I’m on a lot of different timelines at work. Everyone believes that their thing is the most important thing to accomplish. Some things need to get done in a hurry. Other things can wait.
But, it always feels like there’s this sense of pressure. How what you do can make or break your career. Writing that email the wrong way could in effect make you lose a customer. Calling someone at the right time or following-up with their email could result in a successful encounter.
These situations present itself quite cleverly. As if everything you do has a hand in defining who you are as a person. Every success. Every failure. It is who you are.
This type of mentality persists even outside of work. From achieving my DTM. To graduating with my MBA and Bachelor of Science degrees. Every accomplishment that I attain seems to add to my “legacy”. Whatever that means!
There’s sometimes an obsession with how your legacy looks. When I retire 30 to 40 years from now, what will it be? How will I be received in the eyes of my peers? What moments in life define who I am? What triumphs and tragedies will I look to and say “This is Calvin. This is me.”?
These questions I ask. And I assume that other people ask themselves as well. This addiction towards creating a legacy. As if so many moments in life are simply there to define and identify. To let you know that this is who you are. This is what you accomplished. This is the “make or break” moment in history.
That’s how a lot of ball players like to see things. How does this championship contribute to my legacy? Contribute to my collection of attainments? How does this help my cause? My identity?
And I guess it’s kind of natural to see things in this way. Every person wants to build them up. And see themselves as big accomplishers in their lifetimes. To have achieved the unachievable. To have won championships. To have scaled unscalable mountains. To be a person of great importance. Of great purpose.
That’s what we do as human beings. Naturally, everyone wants to be seen positively in some way. And they take things too seriously. They take each minute event as a make-or-break moment. As a moment that will define them for all eternity.
And when they inevitably make a mistake during these moments, they get down hard on themselves for their failure. For not living up to expectations. For not being able to reach the unreachable. And they fall hard.
There’s this preoccupation with being serious. With seeing every moment in this way. It can be burdensome and tiring. A bit too heavy hearted for life in general.
I don’t think every moment is that death-defying. That momentous. Even the supposedly big milestones in one person’s life. Like buying a house. Getting engaged. Getting married. Having a kid. Getting that promotion.
Or getting laid off. Going thru a divorce or a break-up. A death in the family. Some type of mental or physical struggle with health.
Either way is not as momentous as you think it is. Maybe at that moment, you feel that that moment will define and live with you forever. But, like all things in life, it will dissipate and go away. It will - for better or worse - disappear into the background. It will float into the afterglow. It will not be the make it or break it moment that you initially thought it would be.
When I first got into Cornell, I was ecstatic. I thought I had made it in life. It was my make or break moment and I made it. I had triumphantly gotten into an Ivy League institution. And my first few months there were absolute bliss. But, as the months and years piled on, I realized that it was simply a moment. Not make-or-break by any stretch of the means.
Same when I got engaged. Same when I broke-off an engagement. Same when I got my DTM. Same when I struggled with my public speaking. Same when I got triple A pluses. Same when I failed Psychology 101. No one particular instance defined me for who I am. It may have seemed to have been the end all be all at that moment. But, the moment is fleeting.
It comes and goes like the tides. It arrives and then it recedes. And these moments in time all do that. They all have a fleeting legacy at best. So, next time when you go into that career-defining interview. Or next time you consider proposing to your long-time girlfriend, don’t take it TOO seriously. Whatever happens will happen. But, whatever happens, you will be okay in the grand scheme of things.
These moments will have their effects on you. And I’m not going to say that some will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. But, overall, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to get through this. Everything will be fine. Nothing in this life will define you for all eternity. You are present itself.