Are You Great?

by Ron Vitale

Creative Commons image from Taylor Lewis via Flickr

Creative Commons image from Taylor Lewis via Flickr

A few weeks ago I moved into new office space and in the lunchroom the walls were made out of a dry eraser board material. When I was headed to get my lunch one day, I saw the following written on the wall: "Greatness comes from ______." Weeks went by and no one had written anything on the wall, but the line had stuck in my head and I kept thinking on how I would answer the question. Why? Well, that's how my mind works. I think those sorts of things in which there really is no right answer but the question gets you thinking.

Today I decided to write my answer on the board to answer the mystery artist. For the last week, I had wanted to write my answer as "helping others," but I changed my mind and wrote "humility."

I don't think that's the best answer, but I wanted to start a discussion and to challenge others to write on the board and put their answers there as well. I want people to think and to challenge and question. So far no one else has written back or put their own answer. We shall see what happens as time goes by.

Greatness comes from?

Greatness comes from?

Why am I thinking about this at 10 p.m. at night after being up since 5 a.m. this morning? Shouldn't I be sleeping? Yes, probably, but I wanted to write this because it's important that I share it. Earlier this evening my wife and I got into an argument. We fought and went our separate ways. I went out to Home Depot to get some paint for this weekend's house project and after I had some time to cool down and think about the argument with my wife I came on home and we talked and worked things out.

Both of us are under tremendous stress and there's a lot going on (that's true of everyone so I want to qualify that. We all have problems. It sucks, doesn't it?) However, my wife pointed out that I can be extremely difficult to live with because one of my quirks is that I have such high standards. I expect the world and everyone in it to live up to these standards, and when they don't, well, I get angry or pissed off.

Why am I sharing this? Because I'm human. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes and will continue to do so until the day I die. But I will keep trying and work on growing and strive to be a better person. It's what I believe. I believe that many of us have just given up on life and we're just happy to be in the rut that we're in. We don't question, strive or even care. And that saddens me.

I'm living life thinking "Carpe Diem!" and want to embrace all that we can do and make it happen, but the reality is anything but that. So as I glance in the mirror at myself and realize that I can't change the world and that first I need to change myself, all of this causes me to stop and think.

I don't care to be great. Awards, accolades and the like mean nothing to me. Badges and other gamification like tools do not motivate me. What motivates me is more abstract than that because I believe that my little progression, added with yours and hers and his and all the rest of humanity--it all adds up and together we move forward and grow. I want to reach for the stars and maybe hit the moon. Why? Because we can.

This is why I push myself so hard in life. The hard thing for me is to let go. It will also be hard for me to do that because of my upbringing and what I lacked when I was a kid. I can't undo my nature, but I can grow and have made tremendous changes in my life over the last few years. But still, I have a long, long way to go.

What I need instead is to let go more often and embrace the enjoyment side of life. I can't change the world. Heck, it's hard enough to change myself and to grow. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice to learn new skills and develop new talents. All of this is extremely difficult, but in the end I have to ask myself: What really matters?

When I die, I won't care about the medals I won from the races I've completed. That's not why I run. I don't care about the writing awards I might win. That would be nice and all, but that's not why I write. What I want so much and have been saying this for years is simply to use my abilities to share my experiences to the world. The books that I write are my little gifts (for better or worse) to the world. There's a hell of a lot to learn from them. That sounds so pompous of me to write. It's not truly what I mean. Instead I simply write because I hope that some readers might pick up my books and say, "I can identify with that. I've been there and I've overcome that as well." I'm looking for that connection with others so share across time and space through a book. A simple book.

And to me, to be able to write something that others enjoy is such a humbling experience. All of this is to say that this is why I write. Not to win the awards, but to simply have another person read my words, identify with them and form an empathetic bond with me.

I'm tired and maybe none of this will make sense, but to me it truly matters. Because in the end, when it's our time to move on and die, who we were and how we treated others and lived our lives will be all that's left. In a small way, I hope that my books could help others know that they're not alone. I am here and I understand.

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