“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
As I sit here listening to Barry White and looking out at an abandoned residential street on a Friday night, I can’t help but think that life could be better (or frankly, much worse). I mean, knock on wood, I have my health, and there is nothing terribly traumatic going on in my life right now. But after being exposed daily to stories of exciting lives and interesting careers, I can’t help but think that life needs to be just something… more.
Call it a “quarter-life crisis” or a “mid-life crisis” or just a plain and simple freak out session, most of us have at one time or another felt like our lives could be more exciting/interesting/fun. We see celebrities and millionaires jet-setting around the world, only to be received by hordes of adoring fans and piles of expensive clothing, cars, and beautiful men/women. We see reporters and diplomats criss-crossing the globe to be at the front lines of the latest international news story. We see aid workers saving lives one vaccine at a time. We see [insert your ideal success story here]. No matter what your idea of success is, we are constantly bombarded by people who look like they are leading the most fabulous lives. And we are constantly bombarded by “advice” (like the Mark Twain quotation above) pushing us to achieve more.
While on the one hand, it can be wonderfully inspirational to read success stories, it can also be wonderfully depressing. Success stories, the way they are published in the media, can leave us feeling like lonely underachievers, listening to Barry White on a Friday night. Though initially making us feel motivated, they can lead us into a “paralysis of analysis”, a crisis of perpetual dissatisfaction. What most success stories in the media fail to capture is the grueling blood, sweat, and tears that go into the making of every success. The stories are warped, with 80% of the focus being on the glitz and glam of success, and only 20% on the hard work required to get there. Mozart spent his childhood practicing for thousands of hours. Throughout his life, Michael Jackson suffered constant abuse from his father, pushing him to perfect his performance. Billionaire Richard Branson began his empire by selling records out of the trunk of his car. All we see though is the worldwide success of Mozart’s music, the superstardom of Michael Jackson, and the high-priced luxury lifestyle of Richard Branson. We only get 20% of the story.
If we saw the full story, perhaps we would look at life and success differently. We would see that in most cases, success is not something that grows on trees, something that is achieved in the blink of an eye. It usually involves hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Any one of those three men could’ve easily threw up their hands when the going got tough, but instead, they stuck to their dreams. And that is the lesson of the day. Success doesn’t come easily; keep your focus and be patient. If a hundred arrows didn’t hit the target, the 101st maybe will. As long as you are sure that your goal is worth it, there is nothing that can truly stand in your way except yourself.