I am fascinated by people who have attained greatness in their endeavors. By greatness, I mean “extraordinary or outstanding achievements.” I enjoy reading about them and their achievements because it is so inspiring. There’s just something special about people going beyond and above the standard. Personally, it is not their fame or their wealth or their influence that makes me inspired. It is just the fact that a “normal” person can achieve so much. Despite their character flaws (which everyone has, including me), the fact that they rose above the average and then went on to create a new baseline in their different fields is worthy of honor.
Many people can do great things at least once in a lifetime, but some people do these things consistently and often throughout their lifetime. That shows they know something others do not know. That shows they are doing something right. So I went digging. I noticed that even though the initial talent of great people sometimes distinguishes them at the beginning, the common thread in their lives is the dedication to excellence and improving at their craft consistently.
You will realize that I didn’t say “hard work.” Of course, dedication to your craft and improving at it involves working hard. However, working hard doesn’t necessarily translate to excellence or improvement in your craft if you don’t add other attributes such as reflection, willingness to step out of your comfort zone and do new, complex tasks, and willingness to change. So, hard work doesn’t capture it all. The dedication to excellence and improving your craft takes different forms, but that is another topic.
Let’s return to the great people I mentioned. Remember, I said, sometimes, their initial talent might or might not distinguish them. Having the skill is necessary but not sufficient to do great things. I will use football as an example. I would never become a world-renowned footballer (that ship sailed long ago) because I do not have that level of skill. The world of football is littered with highly talented people. Some are so talented that they create new records at a young age. However, only a few people can stand up to the achievements of C. Ronaldo and Messi. Why? They have remained consistent over the years and played at a high level, even at the age when most players already hang their boots. The dedication of C. Ronaldo and Messi to their crafts is legendary. Go online and research C. Ronaldo’s or Messi’s training regime. Their level of discipline is so high that they forsake a lot of things to keep achieving their goals. I mean, you choose your path. Mediocrity or Excellence. Each direction has its costs. Their dedication to their craft inspires me!
Moving on, achieving greatness is often the easier part of the equation. Sometimes, talent will take you 85% of the way to greatness. Remaining great is the problem, and that is why the world of football, for example, is often littered with “whizkids that never reached their potential.” I am sure you can even remember at least ten without any effort. Why? It is easy to think that talent will keep you on top and then slack off.
Slacking is like cancer, slowly and deliberately eroding your possibilities.
At first, the results don’t show, but when the results show, you will be surprised at how much you have lost. Imagine an overweight Ronaldo (De Lima) at the 2006 World Cup.
But there is another part to the equation, and it is very subtle and even affects the consistent and dedicated players too. Character and Attitude! Character is such an essential aspect of everyone’s life. Many promising careers have been cut short because of bad character or attitude. Remember Anelka. However, character problems have also affected C. Ronaldo in recent years. You could see a picture of him on the bench in the World Cup, looking forlorn as his team lost an important match and, with it, the possibility of him ever lifting the world cup while Messi went on to win the World Cup with his team. An important lesson is appropriate here.
Honor and respect everyone, no matter how great you are.
Some people can change the course of your life and either lift it or sink it even though you are more famous than them.
So, these lessons are great. But what is the point? Many outstanding achievements have been forgotten today. We might use the results of those achievements, but most people don’t even remember who made those achievements. Well, that brings me to the question. Why do you want to be great? Oh, so that you can leave a legacy… cool, the next generation will forget you anyway.
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
“Vanity[a] of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he [b]toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever. — Ecclesiastes 1:1–4 (NKJV)
From my search, outstanding achievements that stand the test of time are from those people who have an external reason (i.e., not selfish) for their dedication and commitment to their craft. For them, it wasn’t the money or the fame but what it could add to society. But do you know the achievements that last forever?
Those are achievements done by people focusing on God, i.e., to bring glory to God, not themselves. Look at Jesus.
We still talk about him thousands of years later. He lived for three years, but He shaped our mindsets forever.
Therefore, start from the why, pick the right area of your strengths/talents, and choose to dedicate yourself to continual improvement. But that doesn’t guarantee your success. It would be best if you had a spiritual partner i.e., God and physical partners e.g., mentors, friends etc. but that’s another topic. In summary, only partnering with God guarantees your success. Well, at least He is the only one who guarantees long-lasting success.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep. — Psalms 127:1–2 (NKJV)
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God — Hebrew 3:4 (NKJV)