What is the difference between a nameless cubicle dweller in an office block and any of the great men of the past and present?
Ownership and action.
I believe that these two qualities are a sure path to greatness. Taking ownership includes small things, like your health and immediate environment, and large things, like your life goals and the world around you. The second aspect requires acting on the responsibility implicit in ownership.
The great men of the past and the present have taken these steps in order to change our world. The level of greatness is only dependent on what you take ownership of.
Sadly our society does not promote these two values. We are constantly bombarded by messages of inaction and dispossession. We lead sedentary lives while being passive consumers in all aspects of our lives. We outsource our security, our freedom, our charity. No more is it required to actually help the poor only to “give generously” to a charity. Someone else will take care, take ownership.
We are also spurned to inaction. No user serviceable parts inside, only qualified technicians, phone the authorities. To a degree I understand that we live in a increasingly specialized society but that is no reason not to take part.
Take something as simple as losing weight. We have dietitians, personal trainers and the Department of health who are all there to protect us from the simple fact that we need to eat less, eat healthy and get exercise. We need warnings on our food, alcohol and cigarettes to tell us (the passive consumer) that they may be hazardous to our health. We assume that if something is worth knowing the media will tell us. If something is dangerous the government will protect us. If something needs to happen somebody else will do it.
We need to take back our autonomy and self sufficiency. Be a player in your life not just an observer. Take action, take ownership – it’s the surest path to greatness.
Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young. Albus Dumbledore
I met a young man yesterday – he has just started high school and can be no older than 14. He still has the amazement and awe for engineering and science that I’ve lost in the past few years. We spoke a little bit about his hobbies and interests and needless to say he is doing things in grade 8 that I did not even do until the second year of my Engineering degree. Seeing his interest and enthusiasm reminded me of a younger self that still saw the magic in engineering.
I wonder what makes us lose touch with that part of us? I now have my engineering degree and rather than build all the little gadgets that I dreamt up when I was younger I just want to watch TV or read a book when I get home from work. It feels as if the drudgery of the everyday drowns out the little voice that says “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”.
I am going to make an effort to try and recapture that spark.