You will never feel the fulfillment from achievement until you work for it. You will never appear to others as anything special until you have exerted many years of special effort in a special talent persistently in a meaningful direction.
Everyone may be born with special talents and potentials, but no one is special until they work hard to develop those talents, whether it’s math, art, football, engineering, juggling, speaking another language, physics, plumbing, programming, chess, interior design, truck driving, baton twirling, playwriting, cooking, carpentry, dancing, organization, analysis, strategy, recruiting, sales, customer service, or whatever the talents may be.
TV, movies, video games, video in general, soften people’s minds with fantasies of being something special without trying. Artificial self-esteem boosts—like books and therapy that tell you you’re automatically special—only make it worse. Since the late-twentieth century, effortless electronic entertainment, and its reinforcement of effortless fantasy, has been molding our increasingly passive minds with delusions of grandeur. You can be emperor of the realm, a rock star, the top athlete, master detective, best dancer, gold medalist, and celebrity of the year, by envisioning yourself as one. No effort, no hard work, just childish self-deception and self-indulgent ego-fantasy.
In real life, if you’re gifted, work hard all the time, stay focused on a purposeful direction, with moderate goals of achievement, you might graduate, you might get that interesting career with gratifying work, maybe even an occasional promotion. But when you’re young you have to start by taking almost any job you can get. You gradually work towards aligning your work with your interests. Then after five or ten years you might build a lifestyle where your everyday life makes you full and happy instead of empty and bitter. You might innovate in some area, create and build, finish projects that you’re proud of, accumulate good memories, and meet some interesting people.
But the effortless instant greatness that video feeds us with, does not produce endurance, patience, or realistic expectations. Moderate goals sound boring to minds saturated with stardust and the glitter of get-famous-quick fantasies. As you get older dreaming but doing nothing special, you’re left with aimless boredom and stagnating emptiness. This outcome leads to depression. It also sets the stage for alcohol abuse and drug abuse, the remaining effortless escape options available to an empty life.
If you are a mature and smart human, with healthy engagement in reality, you will continuously improve, gradually increase fulfillment, and achieve an old age where you can look back and say it was meaningful. There is only one way to get there: work for it.
This entry partly from my book
Potential of an Active Mind: How to Recapture the Magic of Everyday Life
© copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, and 2012