On one hand, we’re urged to be ambitious, on the other, to be grateful for what we have.
Perhaps this candid summary of where I am in life—more successful on paper than I really am—might help you in deciding how much and where you should strive.
I was always told “You have so much potential.” That cheerleading made me wonder if I could become world-class at something.
For decades, I’ve tried: as a career counselor, education critic, men’s advocate, columnist, generalist thought leader, and host of a radio program. I have not come close to being world-class at any of them.
As a pianist, I never got beyond playing for weddings and bar-mitzvahs.
As a career counselor, my clients rate me highly but I feel I’m only moderately helpful to most of them.
I've written much on how to reform and reinvent education, yet I'm sure that my work has had no impact. None of my recommendations, let alone my boldest and favorite one, SuperModules, have been even pilot-tested.
I’ve taken the risk of writing articles that argue that men and boys are treated unfairly relative to their merit. I’ve had no impact. Rather, the public’s and media’s antipathy toward and redistribution from males seems to have greatly accelerated.
I’m in my 27th year as an unpaid radio host on an NPR station in San Francisco. I had hoped that I’d eventually get paid, even gone national. Nope, still a local volunteer host.
I’ve written many articles and a book, What’s the Big Idea? on how to improve society, everything from taxation to litigation to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. None of my proposals have been even seriously considered by the powers that be and, certainly, that book has failed commercially—It has sold a total of 50 copies! Thought leader? Hah!
So while I haven't given up, I accept the likelihood that not only will I not “live up to my potential” but that it's downhill from here--I'm 66 now. That doesn’t usually make me sad. Actually, it makes me feel like I can replace some of the burden of endless hard driving with a bit of self-acceptance and contentment. After all, the world has dealt me a better hand than most people get—in career, health, and in my marriage.
So, what should you keep striving for and what should you accept and be grateful for?
Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia. His latest book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko.