This post is a part of my Personal Development Project for May 2016.
I recently came across this video by TK Coleman on “Being Great vs Becoming Great”.
Basically, being great means that you produce tangible things of value. TK uses JK Rowling as an example of someone who is great. When she has a new book published, everyone flocks to the store to buy it. Her greatness is tangible — it’s a book on the shelf. We can touch it and read it and learn from it and pass it on to others.
Becoming great, in contrast, isn’t tangible. Becoming great is a long process that you have to commit to day after day. It’s not glamorous by any means. People will get on your case while you’re in the process of becoming great. They may tell you to grow up or stop being so boring.
TK says that when you tell someone you can’t hang out because you’re in a concert the next morning, they go, “Ahh, yeah cool! No problem! Next time then.” When you tell someone you can’t hang out because you want to practice your guitar, then they say, “Come on, man. Don’t be that way. Come out and have fun with us.”
People react positively to greatness that’s already established, and they’re less understanding of the actions required for becoming great.
The Paradox of Dreaming: You get the most support for your dreams when you least need it.
Everyone has a different opinion about following your dreams and doing what you’re passionate about. Some people say go all out and do what you’re most passionate about. Others say that following your dreams is a terrible recipe for success. Ultimately, I think each of us should take the path that feels most right to us personally.
So should you follow your dreams? It depends.
We’re all born from different backgrounds and with different talents. We have different experiences, different convictions. Only you are able to determine what’s best for you. Only I am able to determine what’s best for me.
One thing that I struggle with personally is my breadth of eclectic interests. I’m interested in so many different things from classical music to web development to theology. I don’t really have a singular passion. And the stress I feel doesn’t come from these interests themselves, but from when I try to categorize myself or define my interests quickly to other people. The reality is that people like specialists.
It’s about psychology. We’re inclined to think that a person who only does one thing must be really damn good at that one thing. And so by extension, someone who does a bunch of different things must do them all in a mediocre way. We have an expression for multi-faceted people: “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
This concept of specialization is why Google became such a success, Rory Sutherland says. Other search engines back in the day also gave you weather, news, and sports updates. They’re all defunct now. Why? People like specialization.
So psychology is working against me and my nature. I can very well become an expert in photography and Eastern European politics and marketing and phonetics and self-directed learning. But what if no one ever takes me seriously in any one of these fields because I associate with the others too?
Honestly, I don’t know.
I don’t have an answer to that question yet because it’s still hypothetical. I don’t consider myself an expert in anything so far in my life. I’m a competent violinist. I’m a competent phonetician. I’m a competent language teacher and accent coach. I understand the basics of photography and love to go out and practice. I love to write and hone my communication skills. But I’m not an expert in any of these things yet. I’m still learning.
So I’ve decided to follow my gut and just work on becoming great. I’m not great yet. I don’t have hardly any tangible success. But I can chip away at the block of marble (or, in my case, the dozen blocks of marble) each day to hopefully someday reveal a statue of greatness. And maybe someday I will have a dozen completed statues carefully carved out of marble.
I’m focusing on the now. I’m focusing on the process. I’m doing what feels right to me. I’m becoming great.