“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.”– Henry David Thoreau
When one spends several decades researching the practices of the master and the movements of the elite, I have discovered that one cannot conveniently overlook the other 99% of the population. While history books, fables, and movies are based upon the lives of these individuals, one cannot help but wonder, “What about the nameless and faceless millions of people who have walked this earth and were never able to achieve their own aspirations or dreams?” After thousands and thousands of conversations with the world-class and the class the world has decided to ignore, I am now utterly convinced there is a certainty about these nameless millions of people who walk this earth and never fully achieve. And this is certain; the reasons for failure are less a product of individual’s innate giftedness or drive, but an incomplete understanding of the journey to mastery.
Interestingly, what I have learned about the other 99% is as instructive as the study of the 1%. First, I have discovered that the non-master categorically envisions “the life” that mastery affords. This characteristic is consistent across people. I have also discovered that “failure to master” or being unexceptional is not necessarily a conscious choice. Failure to master is a direct consequence of fear. The avoidance of failure as if it’s a personal indictment on their potential or even worse, themselves is an overriding culprit. 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. Finally, I have discovered that the other ninety-nine percent’s clarion song is, “what if I fail?” Their personal dogma becomes a note of caution to children and friends to “be careful” or “not risk too much” all the while building their repertoire of illustrations for those poor souls who ran straight into the fire and inevitably got burned.
The question we all must answer is not if we will fail. We will fail. If we are endeavoring to something beyond our norm, some level of failure will occur. Failure is a law and an absolute inevitability. The only question is, will you fail in small stumbles, or will you forfeit a life because you failed resolutely 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 simpler than we think it is. 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.
APPLICATION: A quick but life-altering question, “What would you do, pursue, or try if you were guaranteed rabid success and were assured not to fail?” The answer you provide will be a starting point for where the journey of mastery begins. Finally, a little reminder for you, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”- Michael Jordan.