I was recently challenged to write an essay on the existence of the limit of success, and while this essay takes on a tone very different from my usual blog postings, I’ve begun to see the impact that the cognitive exploration of this essay has made in my daily life. So for today, enjoy the flashback to formal college essays.
From the bottom of the mountain, summiting seems an impossible feat. The paths are hidden, sometimes nonexistent, and few take the challenge. Much the same is the pursuit of extraordinary success in certain career fields. Daniel Webster, when warned about the impossibility of a career conquest said, “there is always room at the top.” Whether it’s getting to the top of a mountain or a competitive professional field, characteristics are required that can be considered both confident and arrogant. Many successes stem from a level of talent that may breed arrogance, while the understanding of how to capitalize on a unique trait--one that could lead to success--requires the confidence that the trait is worth being capitalized on. In any case, the question remains regarding the validity of the possibility of any person to reach this level of high achievement. While I can’t go back in time and speak for Mr. Webster, I believe there is always room at the top because I have seen the power of the determined. When combined with the right attributes, such as skill and ingenuity, passion is an unabated force of immeasurable power.
In any profession, certain foundational skills, acquired through the combination of hard work and talent, naturally create a divide between exceptionality and mediocrity. There is not necessarily a formula for the proportions of the two, rather, the importance is the result. For example, an engineer who performs in mathematics effortlessly from the beginning can eventually be out-performed by one who is average academically and strives throughout their career to improve their work in the math, mechanics, and leadership of the trade. In the same way, a professional musician who came by their instrument very naturally could potentially put in minimal effort to reach the same playing proficiency as those in their competitive job field. Regardless of the way in which it is acquired, the final product--a polished skill set--is fundamental to the path to success.
Because the world is full of hardworking and talented people, it simply is not enough to “be good enough.” When the field of high achievement becomes too crowded, ingenuity creates a spotlight on the new and special. In a recent NPR Podcast, How I Built This, the creators of Instagram discussed the cause of the app’s sudden fortune. Originally, it was a social media outlet for many things, but after the overwhelming positive feedback regarding their photo-sharing capabilities, the team decided to refocus. This refocus maximized the potential of the app by taking resources from the conventional and pouring them into their unique photo opportunities. Similarly, the pillow industry was extremely competitive, full of monopolies on the product, but when someone created the new shape of a neck pillow, they paved their own way to riches. Like apps or inventions, every person has particularly unique traits. Because our culture thrives on finding “the next big thing,” a person can create their achievement by capitalizing on their uniqueness.
By choosing to pursue a career in music, I have answered the same question as Mr. Webster, and my confidence comes from the passion inside of me. Passion is the final, and arguably most important, piece of success. Passion doesn’t settle for mediocrity. It doesn’t let opportunities go wasted. It doesn’t give up when things get hard. Passion fuels the road to the goal, constantly analyzing and adjusting to what life throws at it. Passion is the reason that J.K. Rowling continued to submit her work to publishers after thirteen rejections. Passion is the drive that kept Michael Phelps in a pool every waking moment of his life. Passion is the heartbeat behind the music of Mozart and Adele and Michael Jackson. It is the fire that lights the path to mountain peak when others have turned back.
Every path to the top takes a different direction, but is accessible with the right preparation and combination of precious attributes. When the proper skill sets and fine-tuned focusses are put in place, the drive inside is able to take the reigns. Passion is the thing that links natural ability and unrelenting hard work. While Daniel Webster may have had his own motivations for his proclamation of confidence, my passion is the reason why I believe I will find a way to the top. I am constantly reminded of the profound advice of my high school band director and I leave you with this: If you can see yourself doing literally anything else, go do those things. But when you find that you have no other place in this world, chase that dream. Never stop working until you catch it. Nothing can stop a woman on fire.