Among my many eccentricities (and believe me, there are many), is the tendency to devote all that I can to any given effort and to hold onto my ideals with an iron grip. This happens in many different facets of my life; work, side-projects, education, sports, politics, friends, family, and more recently love. As with any quality, being so idealistic and giving everything you have has its upsides and downsides. The downsides are probably many and I couldn't count them all here if I tried. It makes me see the world very black and white sometimes. At other times I impose my values on others' actions. I also probably can become very fixated on details if I'm not careful. However, among all of these possible downsides I wanted to write about the upsides and my reasoning behind this way of approaching life so here it goes:
You can't always determine what opportunities present themselves to you in life. It's a sad fact that some of us aren't fortunate enough to have all of the opportunities that we wish we had in life, but you can determine what you do with these opportunities. If I look at my life, the pivotal moments have not been which opportunities I've had, but rather whether I decided to take the opportunity or not, and how much I was willing to devote myself to the opportunity. Opportunity and freedom are important in life. Never does the same opportunity come to us twice.
This of course leads us to regret. Never in my life have I regretted trying something new; never have I regretted sacrificing something small for something else much greater in my life; nor have I ever regretted giving an entire portion of myself to an effort. I've never regretted failing, and if I could go back and do my life all over, I'm pretty confident I would have done things mostly the same when it comes to taking an opportunity. Do you know what I have regretted though? I've regretted not trying something because I was afraid to fail. I've regretted and will regret till the day I die any instance where I was afraid of the consequences so I held myself back instead of attempting to achieve something more in life. I can live with failing. I've failed before. I'm going to fail again. I'll probably fail at something today, but at least I will know that I gave it everything I have and that I wasn't scared of life. I can't live with decisions where I tried to play it safe because of fear of the unknown.
If there were one quality that you could say seperates humans from animals, what would that be? Our capability of speach? Our capability to share ideas? Our capability to build relationships from one dataset to another? How about our IQ? I would say that the line is drawn in the sand between humans and animals at exploration. We are inherently explorers. We came out of the cave, we saw fire, we crossed continents, we took on the high seas, we developed industrial nations, we invented electricity, and we set foot on an extraterrestial satalite rock known as the moon. How many of these accomplishments could we have achieved without the willingness to devote ourselves to an effort and to accept an opportunity? Not one of them. We would have stayed huddled in our cave.
Why do we find the story of Romeo and Juliet so romantic? I guess if we look at it logically it's the story of two rich, spoiled 13 year olds who decide they're in love, send both of their families into a war against each other, and then kill each other when they can't be together...but we still find it romantic. The romance is not in the love story, but rather in the tragedy. Taking an opportunity and a risk on a love that was next to impossible and then devoting so much of themselves to the relationship that they could not bear to live without each other is the where we find the romance and the beauty of Shakespeare's most famous work. What great companies were founded by entrepreneurs who didn't give their opportunity a shot and then devote that entire portion of their time, blood, sweat, and soul into their effort? The list goes on and on. None of the greatest things in life would ever be accomplished if we aren't willing to sacrifice, take opportunities, and give everything we have to make it possible.
I don't think that your entire life should be devoted to ONE effort. You need balance. That balance for me is my projects, my life, my love, and my family. For someone else, they may split it into other sections. There is no right answer, but balance is definitely necessary. Once you figure out that balance though, you have to give everything you have in that section of your life to the efforts that fulfil your heart, mind, and soul.
So while devoting everything I have to the different efforts in my life may not be the norm or what a casual observer would decide, I will continue to do it till the day I day. One thing that I know for sure is that I can not stand for mediocrity. My work, my life, my family, and my love will never be mediocre. We have to fight mediocrity and "average" at every point. It is unacceptable in every form and fashion. Every project that I'm passionate about has my devotion. Sometimes they may fail, but at least at the end of the day I'll have no regrets. To me that is comfort. There is a massive amount of comfort in never wondering what I could have accomplished or experienced if I would have given all that I had to an effort or taken a chance on something that I believed in. It may have its pitfalls, but I'll sleep well at night and I'll be happy.