No one has the responsibility to become great during their lifetime. You can live a completely satisfying life without recognition or applause. We all have the capacity to shine during our lifetime and the truth is we will all experience a moment when the thing we excel in is celebrated or discussed. That thing may not be the most honorable thing we do, but if it is something that you are really good at, at some point you will be recognized for it.
There are those who will be recognized briefly for their talent and then there are those who will be revered for years to come. There is one thing that all people who become great have in common. Allow me to share this key principle in a story.
This past weekend I was having a conversation with a man who had just learned that I am an author. He asked me if I thought his life story would make a good book and I asked him to share some of the highlights with me. He began to recount some of the low points of his life, some of the uncertainties and some of his small triumphs.
He shared that he had been a foster child his entire life, had excelled in sports until he hurt himself and went through a grueling rehab to regain use of his legs. He never could play that sport again but he chose another sport and excelled at that. Then as he became an adult, he went searching for his parents and found that they were gone. He also learned he had siblings and reconnected with them.
He wondered if this story was book worthy and I asked him, “When you recovered and excelled at the other sport, did you become world class?” He shook his head. “Well, when you found your siblings did you do something extraordinary with them?” He shook his head.
“Well, think about all of the stories you read, the books about average people that become movies,” I shared. “They don’t make it to the book shelves without action. They don’t make it to the theatres without some form of amazing greatness being realized.”
He stared at me and shrugged. “Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
“No!” I challenged him. “You don’t wait for greatness, you create it!”
“What?” He asked, obviously confused.
“Listen, becoming great at something is never a result of chance. It is a decision. You decide that you want to be great at something and you go after it with full force, letting nothing stop you. It’s a decision. It doesn’t just happen. If you want to write a great book about your life, you have to make something great happen.”
Greatness won’t come to you. You have to want it. You have to work at it. You have to give your life over to it. It has to consume you. You have to lose yourself to it. People need to call you crazy because of it. You need to give up other parts of your life to make it happen.
No one will read a book about you being sad and taking your life for granted. Sob stories don’t sell unless they have an amazing ending.
If you want a great, book worthy life, create something great to write about.