February 23, 2014
I have come to believe that one must succeed on one’s own terms, or not succeed at all. After all, each of us is unique, with individual talents and interests. No one of us is exactly like another. If we’re willing, we can take that individuality and build on it to paint the masterpiece of a life well and fully lived.
In the past several weeks, we have been instructed to read each day at least one obituary with a picture from that day’s printed newspaper. This has been an interesting exercise, designed, in part, to help us internalize the reality that each day might be our last. This accords with Scroll V in Mandino’s Greatest Salesman, which begins, “I will live this day as if it is my last.”
I feel privileged to have received another benefit from my reading. No two obituaries of more than a paragraph are even remotely alike. This is natural, and it reflects what is now for me a treasured truth: no two lives are even remotely alike.
I’m a big fan of patterns, and human behavior does seem to roughly fall into a relatively small number of large patterns. However, like a fractal image, the closer you look, the more detail is revealed. And God is in the detail (contrary to the proverb).
Perhaps it is an American cultural trait to celebrate individuality. If so, well, but there’s no denying individuality no matter your race, gender or culture. Each of us is as a snowflake, no two of which, it is said, are exactly alike.
My predisposition to like patterns initially led me a little astray for a while. You see, intellectually (though not much in practice it seems) I like the idea of learning from the mistakes of others. Couple this with the tendency to live in the “less than” box, and you get an evil combination of fearing error without the confidence to understand the message of eternal truth.
The truth is that no one can succeed like I can, because no one else has my unique gifts and talents. Likewise, I cannot succeed like anyone else, because I do not have their gifts and talents. I must succeed on my own terms, or not succeed at all.
This becomes obvious when you realize that if someone else is setting the goal posts, the goal will always move just as you seem to reach it.
Does this mean I cannot benefit from the roads and bridges others build? No. All it means is that my destination is, figuratively, my own home in the city I choose. No one outside my mastermind can build my home, and no one else can live there.
Thus we see the truth of the Hero’s Journey: each person becomes a hero by treading a unique path, with unique adversity and uniquely crafted assistance.
I used to think, erroneously, that a unique path required me to travel alone. Now I know the truth. I can only succeed, even individually, with the assistance and fellowship of trusted, harmonious companions and advisers. And, yet, my journey is mine alone.
No one can live my life for me. I must do it. If my life is to become a masterpiece, it is not because someone (even God) laid a template over me and painted my life by their numbers. Good thing God doesn’t want automatons for children. We are His heirs, if we’re willing to claim His kingdom for ourselves. And part of that heritage is the freedom and obligation to craft and live a unique life.
My promise to you is that what you want wants you. The success you want, on your own terms, wants you. You’re designed 1st class, by 1st class, and you’re entitled to go 1st class as long as you live your own 1st class miracle.
I rejoice in your companionship along the journey of success. As we achieve the success we envision, we lift those around us and help make the world a better place. As we do well, we indeed do good, if that is our desire.
Name your terms, smile and pay your price. “Take what you want,” says God, “and pay for it.”by