How do you become great?

I know one thing for sure: You don’t become great by doing nothing.

By doing the same things over and over again, in a kind of blunted, cow-eyed repetition.

By returning to the hole of pain and misery, and woe-is-me, looking sad-eyed into the womb of the universe, expecting it to nourish you for simply crying.

I’m sure we’ve all had experience with someone who comes to us with a problem to solve, and yet spends more time trying to tell us why it’s unsolvable, than actually trying any possible solutions. And we’ve all probably been that person more than once. You want to strangle that person, don’t you? The person who is willfully destroying their life because it’s easier to complain than to fix it?

So don’t be that person. When you become that person, who gets comfortable with losing just because you don’t want to feel afraid. With the risk of sounding like some self-help guru, become great.

Okay, smart kid, you say, what is great?

When I say great, I think it is the self-actualization of the individual human being, becoming the best version of the thing that you want to become, that you, as a human being, are capable of. There are great potato farmers, and great astronauts.

First of all, it helps to be born with good genetics and some kind of financial stability, but it’s not required.

Becoming well-educated doesn’t hurt either, but again, not required. If you, like me, never finished college – there’s always the school of the streets, and the library. Most people are carrying around more information in their pockets than in a thousand libraries. If you want to learn something that is already in the database of human knowledge, the only barrier is your own interest.

Having a life purpose helps, because otherwise – you’re not really sure where to focus your efforts to become great. To some people, this comes easier than others.

Then it becomes a means of becoming better at the thing you chose to do.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with allowing yourself the space to look and think. You’d be amazed what kind of epiphanies you can unearth when you give yourself a few minutes to look around, breathe, and wonder exactly what you’re doing with your life.

I spent an hour the other day practicing martial arts, trying to figure out why my left inward block was weaker than my right.  Although it is normal for one side to be stronger than the others, it turns out that the two parts of the body aren’t exactly mirrored (Which is probably obvious to many people who actually pay attention to their bodies) and I discovered about 5 different reasons why. Even lifting my right arm is different than lifting my left. I forced myself to close my eyes and feel how I was actually using more of the muscles in my right than left. And I began to see how I could train the left to match the right, not just strength-wise, but with the movement of my legs, hips, and arm through space.

In only an hour, my worldview on what was possible as far as muscle manipulation and control of the body had completely changed.
It was a conclusion I could’ve easily come up with much earlier if I’d only stopped to close my eyes and think about it. Yet it’d taken nearly 9 months of training. It wasn’t like I hadn’t known that my left side was weaker than my right, but I hadn’t set aside the time to figure out why. But why?

So much of us have lives that are designed to distract us from the painful reality that we aren’t doing the best that we’re capable of. Examining my life, it became obvious what had to go or be arranged. I was spending 6+ hours on Twitter and Facebook, had stopped meditating, and was waking myself up with vodka shots.

Because being great is also terrifying and beset with failure. And our natural reaction to terror is to run from it, not toward it.

Being great is finding the places in which you are weak, and burning them out of you with fire and a song.

If the hero’s journey was easy, it wouldn’t be a journey for a hero.

At least that’s when I tell myself, when alone in my room I sit on the wooden floor and close my eyes, imagine I’m in a boat surrounded by mist on all sides. I gently rock side to side, imagining the dark waters lapping at my head. And inside my armor, close to my heart, is the golden seed I carried all this way, looking for a place to plant it beyond the mountains. A place I could call home, where I’d begin to build heaven.

But not now. Not when the mountains are covered in shadow and the waters are so dark and in the distance something monstrous groans. I clutch my side and it becomes the hilt of a sword, and when I breathe the ripple of heat that passed through my blood is a tether connecting me to the place where I need to go.

I see heaven clearly now, at least. Years ago, I hadn’t even climbed into the boat. I was sitting in my village, throwing bird-seed at chickens, crying at night, and refusing to answer the call.

But heaven – it’s there, beyond the mountains. It’s at the end of my long journey, and I’m going to carry the pieces there to make sure I arrive in the world I want.

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