? Let me know what you think.

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Special thanks to Allstage for their support of the No Schedule Man podcast!

12 Responses to “What is Greatness? | No Schedule Man Podcast, Ep. 20

  • I enjoyed your post and it really provides a great insight.

  • Hello Kevin, First of all, I am sorry to hear about your divorce, you must be having a hard time right now. Balance is always an issue in everybody, I am experiencing one right now, Which should I choose? my work that could make me successful? or my friends or loved ones are always there for me. What I do is I make time for my work like 10 hours and after that I take a 2 day breather, reconnecting with friends and loved ones. Weighing the things, I don’t really mind if I take the long route in being successful as long as I still have my friends and family around and that I consider as something great in life.

    • Hi Clark,
      Thanks for your email. No need to be sorry, though I’m grateful for your kind thoughts. The divorce ended up being one of the better things to ever have happened to me. My former wife and I remain great friends and co-parents of our two boys and I’m grateful for that.
      It sounds to me like the way you’re trying to balance yourself out is as good a plan as any. Ask yourself: when you get to the end of your life and look back, what would you regret: that you worked too little or enjoyed your friends and family too little? Personally, I don’t think you want to go all the way into one or the other. In order to be the best version of yourself for your friends and family, you need to nurture your own spirit through working at your goals and dreams. Conversely, in order to do your best work, you likely need to get restored and refreshed at times. Easier said than done, huh?
      Keep at it! And thanks for your time and comments.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • simon watson
    2 years ago

    I have listened to the podcast mate, very good indeed, you are a natural, clear concise and easy to envisage what you are talking about. I’m 21 minutes in I will message when it has finished! Oh, it didn’t send, well, in that case, I’ll just continue lol. A great post and a little insight. I thought the podcast was amazing mate. Really good and food for thought, great job!!

    • Thanks Simon! I appreciate you taking the time to listen and leave a comment. Many thanks.
      Wishing you the best,
      Kevin

  • Hi Kevin, very interesting and deep post. Success/greatness is very subjective. You could ask a thousand people how they define greatness and you’d probably get a thousand different answers. Many athletes have the talent to be great but waste it. Others have the talent and the drive to push themselves to get better every day. Therefore, they reach their full potential and achieve greatness on the court/field. But should any athlete even be considered great? I love sports but it is just a game. What about the people who save lives? Our military, doctors, fireman. There’s people who dedicate their lives to helping others, and making the world a better place and they get no credit, and they don’t want credit.
    Wow, this post really gets me thinking. Makes me want to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I being the best person I can be?” I think you have to have balance in your life to be happy, and I guess success to me would be happiness. If you’re truly happy then you’re successful. A person could win all kinds of awards and have all kinds of money but still not be happy.
    Sorry if I rambled a bit. Great post and best of luck to you.

    • Hi Gary,
      Thanks for those thoughts. You’ve made note of some of the things that are on my mind, too. Your observations about those who work to help others is a really great thought, and supports my point that I feel it’s just kind of lazy to point to celebrities or athletes, in many cases, as models of who or what we should aspire to be. We likely all have people living just down the street doing great things for their community and their families. Is what they do any less – or more – “great” because it doesn’t get as much attention?
      It’s interesting to think about, isn’t it?
      Thanks again, Gary. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put to your remarks. It got me thinking, too.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • Grace | Work Anywhere Now
    2 years ago

    Hi Kevin,

    I loved your post and listening to your podcast! This topic is very subjective but I wish we talked more about these kinds of topic growing up. We need to include some kind of Life Class in our school system.

    Greatness for me is what you said near the end: Compassion. Empathy. Forgiveness. Persistence. Commitment. Dedication. Love. Caring. Presence. Gratitude. Self awareness, Self Love and Self Respect – which has all to do with relationships in our life. Whether the relationship is with a total stranger or a loved one, I think that’s what life is really about, having meaningful relationships and being respectful, caring, compassionate to the people around you.

    Thanks for this awesome post!
    Grace

    • Thank you, Grace. I love your suggestion about including these kinds of things in discussion in schools. We’re taught so many “facts” and yet come through it completely unequipped to know how to effectively communicate in a relationship or to even just to understand who we really are at our essence. It’ll come around in time.
      Thanks for your considered and thoughtful remarks. I’m grateful.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • Hey Kevin,

    I have to say that you have a great voice for this stuff. Very easy to listen to and clearly know what you’re talking about. Greatness definitely has its own meaning to different people. For me I know with success, comes sacrifice. Although I try to make time with friends and family, I know in order for me to create more time to spend with them, I have to somewhat sacrifice the time now in order to get there. So I still make time to hang out with friends with them, but not as much as I would like. That’s why I know I have to put in the work today in order to get to where I want to tomorrow. This is really an interesting topic to discuss and i’m glad you raise it. I think it is important for everyone to find out what success means to them.

    • Hi Ralph,
      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. That’s very nice to hear.
      You’ve described your balance really well, I think. It’s a constant process, isn’t it? I think that the awareness of it alone is a huge step forward.
      Wishing you all the best of success as you continue to move forward!
      Kevin

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