Certain things in life will always stick out in your mind, irrespective of when they happened. I’ve never been able to figure out why I remember certain things or events with the utmost clarity and yet can’t remember at all something from the day before. Whatever flips that switch, I have no idea, but it would be cool to find out more about it. In that vein, I always remember a conversation I had with a few guys in college, I think around my junior year.
I had the reputation for being the studious one and probably with good reason. I never skipped a class in my entire college career… except for one time… and that was so I could do work for a different class. It was just how I operated since I was very single-minded in my focus to get the best possible grades to help me get into the best possible law school. Anyway, the topic of grades, studying and intelligence came up and two of these guys said to me, “You know, Kuz… it’s not that you’re really any smarter than either of us. It’s just that you study more. I’m sure if we studied that much we would do just as well.”
Even today, some 19 years later, that STILL makes me laugh and shake my head in disbelief, for the simple reason that it’s just a cop-out for being mediocre.
Sound harsh? Perhaps… but it’s something I continue to see or hear about today in a variety of contexts.
“Well, I would look as good as Sally if I spent that much time in the gym and was that strict about my eating…”
“Sure, Larry is moving up in the company… but hell, I could do that if I was a workaholic like him…”
Now, if you are comfortable with who you are, please don’t let me try and convince you to be otherwise. It’s really not my place and I’m a firm believer that each of us has the freedom to pursue whatever path in life brings us the greatest happiness and inner joy, provided that walking such path doesn’t harm others around you.
But I can’t believe the extent to which people will shake off the commitment, drive and passion of others as being seemingly nothing and if they worked as hard as that person, they would be in the same place. Here’s the problem with that thinking: If you don’t put in that work, you’re just not the same. You’re not… and no amount of patting yourself on the back with notions of “If I only did X…” will change that… unless you starting doing whatever X may be. This is a line of argument that places some vague, hazy notion of “potential” far above working to get someplace. Potential… in the end… is more of a nice notion and all it means, in the end, is something great that has not been fulfilled as of yet.
Potential is a great thing to have… but only for a very, very small window. Hanging onto potential too long just becomes a disappointing case of “What could have been…”
None of us has to be like gym rat and diet freak like Sally or work-’round-the-clock like Larry. We each get our choices and if you choose a different path, more power to you. I am in full support of that with all my heart.
But the point at which we seek to tear down those who have chosen their own path with notions that we could each reach that too it IF ONLY… then we not only discredit their passion (a horrible act in my book), but we also look to soothe ourselves with a balm of settling for mediocre and explaining it away as if it were acceptable because we could easily get to that place too. That’s justifying something average.
I don’t come at any of this from a place of cockiness or arrogance – just from knowing that nothing good is achieved or worthwhile without some hard work to get there. I am far from perfect and would never, ever describe myself as the purest paragon never-ending, ceaseless hard work… but I do work pretty hard for what I believe in.
Remember… the crime is not in picking your own path, but in making that of another who pursues theirs with drive seem like something anyone could do. I’ve caught myself in this trap a few times before, but with some awareness now, I will battle hard never to do it again.
“We could get your grades, Kuz, if we just studied as much as you do…” But they didn’t. And hard work is an intelligence all its own.