The function and duty of a quality human being

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” –Bruce Lee

You never arrive. But keep going nonetheless.

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

Kurosawa on peaking at 80

I make a point in a talk I do for student groups that there’s no hurry to make your mark or to “hit it big”.

There seems to be more pressure than ever for young people to not only have their career figured out right out of college, but to be rich and famous by the time they’re, say, 30. Crazy.

I challenge these 20-year-olds to instead aim to be awesome by the time they’re 60.

This advice goes over with a resounding thud every time I share it. But I’m convinced that you will make better decisions and actually grow and improve faster by choosing the long game instead of trying to conquer the world in your youth.

Even DaVinci’s first great success, The Last Supper, didn’t come till he was almost 50 years old.

Recently I saw this letter from a then 77-year-old Akira Kurosawa, the great Japanese filmmaker, wishing a happy 70th birthday to fellow filmmaker Ingmar Bergman:

Remarkable. At 77, he was expecting his best work was still ahead of him.

You don’t have to have it figured out. You won’t ever. Do your best where you are. Be excellent in just the next five minutes. Don’t force it or rush past this moment or compare yourself to some arbitrary or pointless standard set by others.

The arc of your life, should you be fortunate to have it counted in many decades, could bend gently and satisfyingly towards a kind of excellence you can’t even imagine from your current vantage point.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” –Henry David Thoreau

Happiness happens

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.” –Victor Frankl

Happiness happens.

You don’t catch it. It catches you.

Pursue, instead, a cause bigger than yourself. Focus on what you have to offer, not on what you want to receive.

Aiming to bring happiness to others is a more direct path to your own happiness than trying to get what you think you want.

The only competition that matters

“Oh my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.” –Pindar

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” –Seneca

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

The only competition that matters is the one between who you are now and who you become.

Only you

You have to live with the notion of, “If I don’t write this, no one’s going to write it. If I die, this idea dies with me. –Lin Manuel Miranda

What potentially great idea are you keeping trapped within by your hesitation, caution, or fear?

What problem can you help solve if only you’d take action?

With no expectation of raving, Hamiltonesque success, just start.

“Who am I?” you say.

“What do I know?”

An excellent attitude, I say. Humility becomes you. Indeed, each of us has only a tiny role to play in the really big scheme of things, and we have no way of seeing ahead of time just how much good, if any, our efforts can do.

But your contribution, no matter how small, is uniquely yours. If you don’t take action, if you don’t show up, you forfeit your chance to make a dent in the universe that only you can make.

Start even if you don’t know where your idea can go, even if it seems silly or pointless or impossible. (A Broadway musical about Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton? Surely, that’s going nowhere. Getting arrested for not giving up your seat on the bus? How will that make a difference?)

Imagine a critical mass of people actively engaging with the world, offering their unique gifts and ideas, actively fulfilling their potential, doing what they can to move us all forward.

Empty yourself. Only you can make your contribution. Don’t leave the stage without playing your part.