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On Greatness

What will you leave behind?
Aug | 4 | 2011

Aug | 4 | 2011

In the Rush song “Dreamline”, there’s a lyric that always resonated with me:

We are only immortal for a limited time

Translation: You can only go so hard for so long. Eventually, you have to slow down.

I think about that line quite a bit, especially since I started writing books. What will be my legacy?

At a high level, I believe that we all have two choices:

  • Mediocrity
  • Greatness

There’s nothing inherently wrong with producing mediocre work. I’d argue that there are rafts of people and institutions that demand the same mind-set, employees, content, and processes. Many if not most people hate change. You have to make a living somehow, and that often means giving people what they want. If they want less than your best, then so be it.

That’s one philosophy.

Then there’s the “all or nothing” approach, perhaps best embodied by Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s classic, The Fountainhead. That’s the approach that Rush and scores of other artists, writers, musicians, and actors have taken for years. I firmly put myself in that boat. I could name many creative types who do the same thing, including my friend Aaron Goldfarb.

Is this approach riskier? You bet.

Is it potentially more frustrating, especially when others don’t see the light? No doubt.

More rewarding and likely to leave you with a legacy of which you are proud?

Yes. And that’s why we do it.


What say you?

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  1. Randy Cantrell

    We’ve all got a fuel problem. A limited supply of fuel takes us wherever we aim to go. Any endeavor requires tremendous fuel to escape gravity and gain momentum necessary to hit a particular orbit. Seems to me an awful lot of people have a scattered aim and fail to achieve what they could with a more targeted effort. “What are you most known for?” or “What do you want to be most known for?” are questions I keep asking clients who are distracted with too many aims. It’s the stuff of legacy.

  2. Karenwclark

    This post is so spot on!  I have decided that I want greatness.  That’s why I’m up reading and feeding myself with things like this post when my bed time was 2 hours ago (usually.)  This is great!


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