The Call to Greatness - What it Takes to Be Great

The call to greatness - introduction

Are some people born destined for greatness and others for mediocrity? Is great success and achievement determined by genetics and inborn talent?

The simple answer is “no.” Greatness can be attained by everyone. We all have the potential to be great. Any man can be great if he makes up his mind to be the best person he can possibly be and to do what he does, the best way he can possibly do it.

The call to greatness – the secret

The secret to attaining greatness is simply to do every small thing in a great way. It is the nature of all success principles to be overly simplistic and basic. That is what makes them so true and yet so hard to accept and do. Their simplicity means that they often cannot be reduced to any simpler statement. It is like Albert Einstein’s E=MC². It takes a whole lot of thinking and meandering to come up with the principle. But once it is found, it is so obvious and so simple.

Vincent Van Gogh said “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” This view is supported by recent scientific studies that studied many great men and women to find out what it takes to be great. Geoffrey Colvin, a senior editor for Fortune magazine reported, based on the findings of these scientific studies, that “the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success. The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work.”

What I do not agree with in this statement is the concept of “hard work.” Practice and consistency are important and so is work, but sometimes it only has to be “smart” and not hard. The point, though, is that the evidence does not support the notion that excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.

The call to greatness – the basic ingredients

So what makes for excellence? The studies point to two major things. Work and practice. There's no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice. According to Colvin, “reinforcing that no-free-lunch finding is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule”.

Tiger Woods, for instance, seems to have suddenly shot to fame at age 18 when he became the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship. Few people realise that by that age he had at least 15 years experience and practice playing golf. That’s not something the press will tell you often. So in this fast food, fast service, instant communication world we have been fooled into thinking even success and greatness are instant. They are not. Practice and experience takes time and effort.

The call to greatness – can it be that simple?

People hate the idea that if they found their talent and worked at it they too could find fame and fortune. The idea that only a few are gifted and can attain greatness is a big cushion for them to fall on and comfort themselves. That way when they fail at something they can give up and simply say they don’t have the genes or talent for it. That’s much easier than thinking that you have been lazy, inconsistent and undetermined in your pursuits. Therefore, with some consistent work and practice at something any one of us can become great.

So what is greatness and why should you work towards greatness? Greatness, I believe, is the ability to be all that you can possibly be and to bring out the very best in yourself consistently to such an extent that you make a lasting mark in the lives of other people and in the world at large. I believe Arthur G. Keough held this view when he said “Greatness is not standing above our fellows and ordering them around, it is standing with them and helping them to be all they can be.”

The call to greatness – you are already great

The potential in every man is such that it cannot be utilised to its full extent without bringing about greatness. So as far as why you should work towards greatness is concerned the simple answer is that you should not work towards greatness as such. Simply work towards fulfilling your fullest potential as a human being by performing your simple tasks excellently. Seek to always grow beyond your present barriers and limits and you will inevitably become great.

Meet the challenges you face head-on and take life on with passion and a quest for excellence. “There aren’t any great men. There are just great challenges that ordinary men are forced to meet.” Most so called great men, as William H. Halsey observed when he said those words, were not working to become great men, but they ended being so as a by-product of doing what they knew best to do. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins stated that “those who strive to turn good to great find the process no more painful or exhausting than those who settle for just letting things wallow along in mind-numbing mediocrity.”

The call to greatness – equal effort, different results

It takes no more effort and energy to be great than to be mediocre. It is the application of that effort and energy that matters. You can channel it into more productive pursuits and use of your time or channel it into non-progressive endeavors. If you could buy a Mercedes for the same price as a Toyota, which one would you go for? If you could apply the same amount of energy and effort to greatness as to mediocrity, which would one you go for?

The call to greatness - conclusion

Simple things like reading, working consistently and practice will make all the difference and help you attain greatness in whatever you choose to do. Nothing happens by chance. In the words of Geoffrey Colvin: “Maybe we can't expect most people to achieve greatness. It's just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn't reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone. “

God desires that you be great. The Psalmist said of Him: “Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”

“You are all you can be. Go on and be it.”


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