Chapter Twenty Four
“Don’t try to be a great man; just be a man and let history makes its own judgments.”
-James Cromwell as Zefram Cochrane
As a matter of me tooting my own horn, this chapter was by far the most fun for me to do because it gave me a chance to really take a good look at myself. It encouraged me to ask some pretty tough questions. Not because I felt like I had to but rather because I wanted to know the things about me that stood out.
All of my life has been an exercise in comparison. I’ve been compared to my brother, father, mother, and a myriad of other personalities. It’s part of life and I understand that. However, what wasn’t fair about it is the question, “Why can’t you be more like them?”
That hurts. It hurts on so many levels to have that done to you. It is essentially being told that you’re a disappointment. Really? C’mon now, folks. Who likes being told they are a disappointment? Perhaps even more to the point, what kind of constructive criticism is it to be so blatant and disillusioned by the concept that you’re not them. It’s unfair to believe that you could be anything similar.
As a victim of those unfair comparisons and not being wise enough to appreciate just how damaging those things can be. Comparison savagely curtails or eliminates our desire for self-expression. It also establishes a medium for those around us to rank our perceived values and abilities. I don’t know about you but I like being valued in ways that aren’t necessarily coupled with the idea of those ways making me expendable.
I may be a finite resource but that doesn’t mean that I’m any more or any less valuable than any other person. The irony of the human condition is that we find our value in what other people think about us instead of discovering the value in ourselves. We have become so dependent on being able to “measure up” or “hack it” that we forget that we are the ones that have to act on our talent to do so. We have to be able to act on our own behalf and find that sufficient and not feel obligated to justify the perception of those around us as to our ability to meet those expectations.
It’s part of who we are to be ourselves. We can’t be anyone else. So, the real question is “Why do we try?” We all want that level of success that the people we look to enjoy. I get that and it’s understandable to want those things. But, why is it so important to do exactly what they do? Well, for starters we figure that if we do what they do and we will get the same things. False. The fallacy is that their unique stamp on that path to success is riddled with what makes them unique and none of which that identifies them with anyone similar. There is nothing wrong with taking a similar path. Someone had to formulate that path, right? There is nothing wrong with following in another’s footsteps. There’s nothing wrong wanting to be like someone, right? Maybe… maybe not…
Comparisons are going to be everywhere you go. You can’t avoid them. You can’t get away from them. But, what you can avoid is being compared unfairly. We all find our value based on something arbitrary. Athletic ability is perhaps the biggest method of unfair comparison. Michael Jordan is widely accepted as the greatest basketball player ever. I agree with that statement. But, I don’t think Michael Jordan is better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem is uniquely talented and so is Michael. It doesn’t mean that one is ultimately better than the other. But, there is always some criteria that will set them apart and that is the arena that makes the whole concept unjust. People are going to be who they are regardless of how their talents and skills match up to someone else.
Perhaps the most unique quality that creates our own sense of individuality isn’t necessarily how we do one thing better than any other; however, how we manage to balance all of the skills and talents that we do have. Experience is a universal circumstance. We will all experience joy, sadness, triumph, and defeat. But, how our skills and talents condition us to experience these things is as unique as our fingerprint. We are called to implement these skills and talents to better ourselves and those around us. But, we don’t do that as long as we value these things above or beneath those around us. We are uniquely qualified to share these experiences and use them to affect the lives of those close to us. So, instead of gauging our ability based on how well everyone uses theirs, it is a brave new world that opens to us when we let that measure be modified by those talents.
It can be an eye-opening experience when you act with everything you have instead of letting what you have determine how you act. It eliminates all of the pressure of being someone special and allows you to be a special someone. My, oh my, does that make me feel tons better about being “just another guy.”