Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be great? It is possible to be great in specific areas like a sport or in your job. It is also possible to be great at life in general. When they say anything is possible, this is what I want my son to know. It is something I need to constantly to remember:
Anyone can be great!
Are you willing to do what it takes to become great? After all, that is the great question you have to ask yourself. Greatness will not fall into your lap. You will not inherit it from your parents. No one can gift greatness to you. If you want it, you have to go out and get it for yourself. So how do you become great? Let’s take a look at one of the truly great leaders from our nation’s past.
By perseverance, study, and eternal desire, any man can become great. –General George S. Patton
Perseverance. There are many requirements needed to become a general, and time is one of them. For Patton, it took 31 years to get his first star as a Brigadier General and another five years on top of that to become a 4-star General commanding over 200,000 soldiers in World War II.
To build up to that level takes time. It takes perseverance. There is no giving up along the way. You have to keep going, both in good times and in bad.
There are many new employees I come across who aspire to greatness, yet very few make it through the first few years. The excitement falls off. They become stagnant in their progress. Eventually, they get distracted by other pursuits. What they once wanted to be great at no longer seems important, and they end up moving on in life. To be the best in your field, you have to stay focused and continue the pursuit.
Study. We want to put leaders on pedestals and expect them to be flawless. Look at our current leaders today. We have zero tolerance for their mistakes, yet at the same time, we dismiss our own shortcomings.
Old Blood and Guts (Patton’s nickname) didn’t have a perfect track record as an officer. On top of that, he was far from perfect in his formative years before receiving his commission. He wasn’t very good in school and had trouble reading and writing. At West Point, he struggled with his math as well and had to repeat his first year. How could a struggling student finish in the top half of his class? He studied. He continued working on his craft and became a lifelong student.
Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. –Harry S. Truman
If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you. –General Jim Mattis
I often ask people what they are reading. I’m curious, and I’m looking for like-minded souls who may have a good book recommendation. There are two reasons why people tell me they don’t read. First, they say they aren’t very good readers. Well, I am afraid there is only one cure to that problem. Read more. Insider tip: Start by reading things you are interested in. Develop your skill set, and then you can move on to more difficult topics. The second reason why people tell me they don’t read is time. They don’t have the time to read. There is always time. You just have to make it. You have to prioritize what is more important in your life. Did you have time to see what all your friends are doing on Facebook? How’s your progress on consuming the complete Netflix catalog? We have time enough if we want it.
In your field, you cannot become complacent. General knowledge of your subject will not take you very far. If you are not the expert at what you do, someone else will be. Depending on your job, this means you are replaceable by someone has who is willing to learn. You have to know your field. You have to study and stay current on the subject.
Desire. Or as Patton says it, eternal desire. You have to want it. Nobody gets to the top unless they want to get there. You can’t want it today but not tomorrow. It has to consume you to do what it takes to be the best. If that means millions of free-throws, then so be it. They say practice makes perfect. Really, it should be said continuous practice over the course of a lifetime and you may find perfection. To practice for the rest of your life, you have to have eternal desire.
The keys to greatness according to Old Blood and Guts, the great General George S. Patton are:
- Eternal desire
Good luck on your quest!