Greatness – Our Greatest Fear
Greatness – Our Greatest Fear
June 24, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” —Marianne Williamson
We all fear something - spiders, snakes, public speaking, IRS audits, darkness, our shadows, heights – something. However, these things pale in comparison to our greatest fear – the fear of greatness. As it relates to a person, greatness is defined as being superior in character or quality; or being remarkable, powerful, influential, eminent, distinguished, or skillful.
Greatness sounds great! Why would anyone be afraid of it? Well, greatness can be intimidating. Sometimes, too, we are afraid of greatness because we either think that it is so great that we don’t deserve it or that pursuing it makes us self-absorbed. Achieving greatness is also challenging - it comes with responsibilities and expectations that we don’t always believe we can live up to. Some of us are comfortable swimming in the sea of greatness but the majority of us look like the terrified dog in the picture when we are hurled into the sea of greatness. We are simply afraid that we will drown. Accordingly, we hurry out of the sea of greatness and hide in the land of obscurity where, once again, we can become small and forgettable in our comfort zones.
I believe that, whether we get eight or eighty years to live on this planet, we owe it to ourselves to fight our fears so that we can achieve greatness in something. Here are a few things to consider as we embark on our journey into the sea of greatness.
- We are worthy of greatness. We are born great. Life itself is an astonishing miracle sprung from greatness. Why should we believe that everything goes downhill from our magical births? There is no rule in the universe that says we become less worthy of greatness as we journey from birth till death or that only some people are worthy of greatness while others are not. One of our purposes in life is to improve on the baseline greatness that life grants us at birth. Hence, we should seek to attain greatness in one or more of the countless things we are capable of pursuing. I know that many things happen to us in life that diminish our confidence in our greatness and make us lose sight of how powerful we really are. However, losing sight of our greatness does not mean that we have actually lost our greatness. Take a few steps forward and we will find our greatness again. Why? Because our greatness is always marching ahead of our smallness. It is our greatness that the world needs. We make the greatest impact in life when we thrive in our greatness. As Marianne Williamson points out, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”
- We have the capacity to be great. Why should we even strive to be great? Well, why not? We all have the capacity to be great at something and we should use it. Consider this: We have accomplished everything in our lives, thus far, using approximately 10%, or less, of our brain capacities, our energies and the physical resources that are available to us. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we used an additional 10%? Achieving greatness is about consistently leveraging that incremental percentage of our brain capacities, energies and physical resources to outperform the competition or to simply achieve our personal best. Either way, greatness is a skill that requires practice. Practicing involves pushing ourselves beyond our baseline capabilities. Sometimes we so desperately want to achieve greatness that, rather than practice, we squander our time being fearful that we will fail. When we are desperate, we only pile pressure on ourselves to achieve greatness but we get no results. Failure occurs when our desperation time consistently exceeds our practice time. Just remember that the capacity to be great is always there. We just need to practice. We have to practice if we want to achieve greatness as friends, parents, employees, or in pursuing our passions.
- Our greatness makes others great. Our greatness is a ladder for those around us to achieve their own greatness. We might not think of ourselves as role models but we all are. As long as other people can observe us and be influenced by our actions, then we are role models to them. We can be good role models or bad role models, either way, tag we’re it. Greatness is a choice. When we choose to become great at something we are simultaneously choosing to become good role models to others who can leverage us to learn how to become great. As such, we can influence our friends, children, co-workers or even strangers who simply observe us as we navigate our daily pursuit of greatness. In the end, we become great when we matter greatly to others. People are most inspired and influenced by us when we are basking in our greatness. As Marianne Williamson points out, “[A]s we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
- We don’t have to be great at everything – just something. While it is admirable to strive to be great at as many things as possible, the key to greatness is focusing on one thing at a time. Pick one thing to start with. Once we become great at one thing, it will give us the confidence to tackle other things. We can choose to be great friends, partners, employees, relatives or be great at doing something that we are passionate about. We can also simply be great at loving and appreciating life. Twenty eight years ago, I came across a poem by Rupert Brooke called, “The Great Lover”. The poem opens with, “I have been so great a lover: filled my days so proudly with the splendor of love’s praise, the pain, the calm, and the astonishment…” The lengthy poem then chronicles all the simple things the author loved in life, like “voices in laughter, hot water, white plates and cups, the strong crust of friendly bread”, and a number of things we take for granted or consider inane. The poem then closes with, “This one last gift I give: that after men shall know, and later lovers, far removed, praise you, all these were lovely; say, he loved.” If you cannot find anything else to be great at, I think it is great to be great at loving life. Of all the people who have passed on, it is only a few of them that we have not mourned for because we know for certain that they loved and appreciated everything in their lives. These people have accomplished one of the greatest kinds of greatness: being “The Great Lover” of life. That acclaim is well worth aspiring to.
My challenge for you today is to stop playing small. I want you to look at the sea of greatness, take a deep breath and plunge into it without fear, knowing that you were born with the capacity to swim. Just flap your hands and feet until you find your rhythm. Now that you are calm, look at the majestic sea life that lurks under the water - the colorful fish, coral reefs, and castle like rocks. Picture yourself smiling, liberated, feeling great, and becoming enraptured. See what you’ve been missing? This is where you were always meant to be. Enjoy your day.