“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.”
– Frederick Douglass
My generation (I’m 20 years old) seems to be characterized by immobility. I guess it’s not even immobility. It’s an unwillingness to move. Or maybe it’s an over-willingness to move in ways that are unproductive. We jog on a track that begs us to sprint. We limp down a path that requires nimble feet and hard-working legs. We half-heartedly attempt to saunter towards something we all say we want.
Our inability to move isn’t because we’re in some way crippled. We have the ability to move in any direction we want, at any speed we desire.
But we just don’t feel like it.
We strive for greatness, but we just don’t feel like doing anything about it. We just don’t feel like it. It’s not our thing. We’ll do it tomorrow. We’re busy right now. We don’t have time. We’re working on it. We’ve got a lot on our plates. We’ve got other places to go and other people to see. We’ve got something more pressing at hand. We’ve got something we’d rather do.
Yet we all say we want to be great. We all say we want to do great things. We all seek out greatness.
In some small way, many people my age have done great things. Some have gotten great grades, others are great at sports, and others are great at other things. In some small way, we’ve moved. We’ve ripped our legs from underground and forced our muscles to grow. In some small way, we’ve done something about it.
These are good things. The steps we’ve taken so far and the marks we have to show for them are respectable. I would never say that they weren’t. Lots of things take hard work and dedication, and many people I know have achieved by working hard and dedicating themselves to something bigger than their individual selves. I know people who incredibly smart, bordering on genius, and others who are almost too creative for their own good. The people who I know, and even the ones who I don’t know but am aware of, are clearly capable of greatness. It’s within them to do great things, to reach achievements that others can’t.
But when I think of these people, a part of me brings me back to the idea that there’s a well of potential that’s been left untapped. Something tells me that there’s more. Something tells me that we haven’t reached our peak.
Typically, I’d say that’s good. Having room to improve implies that, in time, and with application and adherence, improvements will come. Everyone always has room to do better, and I believe that that’s one of the more enjoyable things about life.
But here’s the thing; I don’t think that many people my age are unaware of their under-utilized potential. Quite the contrary. I think many of us, myself included, know that we could do more. I think we’re familiar with these unused abilities. I think many of us are aware that we have the potential be great, to achieve greatness. But we simply don’t exercise that potential. We let it rot and atrophy. Why? Because we don’t feel like doing anything about it.
For example, as I sit here and type this post, I know that I could apply my writing skills to write something that could be great. I could apply my skills to craft a larger work (something other than blog posts) that has the potential for greatness. I’m not saying that any book I may write in the future will be great, because that’s awfully pretentious. If I did write a book, it could very well turn out to be horrible. But that’s not my point. My point is that the potential is there, but I’ve left it alone. Wasted. Unexercised. Underutilized.
And I know I can’t be alone. I know that there are others who feel just like I do. I guess that’s what bothers me most.
This idea probably applies to more than just people around my age, but being that these are the people who I observe the most, it seems prevalent in my peers and, of course, in myself. But who the idea applies to doesn’t really matter. It exists. It’s real.
So what do we do about it?
There’s no complicated remedy or drawn-out thought process that can fix the problem. There are probably journal articles written about how to force yourself into action and how to motivate yourself to exercise your full ability. But when it comes to it, there’s only one thing to do, and it’s very simple.
We have to move.