To make up for my lack of creativity in the wake of my Lenten decisions, I've decided to update my "truths revealed during wedding planning" series (see other examples here and here). But before I get into my main point , let me give a bit of background into where I’m coming from…
The date was April 2008. I am sitting alongside the Grande Canal at Versailles just outside of Paris France. Andrea is sitting on my left, and sitting in my right pocket was an engagement ring practically screaming to get out. What was the holdup you might be wondering? Well throughout the months of planning and weeks of anticipation, all my attention had been on having the best speech prepared detailing everything from why I had brought her not just all the way to Paris, but also to that exact spot (foot of a giant cross). Not to mention how she meant the world to me blah blah blah, you get the point.
What I had failed to take into consideration however, was exactly how I going to segue into my prepared remarks. Huge mistake. For anyone not married or engaged out there who happens to be reading this, take note. The transition from non-proposal to proposal is perhaps one of the most unnatural transitions you’ll ever make. And the reason is simple; you want it to be perfect.
The reality is that timing is everything, and in our case we were traveling with her parents and hadn’t had any alone time for a couple days. So naturally when they left to go find a bathroom (aka hide in the bushes as we’d previously arranged) Andrea had lots of things to suddenly talk about. My mind went blank. After what felt like an hour (but was in fact probably a couple minutes), things started to get a little quiet until I finally blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, “So I’ve been lying to you.” Great start I know.
Needless to say she was taken aback, so I quickly started into an explanation about why I wanted to come to that exact spot and the previously well thought out speech. Once I got about halfway through it however (it was going great up to that point thank you very much), she realized what was happening and started getting all misty-eyed which of course caused me to stumble through the second half.
With words no longer coming easily, I was forced to cut my speech short, get down on one knee, and pop the question (which I don’t think she heard as she was too busy grabbing the ring). Our engagement was off to the races!
The Moral of the Story
Despite my best intentions, things did not turn out the way I envisioned. I rehearsed what I was going to say, meticulously planned the entire day, and thought nothing could go wrong. What I failed to take into account however, was the transition. End goal, check. How to get there? D’oh!
If I were to take a poll of all my twenty-something year old friends, more than half of them would say that they hope to be doing something else by the time they retire. Most even hope that they will be doing something entirely different from where they currently find themselves (though few have any idea what "that" is). This is the reason why I have a great deal of respect for doctors, PhD’s, clergy, etc… They know what they want (out of a career anyways), and are putting everything they have into that end goal.
While all of us have dreams of grandeur, very few actively work to angle their lives in that direction. We dream, yet do not set meaningful goals to track progress. Or worse, we stop dreaming altogether.
This problem I believe is something that Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” fails to capture. In the book he paints a bit of a 1 dimensional look at those among us who’ve reached the highest levels of success, and states almost unequivocally that each was the result of a series of “lucky breaks”. Bill Gates, for example, was destined for greatness because he had access that almost no one else had to a computer terminal, and amassed 10,000 of experience (the gold standard for achievement in the book) before almost anyone else of his generation. The Beatles big break came by honing their stage presence and overall cohesiveness through 8 hours a night gigs during month long stints in various nightclubs around Hamburg, Germany.
I think the key to this message however is something best expressed visually:
In order to be truly great at something you must be willing take some licks along the way. In the previous paragraph, it wasn't that Bill Gates was lucky because he was given an opportunity to succeed, a lot of us are. Bill Gates was lucky in the sense that he found his calling at the age of 13 (and he happened to be extremely bright). Not man of us can say the same thing.
The truth is we all hope to achieve greatness (whatever that means), but the question we all have to ask ourselves is whether or not we want to spend 10,000 hours to become great at what we're currently doing? If the answer is no, what are you (or I) waiting for?
(Photo is courtesy of David Armano's Logic + Emotion Blog)