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Immortality - The Driving
Force Behind the Legend!
The closest man comes to happiness is in the ardent pursuit of his passion!
Some achievers are not satisfied at being the best in their field. They stretch the limits of the possible and then go beyond that. They don't compete. They define and run their own race. They change the realms of possibility. They set new benchmarks. They strive to the point of absurdity. Their contributions and accomplishments defy description. Their accomplishments are treasured for centuries. They are revered long after their time!
What motivates this select group? Why do they strive so hard? What drives them?
Psychologists and Scientists who study success and its roots have come up with numerous reasons and factors that help drive a person to achievement. Dominant and affectionate mothers (Jack Welch, Lance Armstrong), a slightly insecure personality characterized by some degree of introversion, and an intense deep rooted desire to be appreciated and liked, have been some of the reasons used to explain the intense drive exhibited by high-achievers.
The purpose of this article is not to study or understand the factors that drive the high-achievers of our society, but an attempt to understand the factor that is most critical in the making of legends - i.e. high achievers whose achievements transcend generations.
Right from the biblical age (the forbidden fruit!), human beings have had a tendency to long for and go after what they can't or shouldn't have.
Said or unsaid, every one of us is fearful of his own mortality - the knowledge that each of our place and role on this planet is one of impermanence; a temporary small speck in the planet's long history. As a result, we long for a state of permanence or immortality, in some form or fashion.
This longing for a state of permanence manifests itself in several forms.
For most of us, this is manifested in the form of procreation. Most men feel the need for children, to carry on the family line and name. Most women feel fulfilled by nurturing and rearing their own children. Parents, to a great degree, see themselves in their children. They want their children to "carry on" and "live up to" the family name.
It is their way of leaving a mark in the world. Their progeny is a way of satisfying their need for permanence - a way to indicate their continued existence. It gives them a sense of satisfaction that has never been and probably never will be defined. So much so that a childless couple more often than not go through deep existential pain and trauma; to a degree that life becomes dull and purposeless. Coming to terms with the hard reality of childlessness is a challenge. Most childless couples never come to terms with it.
A more simplistic manifestation of the above "want / desire for permanence" is people striving to look good in their wedding photographs, for posterity. That is also the same reason why many people indulge in writing an Autobiography - to record their life and works for future generations - yet another way of trying to achieve some form of permanence.
In summary, our frailty makes us long for permanence. We are constantly striving for immortality. Till such time that scientists can concoct the eternal youth potent, we derive satisfaction by leaving some aspect of ourselves (progeny, ideas, company, nation, philosophy, invention, art, literature, etc.) behind, as we leave the world.
While many people view progeny as leaving some aspect of themselves for posterity; there are individuals who though driven by the same desire, their manner of leaving their footprints in the sands of time is not through their progeny but through their life's vocation or passion. These individuals could be poets, craftsmen, artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, business leaders or one of a host of other professions.
These high-achievers are driven by a desire to leave a mark. Their ardent endeavor is to leave an imprint that is as deep and permanent as possible in the sands of time, though they realize that any imprint they leave, irrespective of its impact, will never be permanent. This imprint could be in one of many different forms - work of art, literary classic, company, philosophy - thoughts - ideas - writings, nation building, sport, science etc.
Obvious examples in recent memory include, John F. Kennedy beginning to record selective conversations that occurred in his offices for posterity; and more recently the Prime Minister of India Vajpayee offering an olive branch to Pakistan in an attempt to bring peace to probably the world's most dangerous nuclear flashpoint. Both these leaders had / have their eye on their legacy as much as they want(ed) to do good for their nations / peoples.
These individuals pursue their chosen area with intense passion and single minded devotion - they are driven by an obsessive drive for perfection - to be the best - perhaps better than the best, to create / contribute something that will be recognized as unique, something that will last long after they are gone - that will stand the test of time and provide them and their feats an elevated place in history. They dedicate their body, mind and soul to their endeavor.
This ardent pursuit of their passion gives them a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction. The satisfaction obtained from pursuing this goes way beyond any material benefits or fame that may be obtained as byproducts of their journey.
While plenty of them strive for posterity and become world famous during their life times, very few actually succeed in leaving a mark that transcends generations. A few names that come to mind include: Socrates - Logic / Philosophy, Gandhi - Non-Violent Movement / India, Albert Einstein - Theory Of Relativity / Physics, Leonardo da Vinci - Mona Lisa / Art!
Many more articles in Insight & Commentary in The CEO Refresher Archives