Public glory or personal satisfaction?

The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it. ― Vince Lombardi, Jr.

This past weekend I joined nearly 1,200 other people to participate in the annual Climb to the Top event held by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The idea is simple. Climb the 61 floors of the Hancock tower (the tallest building in New England) in support of a charity that raises money to assist people afflicted with MS.

In addition to being a charity event, people can choose to partake in this event in a competitive fashion. This essentially means people try to climb to the top in the shortest possible time. As an incentive for me to get into shape, I decided to join the competitive category.

I was assigned a start time of 8.05am. I was super pumped and was feeling good. I lined up at the starting line and, upon indication by one of the officials, I began my run. In my adrenaline and music fueled fervor, I bolted into the cold, dry, and daunting stairwell. The sheer exhilaration of competition overcame me and all reason went out the window. I foolishly ran as fast as I could up the first ten flights of stairs.

As I reached the 10th floor, I felt like I had run up against a wall. I was struggling to breath, my legs were burning, and, most horrifyingly, I realized I had 51 floors more!!! At that point, I seriously contemplated giving up. The pain was simply too much.

To my surprise, I decided to go on. I decided to keep climbing. My body was yearning for a break, but I didn’t stop. My body yearned for water, but I ignored all the rest stops. I was in very bad shape and my time for the entire climb was even worse. At the top, I was so nauseous and light headed, that I couldn’t even enjoy the spectacular view.

As I rode the escalator down (thank god for that!), I wondered: Why did I keep going? Was I doing it for me or was I doing it so that people would know I did it? Did I do it to prove to myself that I could keep going or was it the allusion of glory that kept me going?

We as humans go through our lives doing a variety of things: Seek job promotions, seek opportunities to win awards, pursue a sport, learn an instrument, code up a new app, design a new medical device, study hard for an exam, and the list goes on………

But why do we strive for excellence? Is it because we want to personally grow in our job or is it because people will glorify us for our success? Do we seeks financial success because we want it or that society will revere the wealth? Do we learn a musical instrument because we want a source of relaxation or is it because we want to have a skill that not everyone else has? Do we study hard for an exam because we want to learn or because doing well brings with it admiration of peers? Do we design new apps and devices to benefit mankind or is it because we seek the fame associated with them?

I realize that the first instinct may be to reject this idea and firmly say that “I don’t do anything for anyone else; it’s for me!”. If that’s the case, why do we place so much stake in what society thinks of what we do? Could we still strive for excellence in solitude? Could we just want to be better for betterment’s sake?

Here is something to think about. I struggled to come up with a scenario and I urge you to try to come up with something: Besides biological necessities (sleeping, eating etc.), COULD YOU NAME ONE ACTIVITY THAT YOU DO ON A REGULAR BASIS JUST FOR YOURSELF?

 

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