Why do people tolerate conditions that to an outside observer appear torturous and unbearable?
Because it usually takes a long time for things to go from good to average to terrible. The loosening of standards, the growing rarity of success, all stack up so slowly that we often find ourselves in a living hell with no idea as to how we got there, and no clear memory of when it all changed.
Perhaps this is why quicksand exists in our minds as an archetypal fear. Quicksand is that which kills you so slowly that you don’t notice until your head is nearly below ground.
No wonder standards, principles, and consistent strategies are the weapons by which failure and stagnation can be fought off.
Motivation, inspiration, and passion are too weak and unreliable a resource to be used in continuous personal growth. They are nowhere to be found when you need them most, and often lead us into self-aggrandizements and prideful displays of self-perceived talent.
Inspiration is what may propel us to create principles sufficient to change the course of our life. But it in itself is not enough. Motivation may be enough to get us up off the couch the first time, but it likely won’t be there the second or the third, or the other inestimable times we might need motivation if we are to take consistent proper action.
Emotion is the water that turns the solid ground to quicksand. Principles and strategies are the rope which we have either spun ourselves, or has been offered by a mentor. But with no rope, we are doomed to sink.
We often operate under the false impression that we are born with an unearned understanding of our own talent and potential.
But the truth is, self awareness comes from a retrospective view of our past successes and failures. Only when we have meaningful feedback from the outside world can we understand what we’re good at, and what activities grant us lasting satisfaction.
How many people want to be rock stars or celebrities, never having interacted with a large crowd, or gone without sleep for several nights, or dealt with the scrutiny of an unforgiving general public?
People want to be rock stars, because they don’t understand what the experience of being a rock star actually is.
Its dangerous to pursue something that you don’t love, and that you’re not good at. And its incredible how easily the human mind can deceive itself into doing just that.
Every person who pursues a risky career path wonders at some point or another:
Am I kidding myself?
The answer to that question isn’t difficult to derive. Action will tell you. Failure will tell you. This is why the idea that failure is a necessary to precursor to success is much more than a glib platitude.
Without failure, we don’t learn our own weak points.
Without success, we have no understanding of our own aptitudes.
The two skills you must possess to answer that terrible question:
Am I kidding myself?
- The ability to know failure from success, and stare unflinchingly into the face of either one.
- The bravery to deduce your own talents and shortcomings, not from daydreams and intuitions, but concrete evidence from past instances of action taking.