“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
― Judy Garland
Nowdays during my morning peregrination I’ve begun listening to podcasts. I used to be someone who advocated simply “me” time when walking. That was “me” from 4 years ago. Today when I walk, I listen to people talk about theories, concepts and stuff that makes me go “awww I never knew that” to “oh Jeez, that’s exactly what I was thinking from some time ago, so does that make me a genius or an omniscient?” to “wow, that’d be great to share” or “shoot, no wonder!” and so on. You get the drift :).
Today I was listening to Kevin Kelly’s interview by Lewis Howes and towards the end of the show, the host usually asks all his guests how they’d define greatness. One of the first things that struck me when Mr. Kelly answered was his forthrightness. He said, “Oh I think greatness is over rated.” And for some inexplicable reason I breathed a sigh of relief. You know like when you’re holding your breath for god alone how many years, let alone weeks and months and suddenly you hear something that you perhaps secretly thought might be true but were too afraid to ever say it out loud for fear of being booed as a “loser loser”? Well, I felt like that. I’d never really thought of greatness like it was over rated, but I would always question why people gave it so much importance. And so when this man, who’s got a bio-data which makes it seem like he came from another “super-everything planet” says that greatness is over rated, you start to wonder that what you wondered in the first place wasn’t so wrong after all.
You know growing up, we’re all surrounded by expectations that egg us on to ‘make something of our life’ which doesn’t just end at getting a job or getting married and making more babies on whom these expectations can be thrust upon. I mean when I think of how important it was for us as kids to ‘come first in class’ and always excel at everything that we undertook, and how it was the burning ambition, deep desire and seething resolve for most parents to somehow will their children to the best grades, make him/ her a topper which would pave the way to admissions in a “good” college and which would mean that the child’s path for / in life was indelibly paved in man-made nano-materials (yes, diamond lost its pole position as the ‘hardest material in the world, so so sorry to see you displaced like that tsk tsk!), it makes me cringe. How can each of us be superstars? Who’ll come and watch us and applaud all our imagined victories? To whom would the superstars strut their stuff because we would all be A-listers? How can you even be a superstar if there’s no acknowledgement from someone who thinks he’s rungs lower than you? Don’t you need the needy, the insecure, the doomed, the “losers” to make you feel like you’re the acme of perfection? It sounds so ridiculous, but if possible our expectations have become even more virulent. Nothing has changed. Our children, our parents, our ambitions, our seething resolve to ‘make it big’ and achieve ‘greatness’ continues to remain the same.
Pause. I urge you. Think about it. What is greatness honestly?
If you get a degree from a “top B-school” or an Ivy League with a summa cum laude, does that make you great?
If you sport an IQ of 140 or more does that make you great? If you’ve become a successful Amazon with billions in evaluation but continue to make losses without having broken even yet, in a crazy skewed logic, does that make you great?
Or if you’re born gorgeous and have every single photographer and man and woman on Planet E hungering for more, does that make you great?
Or if you fight the Ebola or the ISIS or the Boko Haram or the LeT does that make you great?
I don’t know. I don’t know because I’ve been conditioned to believe that – looking good, having pots of money, achieving the pinnacle of your career, (preferably corner office and CEO designate of the company you work at, or at least a Director title), travelling the world in style, living in large houses, being able to drop brand names at the drop of a hat, being very well read spouting Milton and Nassim Nicholas Taleb with equal felicity or being able to play squash, bake beautiful Red Velvet cup cakes giving Julia Child a complex or swim and fly a plane or make love like Don Juan – is perhaps close to making eyebrows go up and lips turn into a moue and say “wow, he/she’s great”. Yes, every single ad drills it into me – you’re not leading a full life. Most of everything I see on the Net or in people’s attitudes or on TV reinforces that I’m not great. That average is a bad word and ordinary is totally N/A and belongs to the Dark Ages. But why? Why do we all need to be Folker’s super-Aryan babies?
Maybe somewhere down the ages, we forgot what it was to be simply us, simply human and simply humane. Today, we’re all trying to live grandiose lives without conducting a SWOT analysis of ourselves and just accepting that “this is who I am” and going on to be the best version of ourselves. Instead we’re too busy trying to desperately fit into a second rate version of someone else. Look around you. Watch the sun, see the drops of water on leaves just after a downpour, look at the colour of the sky at dawn, hear the birds, look at ants, look at rivers, wonder at the salmon or the Siberian cranes or the Olive-Ridley turtles, the Amazon rain forest, the ocean. Now breathe the air. And then tell me what you think of the way we define greatness.
Do listen to Kevin Kelly. You may agree with him when he says, greatness is over-rated. Being unique, doing something that only you can and doing it really well is what he recommends. I say aye aye sir!