Sunday, May 10, 2009


I met a guy (we’ll call him Bob) who said that although he does not particularly enjoy his job (to which he dedicates over half of his waking hours every week), he intends to stay in it as it finances him doing whatever he wants on the other two days of the week. Bob would quite like to take a different career path and follow a particular passion of his, but at this point in his life (and he’s still in his twenties), he can’t bring himself to take the pay cut that comes with starting at the bottom of a different career ladder.

I was struck by the bizarre logic of it – to be content with 5 days a week in a state of Blah to finance 2 days a week in a state slightly removed from Blah. To allow his passion to remain latent inside him, to disregard Madonna’s admonitions altogether (“Don’t go for second best, baby . . .”) and settle into the rut of mediocrity – all this he has rationalised. Whatever happened to his desire for Greatness? At what point did he cease to aspire and begin to expire?

Bob has settled. He’s not even out of his twenties and he’s chosen a palette of washed out greys to colour his life. What an aged mentality! Whoever said age is a state of mind was onto something. Jesus instructed his people to “become as little children” in their outlook and, being God and all, He was onto something too. Children believe they will be Great because in truth, anyone who wants to be, can be. Many an eight year old will aspire to something he perceives to be Great. He will honestly believe that all the options in the world are available to him – it’s just a matter of where he chooses to exercise his gifts and talents.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Prime Minister; an astronaut; an author; a pilot; a queen; a rockstar . . . .

As the child grows and the first flush of potential recedes, he adjusts his outlook. Maybe he begins to fathom the cost of Greatness (the years of training, self discipline and self belief), maybe he loses confidence and therefore courage, or maybe he discovers that, although the adults in his life say that Greatness is to be aspired to, very few of them believe it with enough conviction to commit themselves to it. So doing as his leaders do (not what they say), the adolescent shifts his aspirations into the realm of Attainable Achievement, (ie: the Safe Bet) and a creeping jadedness spoils him.

Settling, then, is a loss of childlike innocence. Nothing hoped for, nothing ventured, no character required, no great amount of inner strength or sharpening of skills and talents. It’s akin to quitting a game because you think you may lose. It’s a loser’s mentality. As my spritely Grandmother often says, “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.”