On Greatness, or By Way of a New Year’s Resolution

My friend Mike signs all of his cards thus:

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I thought it such a nice sentiment that I asked him about it. Why does he sign this way?

Mike says it’s a hangover from his days coaching pro and Olympic athletes. “I hope it has some kind of positive impact, however fleeting it may be.”

My brother signs his emails “Be good.” And I know a guy whose outgoing voicemail message is “And remember, Carpe Diem. Seize the day.” Do these things have positive impact on us? Does hearing  them remind us to “be good,” or “carpe diem”? Does seeing a gentle reminder to “be great” actually encourage us to do just that?

For me, seeing it–“Be Great!”–sent me into kind of a rocket-launch of both memory and aspiration. What does it mean, for me, to “be great”? I think, although it might look like a mere inspirational message, it does so much more than that. After I’d pressed him a little, Mike said, “Maybe it is a subconscious reminder to me as well. I think it is about intent and the journey towards, not necessarily the destination of being great, per se.”

Alexander. He of The Great. Not related to the point of this post at all.

Alexander. He of The Great. Not related to the point of this post at all.

For me, I recalled all the times I ever felt great–being with friends; helping a writer to produce and publish something s/he’s proud of; the day I followed my natural desire and chased a red balloon down the street, having seen it from my office window. And then I also recalled all the places I’ve felt great: in Malawi with ShelterBox; Mousehole, England; Guadalajara, Mexico, to name a few recent places. And that led to all the things I’ve done that make me feel great: Trying to learn a new language. Writing a new essay. Visiting a friend. Reading a terrific book. Trying to and semi-succeeding at sight-reading music from long-buried memory. (Okay, that last, more “relief” than “great.”) Cleaning out a drawer or two. Yes, seriously, if only for a fleeting moment. It’s okay, there’s always another drawer.

I think this is what Mike meant, when he talked about the journey towards being great. It’s about all the things we do en route to the end of each day that make us feel great.

Do all these memories make me want to “carpe diem,” or define what greatness is? Not exactly. They make me want to seek out that sensation, over and over again, of greatness, of having done something relevant to my own personal code of greatness. There is a difference.

The reminder to “be great” makes me want to find a way to feel great. And I want to feel great more often than not. So, for this year: Learning rock and jazz piano, maybe some blues, to keep music in my life. (Jazz hands! No.) Picking up a new language, with intent to acquiring some fluency. More work with ShelterBox. Visiting, and maintaining contact with, friends near and far. Letters. Always letters. And getting outside. And more writing. And publishing. And sharing stuff, and gifting, and and and and…

There are so many opportunities to be great, aren’t there?

What makes you feel great? Tell me in the comments below. 

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2 Comments »

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

2 Responses to On Greatness, or By Way of a New Year’s Resolution
  1. Margaret Siber says:

    What makes me feel great? Among other things, having the time and opportunity to listen to my 4 and 5 year old grandchildren tell me long complicated stories out of their imagination. What imaginations they have!

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