Pursuing Greatness

Nothing like a kick in the teeth to start the morning off right.

So there I was, minding my own business, browsing the periodicals rack at Barnes & Noble, when suddenly — my eyes fell upon the cover of a magazine, the dominant image upon which was Zac Sunderland [blog], a 17-year-old from California who recently made the news for his attempt to break the world’s record for the youngest solo cirumnavigation by sail.

A few things about Sunderland’s story jumped out at me:

  1. Kudos to this intrepid young man for pursuing his dream.
  2. Double kudos for his masterful handling of the media about this trip — the magazine cover had Sunderland smiling, in classic boy-next-door fashion, wearing a T-shirt that said: “I sailed around the world solo and all I got was this lousy magazine cover.”
  3. What stops the rest of us from acting similarly?

I vividly recall my grandfather’s sunset dreams of travel and exploration, and how they were cut short by a chronic illness.  I remember listening to all the aspirations of friends and family and watching them slowly shrivel and die under the combined weight of inaction and oppressive family expectations and artificial norms of what is “appropriate” behavior.

But what stops us?  What demon taunts us with the prospect of greatness while simultaneously blocking us from achieving it? 

I know a lot of dreamers who can’t translate their hopes into reality.  And I know people who could execute the most byzantine of plans but who aspire to little more than a comfortable mediocrity.  Too few of us seem blessed with both dreams and talents, and that reflection prompts a degree of sadness.

For myself, I have been feeling of late that I have been walking on the thin edge of a very sharp blade.  My dreams grow ever sharper, but I wait.  There is a dynamic tension between wanting to cast aside all convention and obligation and plunge full-steam into the life I’ve crafted for myself on paper, against conceding that prudence demands a more cautious course of withdrawal and entrenchment.

The last few days have been interesting.  I had dinner Friday with Charlie and Cara, and went to Festival with Tim and his friends Duane, Joey, and Chuck.  All the while, the itch to leap into action continued to grow.  Perhaps I need to spend more time with Tony to build GCG strong enough to actually transition out of the hospital.  Perhaps I need to take Emilie’s advice and just take a week hiking in the solitude of the forest.  Or perhaps I need to heed my mother’s warning that it’s time “build equity.” 

Perhaps.  Perhaps.

But I do know this — Sunderland’s cover felt like a slap in the face. Whether it’s the slap of reproach or the slap of motivation remains to be seen.

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1 comment

  1. “Perhaps I need to take Emilie’s advice and just take a week hiking in the solitude of the forest. ”

    Sorry. When you have children, you have to put that on hold. Maybe when they’re 30.

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