23 May 2012

Greatness Thrust Upon Them?

Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that greatness is rooted in singular achievements, but lately I’ve been reconsidering that thought. To be great at anything is never an accident and it never happens all at once. Even in cases where all of a sudden someone is catapulted into the spotlight of success, a closer appraisal of their past always shows a field of preparation fully cultivated and prepared for the time of harvest, which is what is so easy to mistake for greatness. Greatness is actually the thousands of concerted, directed, thought out, and disciplined steps under a single-minded determination. Greatness never falls from the sky. The saying, "Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them" by William Shakespeare, says that we can have greatness thrust upon us, as though not by anything we do ourselves.

As great as that quote is, it is not true. Even those who by chance are thrown into a set of circumstances which calls on them to become great can fail to be great. An opportunity to be great is nothing more than a big opportunity to fail unless the person called upon for greatness is able to measure up to the standard placed upon them. In other words, greatness will not be thrust upon anyone without crushing them unless they have already become acclimatized to the mental and physical stress of greatness. They must  have already planted greatness in themselves and completed the effort of cultivating it.

Think of musicians, it is not over night that virtuosity is learned; it takes an estimated ten-thousand hours. To build the world’s largest building is mostly the exact same procedure as it is to build a much smaller building, just more steps and preparation. Artists learn to paint for years and years before painting masterpieces.

So to be great means to, in a way, have tunnel-vision, to look and focus on one thing far away, and to take as many thousands of small steps as it takes to reach the goal. Greatness, then, is an endurance walk. It’s rarely a sprint or a run or a jump. It is one foot in front of the other over and over for as long as it takes. It sounds like long drudgery, but to see greatness from this perspective puts it within the reach of everyone. Everyone has the ability to take small deliberate steps towards greatness. Everyone can become truly great at what they want to.

What do you want to be great at? Start walking. You can.


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