The Pursuit of Greatness

I was with a group of people recently I didn’t know and found myself describing what I do, and I made a throw away comment about ‘designed greatness’.  

That comment sparked a passionate discussion about the nature and measuring stick of ‘greatness’.

I captured the thoughts from the discussion and distilled it to this:

You are great if…

You are driven, not by your ego, but by a cause as big as the planet, or at least the majority of the population.  You have ambition but are not ambitious.  You have a level of inspirational energy and enthusiasm which is full of belief, yet it has a streak of doubt, open mindedness and acceptance that you’re not the finished article.

You have the self-discipline to passionately pursue your beliefs while at the same time support others to achieve their goals, even if they’re not aligned with yours. 

You are knowledgeable, but not a ‘know it all’, with the skills of a story teller to articulate your creative, innovative ideas in a thought-provoking way so they create change for a better world. 

You have clear ideas about what you want to bring into the world and you’re not dogmatic about them but pursue them anyway with grit, determination and perseverance.    

You defend what you believe in with your own style and authenticity, which comes from a place of self-confidence that has been calibrated so that it doesn’t offend or come across as arrogant, but is humble and grateful.  

You are deeply interested in others - a great listener who doesn’t judge, but shows honest disagreement in an eloquent way that shows empathy and doesn’t affront.

You trust people, knowing they will make mistakes, trample on your value system, derail your ideal future, while you demonstrate self-restraint in equal proportions to your drive, so that you can show empathy towards them, not take it personally and not hold a grudge.

 

As we looked at what we’d captured on what it is to be ‘great’ we realised we didn’t know anyone that was truly great and as you look past the veneer of the individuals we consider to be great, you can begin to see that they are not all these things but some of these things.  

Set out like this I think we all know it’s unrealistic most of the time to aspire to achieve less than half.   This is not a measure of greatness but the description of a demi-God.

This is the problem.  We have too many competing ideas that have been merged into a single path.  Consider this - along with all the ideas being thrown at you through social media, there are over 190,000 books on self-improvement and Leadership and Management listed on Amazon.

That’s a whole lot of ways to be great.  Read one and you’re on a path.  Read two and you have some flexibility as to paths and methods which might work for you. Yet, the more you read, the more paths and methods you become aware of and at some stage you have a paradox of choice.  A measuring stick that exists in your head, influenced by so many other people’s paths. But it’s not real.  And it leads to feelings of inadequacy, being stuck, lost and ultimately unfulfilled.

This is what I meant about ‘designed greatness’ - we can’t be all things to all people all of the time. But, with courage, we can choose what we want to focus on and identify our path, we can choose the meaning we want to attach to areas we choose to leave alone and decide how we will take action to demonstrate the path we’re on.

What does greatness mean to you?