“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our
deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens
— Marianne Williamson
For a long time, I did not understand Williamson’s words. They angered me. Who the hell was scared of their light? Shine, goddamnit.
Shine, goddamnit, I would think as I carefully bubble wrapped my entire being, trotted 5 miles outside of my comfort zone, and called it “living.”
If I thought I was shining, then I was a lackluster diamond at best. The fake kind on a ring, known to turn your finger purple and itself bronze, but that looked realistic enough to leave on for the rest of the night anyways.
I was trapped in my own bubble of “success.” I didn’t understand why people were afraid of their own power, because I didn’t realize how much power we really had.
Many of us settle for mediocrity, thinking it is the standard. If a majority of my social connections are happy living like this, then I will be too. If a majority of my social connections are capable of achieving this standard, then this is the standard that I too, will strive for. “This” is what success seems to be.
This unintentionally myopic mindset is what turns you, and the majority of your social connections, into the “vital 70%” on Jack Welch’s Vitality Curve — used in human resources to grade a workforce, but also applicable to life itself.
Whatever average is to you, that is what you likely become, because that is what you inadvertently strive for.
You can think you are excellent because of all that you have accomplished, and hell, you could be, but when placed with the people around you, you’re probably just average — and that’s no fault of your own. It’s a forced rank. There is always someone better than you.
Additionally, It’s human nature to adapt: to acclimate to our environment. Much like a chameleon, we blend into society. We dress alike, act alike, think alike. We do enough to get it done, and not more than that. Whether you’re upper class or lower class, white collar or blue, young or old, the truth is you’re most likely just average in your field. And that is okay, normal even. Because if there is no average, then there wouldn’t be any above average.
If there’s no darkness, then you really can’t see the stars.
And so if we accept those two theories:
- no matter how great you may be, there will be people better
- there is comfort in just being average
then we can truly begin to understand the limitations we impose upon ourselves.
Because although you cannot change the fact that there will always be someone “better” than you, you can change the amount of people that are. And although it is comfortable to be average, it is not a cage you are now stuck in. You can walk out at anytime.
So, if you don’t want to be that middle 70% following behind top 20% anymore, then I am writing this for you.
Because until you are physically unnerved by just how much brighter you can shine, you never will understand the true extent of your capabilities.
Humans are incredible. Studies note that Welch’s curve is consistently moving. We are constantly getting better and smarter as a whole. From robots that vacuum the floors you stand on to self driving cars that turn into money making machines when you’re not using them, society seems to be sprinting far and fast.
The people at the top are the ones who are actively doing what seems to be impossible, or un-thought of. It’s what they allow themselves to know is doable even if no one else around them agrees or has ever thought the same way. The curve can’t move unless someone is pushing it, and these are the ones who push it.
And you’re keeping up, which is already something to be proud of. If the top 20% is moving forward, then the middle 70% and last 10% has to be following.
Yet, you can’t move your individual percentage on the curve unless you’re independently pushing yourself as well.
In that way, life is very reminiscent of that one game in Super Mario where if you can’t continue running, the world moves on without you. It quite literally pushes you off the screen. You die.
So you have to keep running.
And look, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
But the key is to run faster than everyone around you. That’s how you win the game. That’s how you get out of the middle 70%.
Life is a series of options. And if I’m going to keep playing around with metaphors here, then runners decide how often they will practice, what they will eat before the race, what shoes they will wear to run it, and the list goes on.
Ultimately, the whole outcome seems to then be decided in the process.
The fastest runner likely is the one who made the best set of decisions.
In organizational behavior, these numerous small decisions are called the inimitable reason behind the value — whatever yes’s or no’s, lefts or rights, and blacks or whites the victor has chosen is what has led her to her destination.
It’s difficult to become the victor because these decisions are difficult to recreate. They take discipline, drive, goal setting, and most importantly, high levels of self-efficacy.
The amount you believe in your own ability is what determines your placement on the curve. Our success comes from the options we allow ourselves to feel worthy of and the decisions we are strong enough to make and uphold.
And I will say it again. I’m not sure you heard it the first time.
Until you are physically unnerved by just how much brighter you can shine, you never will understand the true extent of your capabilities.
So think — what are the options you present to yourself?
Are you dulling yourself down to blend in, letting yourself believe you can only have what you see others around you having? Or are you understanding that others simply set a standard that you must push yourself to surpass?
Keep thinking — what are the choices you are making when considering those options?
Are you actively and decisively choosing what will support your goals, or are you settling for the things you know to be “acceptable” or “average” — comfort that the majority of society feels when the lights are turned off?
There are an innumerable amount of incredible things in this world that you can do, that you can be. It should be overwhelming to set out all your possibilities when you open your eyes to just how many there are. It should be difficult to pick and choose what you do, because there are so many things you can do.
Only when you realize just how capable you are, can you begin to exude your light. Only when your steps lead to your desired destination, can you find your true place in the night sky.
The process is hard. And scary. But also deeply rewarding.