The term, “the one percent” has become synonymous with exceptional individuals who surpass their peers, their friends, and their colleagues in whatever endeavor they set their intention and energies to. These human aberrations opt for the uphill climb, their “normal” counterparts choose the slippery, downhill path of least resistance. One-percenters know the arduous and welcome the hard. They opt for the taxing and give up their late nights and early mornings. They choose to live a life less ordinary, pay the price and awake to a life that only resided in the blueprint of their mind.
While the other ninety-nine percent absolutely envision “the life,” they know neither where the trailhead begins or why it should be traveled. Many try but find they just cannot sustain the grind. And then the inevitable occurs, compromise or worse, absolute surrender. Little wonder Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.”
It is not a conscious choice to be unexceptional. It is a consequence of fear and the avoidance of failure as if it’s a personal indictment on their potential or even worse, themselves. The concerns with what people will think dull the pain of stalemate and then, the inevitability of settling in for a life of making it work ensues. The other ninety-nice percent’s clarion song is, “what if I fail?” Their dogma is a note of caution to children and friends to not risk too much and their illustrations are those who run straight into the fire and inevitably get burned.
The question for all of us is not if you will fail. Failure is a law and an absolute inevitability. The question only is, will you fail in small stumbles, or will you mortgage a life because you failed decisively and picked up the mantle of “making the best of it.” For thousands of years, humanity has sought the secret of the vast differentiator between the “haves and have nots” – The answer, while elusive, is simple. It is whether the desire outweighs the pain associated with making it happen. It is not any more complicated than this. Desire is potential’s most reliable foreshadow.
Abraham Maslow, after prodigiously studying and interviewing the highest achievers of his time, summed up his discoveries with a beautiful but haunting conclusion, “Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.” Marcus Aurelius, the epitome of the warrior-poet of the ancient world wrote, “Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.” And finally, Ralph Waldo Emerson inserted the Maraschino cherry on top of it all by reminding us, “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” And it is at this place, a decision of cowardice or intentioned resolve that dictates the choice that will either send us careening into mediocrity or toward what it is that makes us eventually come alive. Perhaps Emerson was right.