Why not aim for greatness?

Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China

Why would you not want to make the most out of your life? Why would you not want to contribute to a better world? Why would you not rather be part of a solution instead of a problem? Why wouldn’t you aim for greatness?

I see so many intelligent, talented, energetic and hard-working people who don’t have a vision and don’t live their dream. Young men and women spending 60 hours per week in the energy draining snake pits they call the workplace so that they can climb up the corporate ladder to get to positions of leadership. To lead what? A company who advises on media strategy? Where they tell you where and how often you should advertise your diapers commercial to maximize profits? Want to work in the beauty industry where you sell lotions that do not make you look younger? Or want to research when the African woman is ‘ready’ for more expensive hair products? Do you want to be remembered as the man who sold a lot of vacuum cleaners for his multinational company? Want to work for Pepsico and compete with Nestle for ‘share of stomach’? How do you motivate yourself to sell sweet unhealthy stuff every day?

If you have a room full of people with all an IQ over 120 why don’t ask yourself how to make the world a better place instead of how to make as much money as possible? Not only because it is noble to not be motivated by greed but because it opens so many more interesting possibilities. Trying to make a difference leads inevitably leads to uncovered terrain. Being rich never leads to fulfillment, being useful does.

I too have been brought up with the idea that making as much money as possible is the way to become a successful human being. My grandfather was very proud of the fact that he ‘made it’ as a successful businessman and he was evenly proud on the fact that he had rich friends. When I was a little boy he would whisper in my ear the net worth of all the men in the room. “That man is worth 20 million. And that man is worth 40 million. And that man..” I can totally feel the conditioning I underwent. I am still fighting with it.

Pretty much all of us experience a feeling a deficit. You have a nagging feeling inside that something is unfulfilled, something is lacking. We try to fill that gap by achieving. If we are lucky we reach high enough that we surpass the threshold of being comfortable. Once we are comfortable is it easier to numb the nagging. We can live from holiday to holiday or feel the temporary satisfaction of the monthly paycheck. If we haven’t reached that place yet we still hope that more money and possessions will make us happier and freeer.

You don’t have to look too deep to see that we are only repeating the behavior of previous generations. We want approval from our parents, surpass them, liberate ourselves from them, show them they were wrong, show them they were right, hope that they will love us or be proud or jealous of us. Most of us try to live up to the expectations our parents had from us. Some of us entertain an attitude of rebelliousness and purposely go against the expectations. Either way, it is merely a reaction against our past and therefore not very free.

It is a humbling insight to find out that the only reason you have been working so hard is because you want your father to be proud of you, be accepted by your peers or get back at your brother. I have a friend with little education who has a thriving business but is deep down afraid that someone will find out about his perceived inferiority. I know a guy very high up the corporate ladder who was bullied in primary school and wanted to prove his father he would not be a victim his whole life. I have a friend who was very lonely in his childhood who decided to build ‘club houses’ for friends. I know a guy who is a successful journalist who is trying to prove to his father that he is a successful rebel too. Many perfectionistic people essentially spend their whole lives being ‘a good girl’ or ‘a good boy’.

When we free ourselves from our story we see that the story is the problem. It is the story that distorts our perception of reality and causes suffering. The fact the we are ruining our planet is because we value our comfort over everything else and we need always more.

Of course I am now answering all the questions that I raised in the first paragraph. We don’t aim for greatness and making a difference because we are too busy acting out our conditioning. But knowing all this I feel we have good reasons to try as hard as we can to free ourselves from our conditioning. Why would you settle for a limited view on life and it’s possibilities? Who would you like to be if you wouldn’t be hindered by all the thoughts, concept, beliefs and ideas of how you should be? Who could you be if you would not be hindered by fear of goodness? What if you only cared about the well-being of others and what if you had a room full of smart people who would share your vision of human potential and desire to make shit happen? Why not create a vision that would offer you a valuable and meaningful life and leaves an inspring legacy behind when you are gone? Why not pursue a high dream?


  1. David Vogel says

    I think you’re more convincing when you’re vulnerable and questioning than when you’re preaching Atalwin 😉

  2. says

    Hahaha! Ok, ok David and Sara, I hear you. But I can only write from a vulnerable when I feel that way. When writing the first paragraph I was genuinely pissed off, by the time I had finished my post that had changed into something kinder, less un-understanding.

    David, are you sure the reason the post rubs you the wrong way is my tone alone? Aren’t you an example of a talented man that lost touch with his high dream? 😉

  3. Miryam faken says

    Hi Atalwin

    I think people need To age and expirience life To find themselves in The right place and state of Mind

    Also i think we The Travelling kind are kind of Lucky.
    Ofcourse we make it Happen but There are plenty of people with kids, wifes and rent/Bills To Pay so cant Just leave Their jobs and start doing what They want. It would get kind of messy aswell. I think?

    I still meet à lot of people with beautiful minds and views.
    À lot If them work in The Mines in Australië. Good people with shit jobs
    but chasing Their Dreams with The money They make with The shit job.
    Luckily and sometimes unlucky people are all so different.


  4. Eduard van Zomeren says

    I seem to know some of those friends…, one especially very well indeed 😉 And I fully agree with the essential drive that the ‘story’ can force us to, however I do think there are more layers to the cake…, maybe most of us would do the same but only the outcome would be different when the intention would have been free from the chains of there childhood. So it’s maybe more how we do it [why we do it] than what we do. Enjoy!

  5. says

    Atalwin, Nice post which I shared it on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/lovingmywork

    I can totally relate to the anger and frustration of smart people who dedicate their lives to making money in a way that is in fact converting the world’s priceless resources (environmental and social) into numbers on a page. Of course, we are not separate from that phenomenon. Living in Hong Kong, I know it is the teaching I have asked for.

  6. says

    I first realized what an introvert was after I took the Myers Briggs personality test at my first job out of college. It was then I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with me because I wasn’t outgoing. I realized that I could be successful even if I didn’t speak up in my college courses. I finally found more confidence because there were plenty of positive things that I was proud about being an introvert. Today, I want the introverts in my class and those that read my blog to know that they aren’t alone and there is nothing wrong with them if they are an introvert.

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