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Who wants to be a Rock Star?

10/12/2011

Beautiful Readers,

I know a man, who, in middle age, is still waiting to be extraordinary. Or maybe he’s waiting for something extraordinary to happen to him. Or maybe he thinks his circumstances will change, and he will be discovered, and then shot like a rocket into extraordinariness.

I was always told that one can achieve greatness if one is willing to do what’s necessary, but as i get older, I realize that most people really don’t want to do the things they would need to do to get there. And at one time I thought that was too bad. But now I’m over it.

Furthermore, I have seen more folks saddened by their lack of rock star success than cheered, more than fleetingly, by their awesome achievements. Sure, I know some folks who are terribly successful by most objective standards, but, as much as they enjoy that knowledge from time to time, and I guess they wouldn’t trade that, whatever the rest of us may think they should feel, i just don’t think they’re permanently satisfied.

And conversely I know people who seem to wake up every morning thinking that they’re the shit because they have the caps on all the pens on their desk and have never lost a game of hangman. And some people seem to feel that all is right in the world because they don’t have cancer, or because their team almost got to the playoffs this year, or because they still find their cat funny after 13 years together.

So what gives? What about the whole ‘be all that you can be’ thing? Could it be that that is all just a giant bunch of bunk sold to you by the media and maybe your parents? the truth, as I see it, is that it is quite possible that the notion of counting success as a virtue, might be, at best, a giant scam propagated by schools, the government, and your boss, at worst, an outright curse.

Overall, I don’t really believe that ambition is damaging, but it sure did feel good to say it to add a kind of balance to all the fanfare. What I really do believe though, is that the desire to passionately attempt to improve your lot is 100 percent natural and necessary for a healthy human brain, like learning, and sex, but that the outcome doesn’t really matter all that much in the long run. I also believe that we, as a society, and maybe as a species, really give achievement way too much credit if the goal in life is long term happiness. What I think we should be applauding is effort-not outcome since that’s the part that actually seems to bring people joy.

And if you really think about it, isn’t passionate human effort and striving much more stirring and beautiful than winning is? Think about cheering at the marathon– all those folks trying so hard to do this really difficult thing is what has us shouting from the sidelines-not so much who wins the race. Or seeing your kid go to college-it’s not all those great grades they’re going to get that makes you want to cry, it’s that look of confusion plus determined ambition, on their sweetly familiar face, that has you reaching for your hanky.

Ambition is vulnerable–success is not. Most of the sane and successful people I know (there are plenty of insane and successful people but we don’t care about them) shrug off each success as a mere stepping stone to the next one. And then they’re off again.

So then ambition is good? Sure it is–good and healthy as long as it is never measured by achievements. Consider THAT ten times fast. No matter who you are, I’m pretty sure that if you sit back and take stock of your successes and failures you feel one of two unhealthy things- arrogance or shame, or even a heady mixture of both at the same time. I’d say skip it and move on to enjoy your next conquest with openness and without judgement.

I will always remember the day I realized my daughter was going to be ok in life. She was a monkey bar addict and used to spend (literally)hours climbing hand over hand back and forth on the monkey bars. We even bought her non-slip weight training gloves because she was getting really bad blisters.

One day when it was frigidly cold and it had just stopped sleeting or something-she ran to me very frustrated because she couldn’t hold on tight enough to climb for more than one or two hand over hands. My response was totally blasé saying that that made sense because it was freezing and the bar was ridiculously slippery obvious to me that climbing was almost impossible.

I returned to looking at my blackberry or to the conversation I was having with another playground mom when all of a sudden my daughter ran back to me wildly excited like she had discovered gravity. Out of breath she rasped “mom, guess what, I figured it out!” ” figured what out?” I asked, having forgotten all about her struggle with the monkey bars. ” I figured out how to do it!” she said. “how?” I asked her, expecting some technique I hadn’t thought of. Then she got this far-away look in her eyes of someone who is momentarily connected to the future “Just-keep-going.” she said. And then in a flash she was gone. Back to the monkey bars.

Thanks for reading,

Alexandra Florio

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