The Gospel of Greatness

We live in a society where “greatness” has been far too narrowly defined, and only tends to imply things such as: success, wealth, and fame.

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar insisted,

“You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness.”

Famous motivator and believer in greatness, Zig Ziglar

Growing up I believed this hook, line, and sinker, specifically as it related to baseball. I would spend countless hours in our backyard alternating between pitching a tennis ball against a small duct-taped square I adhered to our chimney, and swinging a bat against imaginary defenders pretending to eek out a single here, a double there, and the occasional home run when it really counted.

I believed the seeds of greatness were in me, I only needed to water them with hard work and passion.

Then reality showed up. Turns out I’m a far better baseball player in my mind and against imaginary players than I am IRL. When I got to high school I was so afraid that I wouldn’t make the team (which would have been embarrassing and devastating) that I made up some excuse (“uh, I don’t really like the coach, you guys”) and opted instead to join the golf team where, due to a shortage of players, I automatically made the varsity squad.

Which is how I learned the life-lesson that sometimes you make it to the top through hard work, grit, perseverance… and sometimes you make it to the top because you’re the only person who shows up.

Look around today and we have loads of modern-day Zig Ziglars. There’s Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness (“You were born for a reason, a purpose, and something bigger than yourself!”). Or consider Rachel Hollis’ books and conferences insisting Your Goals + Hard Work = Achieving Dreams.

And while I adore both those humans, and have learned from each (and linked to both of them above because truly, I’m not throwing shade), I also can’t shake the sense that their formulas and messages tend to “work” best for those who already have a leg or two up in the game. It’s less about rags-to-riches and more about riches-to-more-riches.

Plus (and this is no fault of theirs, of course) we live in a society where “greatness” has been far too narrowly defined, and only tends to imply things such as:

success in career,

material wealth,

superior performance,

being at the top of your industry,

achieving noterietay or fame, and/or

being admired by your peers.

Such is what I call The Gospel of Greatness, and while it might be “good news” for some, I think it leaves many people feeling disappointed, disillusioned, and like we must be doing it wrong or missing out on life if we don’t experience the above fruits of greatness.

Tomorrow I’ll post another article with a few thoughts around an alternative way to think about greatness.

Because the truth (as I understand it) is that you,

my friend,

very much are made for greatness.

Yet it’s a type of greatness that doesn’t always (ever?) look like the world’s idea of greatness.

You may never make it to the top of your industry.

You may never get that six figure job and that house in the hills.

You may never find fame or widespread admiration.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be great.

See you tomorrow.