What is Greatness? | No Schedule Man Podcast, Ep. 20
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.
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?
- 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.
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.
Podcast Episode Links:
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.
Special thanks to Allstage for their support of the No Schedule Man podcast!