Why greateness is rare

If you are hungry, thirsty, or tired, you don’t think about learning math. You are irritated, angry, and start acting more like an animal. People in death camps were not even thinking about an uprising, even though they could probably overcome guards. Their actions were upper-bounded by the mind.

If you are sick, homeless, or broke, you are not thinking about finding friends or a romantic partner because you know that people won’t accept you. You are trying to stabilize your position, get to the average life; anything more than that is secondary.

If you have no friends or family, no one gives you love, or at least acceptance, your self-esteem decreases. You can’t convince other people about your high status when you don’t believe you are valuable.

Only when you fulfilled all these needs, you start believing in yourself, in your capacity of creating greatness. You start winning debates that otherwise you would fail. If your opponent attacks you personally, the only way of blocking this kind of attack is with high self-esteem; you quickly bring up many premises that keep you from falling. For example, when someone tells you that you won’t make this venture into reality because you’ve never done that, self-esteem can block that by telling, “yes, but I have done many other things that were successful, so this one also can be.” Self-esteem is our defense system, without which you are vulnerable. Vulnerable people are easily discouraged because one small doubt, one simple insult, can prevent them from believing that they can achieve their dreams.

If you have grown up in the countryside, your parents needed you to help with the farmwork or help around the house. You wasted your precious energy and time on things that were not moving your forward. You had no time to spend on your self-improvement, on finding what you really love to do, and then on practicing it.

And this is not the end of obstacles. Once you have food, health, wealth, security, friends, love, self-esteem, and time, you enter the most privileged position in society. You enter the competition phase. Like in martial arts, the black belt is just the beginning of the journey to becoming a champion. You start competing with a small percentage of people who—like you—have overcome all the obstacles. Now, what matters is how well you can ‘juggle the balls’ of heath, wealth, love, and fulfillment in such a way that you hold the fulfillment ball for the longest. You must be very focused, though. Spending too much time on the fulfillment ball makes the other ones more likely to fall. Some balls are rigid, and you can grab them up. The ‘health ball’ is made out of the glass; once broken, you may never fix it.

Greatness is possible only by finding what you love, and doing it over a long period, longer than anyone else.

In third-world countries, this is mostly a matter of luck and the social caste you’ve been born in.

Fortunately, for most of us, in developed countries, this is often a matter of ambition, refraining, endurance, intelligence, and—with lower emphasis—luck.

We can learn from this that to achieve greatness, we need people who accept us, love us, and support us, who will be our self-esteem when we lack our own. We need to take care of health, not only when we are sick. We need money to not think about money. But most importantly, once we have all of that, we should focus on fulfillment because this is where the highest happiness comes from. If you look at life as a journey, not a goal, you stop hurrying to achieve it but rather appreciate every second of it.