Sunday, 28 August 2011

No, you CAN'T do anything

We were a very optimistic people in the nineties.  Almost on cue, a whole lot of motivational speakers and "Human Performance Consultants" sprung up during this time.  They came with lovely one-liners like "Your attitude determines your altitude", "You only lose when you give up" and "You can do anything."  I take exception to this generalized, just-be-positive mode of thinking.

Issue #1:
Firstly, we each have a different spread of abilities.  One person may be good at programming, while someone else is good at building boats maybe.  Then there are more blatant cases.  I am not nearly tall enough to play basketball for instance.  It will never happen no matter how hard I train or how positive my mindset is.  That's why it's a bit much when you hear people telling you it's all about your attitude and that nothing is impossible.  We all have a different mix of abilities and we are not meant to do the same things.  So if you are perpetually failing or find something to be a never-ending uphill struggle, chances are it wasn't meant for you.  There I said it.  Call me Mr Cynical.

What I'm getting at is that you need to do things you are naturally strong at.  In 95% of cases you happen to be good at what you enjoy.  Things like sport and singing require certain physical attributes that may be out of your scope (making up the remaining 5%), but there are so many other things that don't require you to be an Adonis, Barbie doll or musical lark.  Photography, movie directing, share investing, events planning, website design, programming...these are things you can be good at provided your mind and heart want to do it.  Your physical limitations don't matter here.  Your mind can learn and excel at virtually anything if it's interested enough, and this is why you are usually good at what you enjoy.

Issue #2:
Secondly, we have a very narrow definition of success.  This definition either involves being a sports star, entertainer or wealthy entrepreneur.  If you cannot be a quarter back, singer or business magnate then you are deemed as "average."  You have to be one of the above if you are to earn acclaim according to the typical definition of success.  Tying back to what I said about everyone being wired differently, success should not be defined by career titles or quantified in any physical way, but rather it should be a simple measure of how closely the life you lead and the person you are are in sync.  And this measure is something only you can gauge.  You would therefore be successful when you do things that turn you on - when you don't have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to do whatever it is you do.  That is my definition of success.  From this mindset and view of success, results will follow and providence paves a path to greater things.

Everyone on this planet cannot be an actor or sportsperson.  The world wouldn't function properly if that were the case.  The problem is we unjustifiably place such people on a pedestal when they do little to add value to society.  Nothing against them and take nothing from them, but all they do is provide some entertainment.  After that game or movie that you watch your real life still awaits you.  People are still starving after your team wins.  It is the general population that need to wake up and start showing as much appreciation for the man who gives a good haircut or the doctor who just saved a life as they do for an actor who is pretending on screen.  Each person needs to start valuing people based on the contribution they make, not their title or bank balance.

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