Most of us fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to someone else and coming up short.
Perhaps the comparison involves an accomplished friend or an admired artist.
I’m certainly guilty of this. After playing a tune on the guitar or writing a post, I’ll often compare the result to a song I’m attempting to cover or something I’ve read and be discouraged.
Comparing oneself to others is not a very healthy practice.
How then should we measure our lives?
Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne provides a thought-provoking answer in his 1974 song “For A Dancer.”
“And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
That you’ll never know“
At first, that may seem depressing, but I find it inspiring!
I’ll explain what I mean by example:
Each week, Maria Popova presents one of the best synopsis of thought-provoking literature I’ve found on the web. Her website is called “The Marginalian.”
Recently she shared a commencement address given by Jad Abumrad, creator of “Radiolab,” to the 2022 graduating class at Caltech. In the speech, Mr. Abumrad relayed the story of his Grandfather, who survived the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon during WWI, which killed 200,000 people.
At the time, Lebanon was blockaded. Mr. Abumrad’s father was trapped in Brazil, leaving him, his mom, and two brothers to fend for themselves. They survived by trading with occupying forces. Each week they collected produce from their village. Then walked 35 miles over snow-covered mountains to trade with the Germans for wheat, flour, and dried milk, which they brought back to trade in their village with the Allied Army.
The 70-mile round trip journey was made weekly. On one fateful trip, the mother clutched her chest and died. Mr. Abumrad’s Grandfather, then just ten years old, buried his mother along the roadside and continued the journey. He had no other choice.
Quoting from Mr. Abumrad’s address:
“Sometimes circumstances leave you with not a whole lot of choice but to put one foot in front of the other and walk into whatever is next. You don’t have to fully comprehend anything now. All you have to do is walk. You do not know how the story of your life will end.”
It’s an inspirational story, but what does it have to do with the measure of our life?
Mr. Abumrad offered his story to point out that our life does not end with us. Were it not for the steps taken by his Grandfather (literally), Mr. Abumrad, and “Radiolab” would not exist. We are here because of the actions taken by those who came before us. Our successes are theirs, even though they would never know.
“You will never know the effect you will have on someone, not really. It doesn’t matter if you know.”
Mr. Abumrad’s commencement address ( found Here) reminds us that our impact extends into the future of everyone we touch and everyone they touch.
Our life is far more consequential than comparisons and critical evaluations we pin to ourselves.
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