I recently responded to a blog whose premise was that if you couldn’t be ‘The Best’ at whatever you were doing, then you had to ‘switch channels’ to something at which you could be the best.
There was also the explicit and devastating downside of not being ‘The Best’ and that was you would become irrelevant.
Needless to say, my hackles were well and truly up and prickling.
I responded, hopefully in a constructive and polite manner, to say that I disagreed. It is not our purpose in life to be ‘The Best’ at anything. Such striving is, I believe, at the root of our mental illness epidemic and our competitive, dog-eat-dog culture. To judge ourselves always against ‘The Best’ is to see ourselves always as somehow inferior, dissatisfied, and down on ourselves.
Imagine a world full of Steve Jobses. Bastards with personality disorders trampling lesser mortals to dust. And he’s one of our cultural paragons!
One of the presuppositions of ‘The Best’ school of self-development is ‘The Goal.’ I won’t replay the flaws in the underpinning assumptions of ‘The Best’ school, but I will offer an alternative possibility based on life sciences.
The Santiago theory suggests that we continually ‘bring forth the world’ through our interaction with it. The world is not a separate reality from us. We create it as we interact with it. And we are not this stable actor, solid and autonomous in total control of ourselves, let alone our destiny. We too are changed by the world as we interact with it.
Now, to accept ourselves and the world thus might give those who subscribe to ‘The Best’ school of living the existential heebeejeebies. There’s too much outside of our control. To be ‘The Best’ is to be in control.
I happen to think the idea of the world being continually created and myself changing and adapting in the dance is incredibly exciting. It means I pay attention to many things and am moved by wonder and curiosity. Those in ‘The Best’ school may focus down on themselves to the exclusion of all else and ignore the role of others in their achievements, or the coincidences and circumstances that supported them along the way.
Usually, if we achieve our goals, we put it down to our own efforts. If we don’t, we blame others or circumstances. That is the delusion at the heart of ‘The Best’ school. And the sad thing is, those who achieve and believe their achievement to be mainly a product of their own efforts, become pretty insufferable to the rest of us. Then they wonder why their achievements are disparaged.