“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you,” said Steve Jobs.
When I was younger my father would often say, “Everyone puts their pants on the same way . . . one leg at a time.” At the time I didn’t quite get it. Still, it’s hard not to point to people in positions of power and focus on all the things they have that we may not.
It’s usually not a good idea to compare yourself to others, for a number of reasons. However, as Steve Jobs points out in the above quote, one reason is we give others too much credit. We assume the super successful people have more talent, training, or time than we do. (Not always.) We wonder if others don’t feel the fear we do. (They do.) We believe success comes to those with parents who helped open doors for them. (Parents can only do so much to help a son or daughter, the rest is up to the individual.)
I always gravitate towards movies like “Rocky” and “Rudy” where the hero is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things because they have a burning desire to do it and they dare to dream. I believe we all have the ability to be great when we follow our passion, we care deeply about something, and we can tap into one or more of our strengths.
Maybe we’re waiting for the perfect moment or for someone to tell us we’re ready. Rarely do others determine when and how we should make our move, and we will never really be ready. I think we will surprise ourselves if we just start moving in the direction of our dreams, even if it’s just micromovements. (we don’t have to quit our day jobs and live like monks to start a new business or write a novel. If we do the best we can with what we have now in time and resources because we will never have enough of either anyway . . . so let’s get used to it.)
So why isn’t everyone doing what they always wanted to do? Fear. We’re all afraid we’ll fail and look foolish. We’re afraid we don’t have what it takes because we think others have more (fill in the blank) than we do. We’re afraid of losing what we have. We’re afraid to draw too much attention to ourselves. We’re afraid what others will think of us. It’s okay, it’s natural to be afraid of the unknown.
It’s also okay to imagine “what if?” and picture ourselves doing something groundbreaking and amazing. The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl and their leader’s motto (and that of the team) was “Why not us?” Seattle starting quarterback Russell Wilson said in several interviews, someone is going to go all the way and win the big game, why not our team? I think we should also have the belief that it could be us that invents a new popular new app, creates a breakthrough in our field, writes a best seller, or becomes an advocate that changes public opinion or policy.
We all know both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out of college, Stephen Speilberg was rejected by USC (twice), that Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines) was dyslexic and didn’t even go to school, that Paul McCartney can’t read music, renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is confined to a wheel chair and can only speak through a computer, actor Jim Carrey was homeless, Whoopi Goldberg was a drug addict, actress Charlize Theron witnessed her mother shoot and kill her father, and Oprah had a very rough upbringing with a dozen different challenges, and the list goes on.
When we compare ourselves to others we should admire and respect what they have accomplished, learn the lessons they leave behind, and look for the things they did to achieve their goals in spite their shortcomings and failings. We sometimes only see the success but forget that these people paid their dues and probably at some point failed.